Safety of runners is paramount to any successful race.
DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
As a race director, I’m constantly aware of safety throughout my events. I’ve put together my top 10 areas of concern I generally focus on:
- Health of participants – We always suggest that the participants, especially those new to racing, first check with their physicians to ensure they are healthy enough to participate. Also, we ask all participants to make us aware of any medical issues they may be experiencing and sometimes ask that they fill out the medical questionnaire on the back of their bib number. Runners should take personal responsibility to train properly for the event and not recklessly jump in without committing to some reasonable level of fitness.
- Public safety coverage – We work with our local and state public safety partners to develop and implement the appropriate level of police and security coverage.
- Vehicles on the course – Most races close the course to any vehicles but some races don’t. Race management needs to ensure every participant’s safety by monitoring any vehicular traffic on the race course either with road devices (cones, barricades, signage), volunteers, or police details.
- Medical coverage – Providing adequate medical coverage at the start, along the course, and especially at the finish is arguably a race director’s most important task.
- Staying on course – Ensuring that runners don’t go off course is critical. If they do, there is no safety coverage on roads that aren’t part of the official course and runners could be at significant risk.
- Reflective gear – If the race starts early in the morning and/or continues into the evening, it is important that lighting and reflective gear be provided.
- Crowd control – Sometimes spectators can be over zealous and unknowingly become a hazard to the runners.
- Seeding the field at the start – We attempt to line people up by ability level so it is a safe and smooth start. This also minimizes the amount of passing faster runners have to do to overtake slower runners on the course.
- Athletes with disability – It is critical that this group be handled properly in terms of when they start, knowing the course, and rates of speed. A lot of planning usually goes into developing the overall plan for athletes with disabilities.
- And, lastly, headphones – We recognize that many runners train while using headphones. As such, most races don’t prohibit headphones but they do “discourage” their use. If runners decide to use them, we recommend they keep the volume low or better yet only use one ear bud.