Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ragnar Relay Safety

If you read my race report on the Ragnar Relay you also heard about the runner hit by a car in the middle of the night. Robby, only 18 years old, unfortunatly passed away 4 days later.  One reader commented feeling like Ragnar didn't care enough about safety.  The reader talked to many runners who also didn't feel safe during the race therefore the race wasn't safe and Ragnar was at fault.  Was that runner asking other runners just looking for people to support the question of feeling unsafe?  Or was the runner unbiased looking for runners who also felt safe.  What about the runners who felt safe AND unsafe at various times during the race.  How were those people counted?

Although I have not seen a DPS report or heard facts not circulated by rumors, I do know that Robby was supporting a fellow runner and needed to cross a highway to get water to his teammate.  I belive this was also the case of the runner who died at the Vegas Ragnar Relay.  I have heard, but have no confirmation, that both gentleman were not wearing a reflective vest.  Would a reflective vest have helped the Vegas runner hit by a drunk driver?  Would a vest have helped Robby if he did indeed step into traffic?  We will never know those answers.

During Ragnar there were many times that I thought about the traffic coming towards me.  At a high level did I feel my safety was at risk, yes?  But everytime I go out on the road with cars, I put my safety at risk.  I try and pay attention to the cars, watch the direction they are going, make sure they see me if there are at a stop waiting to make a turn.  If I'm out on the road I have to be aware of my surroundings and the drivers out there are the road.

After running 4 Ragnars I strongly feel that if you are outside the van at night, running or not, you should be wearing a reflective vest.  It is our responsibility to be visible.  Ragnar had electronic signs posted along major roads saying there runners are on the road but the roads are not closed and often there are no cones.  Runners go against traffic except in some situations where they run with the traffic.  From dusk to dawn the runner is required to wear a reflective vest, a headlamp and a buttlight.  Ragnar increased the vest requirement at the last minute from 2-4 vests per team and encouraged people at night to be visable and wear the vests even if not running.  At exchanges police enforced the requirement of wearing a vest if crossing the street and this was before the accident occurred.  I admit that I didn't wear my vest at all times when outside of the van nor did my teammates.  This was poor respect for safety and the cars and I vow next time to do better.

I also believe that runners should carry their own water. There are so many devices from handheld water bottles, water belts to camelbacks to make it easy for runners to carry their own water.  If a runner can't go without water for the distance, they should carry their own water.  This way it is the responsibility of the runner and not the van to give runner support. The van can still cheer, although stopping on the road and driving slow is a BIG hazard.  The van has a responsibility of getting the next runner to the next exchange and giving the next runner ample time to use the restroom, warm up or stretch.  More than once I have been rushed and stressed when we didn't get to the exchange early because we were giving runner support less than 2 miles from the next exchange.

Overall I feel Ragnar handled safety well. Could they do a better job?  Sure they could.  Could I do a better job with my awareness and safety?  Yes, I could as well.  On no terms am I trying to minimize the death of the two runners killed in the Vegas or Arizona relays. The death of Robby had an affect on me along with the death of a Phoenix runner back in December (who was not running a race).  I have also thought a lot about the horror his team mates must have seen right after the accident. The deaths have helped me be more aware of my safety, visability and where I run.  Anytime we runners go out on the road, race or not, we are putting ourselves in a position where something could go wrong. I choose to not live in fear of what could happen.  If I did live in fear of this I would never go out for a run outside or even drive my car or take an airplane.  There is risk in everything we do and we have to take responsibility for our own actions to minimize our risk.

The bottom line is please be safe while out there on the road and take the needed precautions.

Happy Running!

12 comments:

Katie A. said...

Thanks for sharing this. I have a relay coming up and I have a zillion questions! And although I am so excited to run, I am hyper aware of the safety issue.

Kim said...

What a sad story.

I haven't run this (or frankly any other) relay or even night time race where the roads weren't closed, but I can see how hazardous it can be. I always wear reflective gear when running at night, but it still scares the crap out of me.

Good for you for taking this experience and learning from it, knowing what you can do next time.

Running Through Life said...

Great post! We should take these tragedies and turn them into something positive and be more aware of or surroundings and take responsibility for our own safety.

justagirl said...

I think about this often when I'm out at night...about the person who was killed (this made me so sad when I read it in your blog). It makes me very nervous and I had a thought, not a new thought I'm sure: you have to run defensively. After getting afraid I had much the same thoughts. I knew this fear was not going to keep me inside (another, 'I'm committed' moment).

Great advice again! I love how you reflect and learn from a situation.

Teamarcia said...

Your point is well taken. I've been jonesing for a relay but this sad incident made me think twice.

Anne said...

How sad...I agree that there is no need to blame, but simply to learn from this...

ajh said...

I did a relay last year that had some runners in the dark. I will be doing it again this year and will be even more careful. We had to wear reflective vests and have a blinking light. Everyone had the minimum but some teams were so well lit it was incredible! I need to be more careful in daylight hours as I often run on the road and there are blind curves.

lindsay said...

i didn't know the circumstances behind the runner who was hit -- the fact that he was crossing the street and not actually in the race (at the time, anyway) takes a good bit off ragnar, in my opinion. i mean, as runner's we surely ought to be very cautious about crossing the road! i know i always look and if there's a car remotely close enough, i'll stop and wait until it passes. (plus hey, it provides a breather sometimes!) :) if he was crossing at night, wouldn't he have seen the headlights and thought hey, maybe i should wait?

Adrienne said...

Can anyone recommend a good vest, headlamp and tail light for me? I'm the captain of a team for Wasatch Back and nobody on our team has run this relay before including myself. It's the blind leading the blind. I want to make sure we are prepared.

Louis said...

Well, the SAME EXACT thing is gonna happen again, and its gonna be severe enough where Ragnar will get sued. Let me say before I post this, I love the idea that Ragnar has with these races, as it promotes being active and helps keep the country active. What I dont like is the abscence of security personel on these routes. I am not a participant of any Ragnar races, but I am VERY concerned with your safety, as I am in the public safety field in NYS. I feel Ragnar should have double, no, TRIPLE the security with more visible signs where people that DONT have vests, lights, or flags are crossing the road like little school children on the last day of school that dont give a care in the world of traffic. I had this happen in front of me on a VERY busy Intracounty roadway at 10:30pm tonight. If I hadn't slowed down because I know the intersection where they were crossing was a very prone spot for car accidents, I would have hit 2 people that were crossing. They had security personel on a low volume side road, but not on one of the busiest roadways in my county! I think its BULL! Your lives and the lives of people giving you water are more important than a stupid relay race. AND, I saw no caution runner signs up at ANY point on the stretch of route that I took home tonight. I'm sorry, but you guys should REALLY put something together and tell Ragnar they need to do something, like prohibit people from crossing the road without caution, or better yet, drive one of those fancy vans behind the runner needing water 200 ft away while someone stays on the shoulder giving them water as they run, so in case someone does hit something, they hit a replaceable vehicle, not a unrepelaceable YOU!

Learning Emergencies Photographer said...

A guy I know died in the Ragnar Relay this weekend (September 24-25, 2010).

I found this blog looking for it in the news, but it still isn't in the news online and he died on Friday, September 24th. They found him in a ravine apparently.

I only know because he goes to my church, but if not...there is no indication from the news or from the Ragnar Relay website that a death occured.

Very sad.

Linda said...

I ran in Del Sol 2010 and plan on running in 2011 as well. I think that night time runners should carry their own water, everyone should wear vests, and if you want assistance during the race, get someone to follow you on a bike. I think bike support is a great option in the ragnar that not many take advantage of.