Security Changes Unclear For Upper Valley Races
Woodstock — The committee that organizes the annual Covered Bridges Half Marathon meets every two weeks in preparation for the annual 13.1-mile race. It didn’t need an agenda to know what would first be up for discussion yesterday morning.
So far, the Upper Valley running community’s reaction to Monday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon has been expressed in prayers and concern. CBHM race director Mike Silverman expects his event will go eventually beyond that, but anything that may develop further as a result of Boston will remain to be seen.
“I don’t feel that, personally, there will be some type of act like that here because of where we are,” Silverman said. “I think, with runners coming from all over to our area, the important thing is to make them feel comfortable, both them and their families.”
The regional running scene, once Mother Nature allows it to thaw each spring, encompasses events too numerous to categorize. Distance junkies, however, have two 13.1-mile objectives: the CBHM, now in its 22nd year of June runnings, and the CHaD Hero Half Marathon, a much younger fixture entering its fourth edition in October.
On a much smaller scale, both face the same organizational issues. There is traffic to direct, a route to monitor, T-shirts and edibles to distribute, police coverage to coordinate.
At the moment, it’s too early after Monday’s attack to contemplate any logistical changes that may have to be considered, a Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth spokesperson said.
“I would say, certainly, that the events of this week make us stop and think more seriously about how we can continue to focus on the safety of our event and especially for our runners,” CHaD director of community relations Sharon Brown said. “We’ve only noted that people need to pay attention to what we can learn along the way.”
The Covered Bridges is set for June 2, beginning at the Suicide Six ski area in South Pomfret and ending at the Quechee Polo Field. The event sold out its roughly 2,300 slots for runners in just 14 minutes in December.
It has developed a following for running groups or families that make the race a focal point of a weekend or longer vacation from home. It historically draws a third of its field from the Boston area, people with whom Silverman has been communicating the past two days.
“We feel very strongly than running is a community and we need to support it as much as possible, just through prayer or through support or, ‘What can we do to comfort you?’ ” Silverman said. “If you are coming to our event, we want to comfort you.
“We recognize that Boston is an icon in the running world. Something that happens so close to our home, we want to support them in any way.”
For the moment, the most likely expression is likely to come forth on race T-shirts, Silverman said, although more concrete ideas may evolve from the race committee’s every-other-week meetings.
“We posted on our social media site our condolences and support,” he noted. “People who’ve run with us have communicated mostly through email: ‘Thank you for the thoughts and support and hope to see you in Vermont.’ As they say, ‘God willing.’ ”
Lengthy road races and police presence go hand in hand. The CBHM works with officers in Hartford and Woodstock as well as the Windsor County sheriff’s department. The Oct. 20 CHaD race will involve assistance from Hanover and Norwich police.
“They always play a key role,” Brown said. “Mike Evans from the Hanover Police Department is part of our committee. We meet with him four or five times. We do have a regular emergency management system in place for weather or other emergencies. We will take a close look at all of those procedures.”
Comfort also comes in the visible presence of volunteers, Silverman said. The CBHM will outfit about 500 of them this June, people who will be responsible for directing runners, handing out liquids and a variety of post-race duties.
“We also have to make sure we show the runners and spectators that we are there, that we have a presence,” he added.
Beyond that, it’s too early in the Boston recovery process to gauge how Monday will affect Upper Valley races, if it will have any effect at all.
Silverman said the CBHM’s no-show rate typically runs between 33 and 38 percent. People have intervening life events, they get hurt in training or can’t make the race for some reason or other. Boston won’t change that, he said.
If history is a guide, the CHaD Hero Half will bring in about 600 long-distance runners and probably double that in additional participants for the event’s associated 5K run, 5K and 10-mile walks and one-mile family fun run.
“I think the ramifications of (Boston) is too early; we haven’t thought about them yet, but we’ll focus on them later,” Brown said. “Like the Boston race, we’re just wanting to know that we’re putting the right energy into those areas to make it as great as it can be for all involved.”
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.