Baltimore Running Festival organizers draped a finisher's medal on Bob Pohl's neck Thursday, nearly four weeks after he collapsed at the finish line of the half marathon and was saved by bystanders and medical personnel.
Just before the end of the 13.1-mile race, Pohl, 55, suffered cardiac arrest, an uncommon condition among racers but one that is often deadly. Two runners have died in the 11-year history of the festival.
"We had a lot of luck on our side," said Lee Corrigan, president of race organizers Corrigan Sport Enterprises, before handing over a medal for the half-marathon and another one for a race Pohl completed in Frederick. Pohl had been training for his 15th Marine Corps Marathon in Washington.
Corrigan also gave Pohl a free registration for next year's festival — for the kids' fun run, if he gets his doctor's permission.
Baltimore Police Lt. Col. Ross Buzzuro, also running the race, was among the first to stop and help. He received a plaque from race organizers at a news conference held at the race's finish line in a Camden Yards parking lot, where he and the other rescuers were reunited with Pohl.
Also receiving plaques were Dr. Cynthia Webb, chief of Union Memorial's emergency room, who has helped coordinate medical care at the running festival for three years; other medical professionals from MedStar hospitals and from the University of Maryland Medical Center, where Pohl was taken; and Howard County paramedic trainees and their instructor, who came with a stretcher and provided CPR.
"No matter how prepared we think we are, the unthinkable can happen," said Webb, whose team gave Pohl a shock from a defibrillator, which doctors later said was probably the most effective early intervention because it restored a normal heartbeat.
She and others, who worked for just minutes to save Pohl, marveled Thursday at how well the system worked — and how lucky Pohl was that he collapsed where he did at the Oct. 15 race.
"We all had a role to play that day," said Dr. Brian Browne, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where doctors immediately cooled Pohl to preserve his brain function. They then sent him to the cardiac catheterization lab, where three stents were implanted to reopen a clogged main artery.
Pohl, who stayed in the hospital for 12 days, called himself an "average runner" who is happy to finish and earn a race T-shirt and visit the beer tent. The Marriottsville man said he often sees medical personnel at races and thinks about those he witnesses receiving aid. And while he said he always tried to stay far away from them, he expressed eternal gratitude that they were ready and able when it was his turn.
"I was here a few weeks ago," he told the crowd that included his son, Mike, who had run most of the race with him. "It feels a lot better today."