By Scott Prater
Lt. Col. Kelly McJoynt, Air Combat Command, is adding the Boston Marathon to his bucket list.
Following the recent tragic events that occurred at this year’s race, it would be perfectly understandable for even experienced runners to contemplate their commitments to future long-distance events. For McJoynt, however, they only served to strengthen his resolve.
“I am signed up to run the Ironman Arizona triathlon this November and my wife’s first reaction was to question my participation,” said McJoynt, a 2010 Ironman Florida competitor. “But, it’s important to me personally, to continue doing the things that make me proud to be an American. The activities I participate in will not be negatively affected by terrorist activities.”
Rob Ladewig, a retired Air Force colonel, a veteran of more than 20 Ironman triathlons and a 1996 Boston Marathon competitor, echoed McJoynt’s thoughts.
“If someone believes they can shake the spirit of America by messing with marathoners, they picked the wrong group,” he said. “I just wish I could fit a marathon into my training schedule this year so I could qualify for next year’s event in Boston.”
Schriever Sports and Fitness Manager, Seth Cannello, a 2010 Ironman Arizona finisher, said he wouldn’t hesitate to enter any event, but not without taking some precautions.
“I would try to work my way to the middle of the crowd at the starting line and stay closer to the middle of the road when running and biking,” he said.
Simply by taking on the challenge, marathoners and triathletes have demonstrated an ability to overcome adversity and adapt to changing conditions. Still, thoughts of recent events may be impossible to dismiss for even the toughest-minded competitors, especially if their families will attend and be on the sidelines at venues that often cover hundreds of miles.
“The marathon atmosphere is exciting and fun, but recent terrorists activities have made it necessary for marathon runners and spectators to think about the ‘what ifs’ more than they would generally need to,” said Master Sgt. Sarah Law, 50th Space Wing ground safety manager. “When you think about it, it all boils down to simple risk management.”
Law recommends runners and triathletes consider the following tips when competing in an event:
• Be aware of your surroundings. If you see something out of the ordinary, stay vigilant and be ready to respond.
• Make a mental note of the path you would take in an emergency.
• If for some reason you get caught in a crowd of moving people, move with the crowd and not against it.
• Make sure your shoes are tied. It sounds simple, but what happens if you fall?
• The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and do not panic.
Cannello recommends runners also inform attending family members to take precautions as well, such as separating at start and finish lines and maintaining distance from large crowds and buildings along the course route.
Ladewig pointed out that military members also have opportunities to choose events where organizers have set up a more secure venue.
“The Marine Corps Marathon, for example, does a great job at security,” Ladewig said. “Every runner goes through checkpoints before they start and runners are still in a secure area once they cross the finish line. While you can’t ensure security at every point along the course, more security is better.”
For more tips and information on managing risk during distance running events, Law recommends visiting http://www.runtheplanet.com/trainingracing/safety/safecrowd.asp.