As the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon ended with its closest finish ever Sunday, executive race director Carey Pinkowski was awash in the excitement of the race's photo finish, passing out awards and joining the international television coverage.

But then Pinkowski quickly found out that while the race among the elite runners was a success, the rest of the event was in trouble: Runners were passing out in the record October heat, ambulances were overtaxed and there were reports of insufficient water at aid stations.

Just after leaving the awards ceremony, in the shade of a medical tent in Grant Park, Pinkowski huddled with race and city officials. The race's medical director, George Chiampas, in touch all morning with 15 aid stations on the course, detailed the situation.

"I said, 'George there's an issue here with the well-being of our participants, is that correct?'" Pinkowski said. "He said 'Yes.' So it was my opinion we needed to activate the contingency plan."

That plan, on the books for years in case of an emergency -- be it a terror attack or tornado -- called for halting one of the nation's largest marathons before it was finished. And for the first time, that plan was implemented.

"We were all in complete agreement," Pinkowski said.

On Monday, Pinkowski maintained that marathon officials staged the best event they could on a day of record heat. But many runners and race volunteers stepped up their criticisms, saying that Pinkowski and his team failed to adequately plan for runners' water needs.

Pinkowski countered that problems were created, despite the best efforts of organizers, by a logjam of runners at the water stations who spent more time there and took more cups than expected -- as many as seven at a time.

"Our participants were not drinking the water, they were cooling themselves with it," Pinkowski said. "That's something that, I'll be honest with you, we didn't anticipate."

There was never a thought of canceling or postponing the race, he said, because organizers were hopeful the weather, about 70 degrees and partly cloudy by 7 a.m., would cooperate. Instead, the clouds disappeared quickly and the temperature rose to a record 88 degrees.

During the next several hours, more than 300 people were taken by ambulance from the course, at least 10 of whom remained hospitalized Monday evening.

One person, Chad Schieber, 35, a police officer from Midland, Mich., died during the race, but the Cook County medical examiner's office said Monday that he died of heart-related complications, not the heat. Two local physicians contacted by the Tribune disputed that assessment, saying that Schieber's heart problem, known as mitral valve prolapse, by itself would not have killed him. The heat and physical exertion must also have played a role, they said.

"Is there anything we could have done better? No," Pinkowski said. "We anticipated the weather. I'm very proud of the way things went."

But the concerns came from far and wide, and included people who worked the race as volunteers.

Ryan Lown, 21, a paramedic posted near the 19-mile mark, said his station ran out of ice and that doctors had to treat a man with a body temperature of 107 degrees with a bag of cold water until an ambulance arrived.

"We only had two bags of ice to begin with," he said. "We thought we'd get more, but then we found out that was our whole supply for the day."

Jay Shefsky, volunteering at the 10-mile point, said runners were arriving parched.

"Almost whenever I was handing out Gatorade, often I would hear the runners say, 'This is the first Gatorade I've gotten,'" he said. "And this was the 10-mile mark."

Sharon Pines, 57, also passing out drinks at the 10-mile mark, said volunteers were forced to refill a 2-foot water cooler at a nearby restaurant and reuse cups runners had thrown to the ground. After scrambling for almost an hour, she said, volunteers discovered a truck full of supplies parked nearby -- but by then most of the runners had passed.