New York Road Runners who run the New York Marathon go to incredible lengths to look after the athletes who compete. To that end, after the race was over this year, they handed out 52,000 warming blankets called Heatsheets which allow runners to cool down in a controlled way by preserving their body heat.
And these heatsheets, now standard in all but 5% of marathons, are a New York invention, due to the quick thinking of David Diegan himself a marathoner from way back, New York Times
In 1979 Diegan responded to a request for a cheap way of supplying warming blankets to the New York Road Runners. He proposed that his firm manufacture and supply them and the Marathon organizers benefit by selling advertising on the blankets. Both what his firm did to manufacture the blankets and the advertising idea were winners
There was a bit of experimentation in early years until the easiest way of manufacturing and storing the blankets was worked out. The best and cheapest way to create them was found to use Polyethylene (Mylar) treated with aluminium on one side.
Once manufactured they are put transported as huge rolls. For this year’s Marathon it took 65 volunteers many, many hours to tear the 52,000 Heatsheets off their rolls and leave them in glittering heaps by the finish line so runners could easily pick one up and wrap it around them as they finished the race.
The Heatsheets are 6 x 4 feet and only weight 3 oz and of course are not not only used by marathoners all around the world but also by emergency services as well. So thin and light the Heatsheets are superb at providing the warmth needed by injured, wet and exhausted people in emergency conditions. They are truly one of those inventions which have become so common that no-one can imagine not having them around.
They are prized as souvenirs of their runs by marathoners, especially as they are very durable and keep for years. Congratulations David Diegen for so cleverly furthering the New York tradition of being powerful innovators.