Captain’s Blog: Safety First

A few years ago, maybe 2007 or 2008, I threw one of those 15 passenger vans into reverse and started to back out of my parking spot in one of the early RTB-NH transition areas. I had checked my mirrors, tapped ever so slightly on the gas, and begun inching back until a teammate, perched in the far back seat, screamed “STOP!” A small kid—barely able to walk, at least in my memory—had gotten away from his dad and wandered directly behind our van. He might’ve been three feet from the bumper when my teammate yelled. That moment still spooks me whenever I get behind the wheel of one of those behemoth vans.

My point is that RTB isn’t just any race. Us runners are a pretty individual, independent lot, and we’re used to ignoring the text on race waivers and just signing at the bottom of the page. For a 5K, what is there that we really need to know?, we think. But RTB isn’t a 5K. In a few weeks, a couple hundred sleep-deprived drivers will be navigating a couple hundred vans along dark, narrow back roads. They’ll be dealing with oncoming traffic to the left and a string of runners to the right. Not to be over-dramatic, but knowing the safety rules in RTB’s race manual could be a matter of life or death for someone.

My advice is pretty simple: Read the manual, learn the rules, and then overcompensate. When the rules call for anyone outside of the van to have a reflective vest on—make sure that everyone on your team has his or her own reflective vest. When the manual says that a representative from each vehicle has to attend the pre-race safety meeting, round up your entire team and get them all into that room. Ask them all to read the manual beforehand, and convey the need for everyone to be vigilant for the entire race. Even when the entire team is tired, hungry, and cranky, you never know when you’ll need help backing up the team van.

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