Marathoners crawl under moving train to qualify for Boston

ALLENTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA Norfolk Southern is investigating why a train crossed the Via marathon course on Sunday during the race, but the railroad says it has a more important public safety message.

"Under no circumstance, no marathon, no time, is worth your safety or your life," said David G. Pidgeon, manger of public relations for the railroad. "Doing that [crossing the tracks] puts your safety and life at risk."

Runners during Lehigh Valley Health Network's Via Marathon and Relay were literally stopped in their tracks Sunday by a slow-moving train around the course's seventh mile in Allentown. Some runners were held up as long as 10 minutes - a delay that hurt runners' chances of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

Some decided not to wait for the train to pass and jumped across the tracks or tried to crawl under the slow-moving cars to continue in the race.

A fully-loaded freight train car can weigh up to 286,000 pounds, so even a slow-moving train could seriously injure or kill someone, Pidgeon emphasized.

"We certainly understand the frustration, the inconvenience that that particular train could have caused to the participants of that race," he said. "It is never a good idea to try to crawl underneath a train or move between the cars, even a train that is stopped. You never know when that train is going to move again. You don't want to make a mistake that is going to cost your life."

Some runners reported seeing one man almost fall as he crossed the moving train, but no injuries were reported.

Runners whose times were affected by a train crossing the course Sunday should contact race organizers for a time adjustment.

Via Marathon organizers say Norfolk Southern gave them "absolute assurances" that trains would be suspended from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. as has happened in past years. A meeting was held and many e-mails were exchanged on runner safety and race logistics prior to the run.

"This is the tenth anniversary of this race, and all ten races have crossed the Norfolk Southern rail tracks on Albert Street to enter Canal Park in Allentown," said Gerry Yasso, Via's vice president of development.

What happened Sunday underscores the importance of race organizers speaking to the right people at Norfolk Southern to ensure everyone is on the same page, Pidgeon said.

"We are actively looking into who said what to whom, related to this incident," he said.

He urged race and other event organizers to reach out to the railway's office of public relations for future events to help navigate the company's hierarchy.

"We can help coordinate and get them in touch with all the right people," Pidgeon said. "From a safety standpoint it is just vital that event organizers for races like this be on the same page."

Norfolk Southern operates in 22 States and is reviewing its event policy given the fall is peak marathon and country fair season, he said.

The railway has a track record of working with race organizers to accommodate requests when it can, but it is also a 24/7 operation, Pidgeon said.

The Via Marathon is popular with runners looking to qualify for the storied Boston Marathon because it is flat, shaded and designed by running legend Bart Yasso. It boasts a high-qualifying percentage and is held the day before Boston registration opens.

Nearly 1,000 runners completed the Via Marathon on Sunday.

Via issued a statement Monday afternoon indicating adjustments to runners' times will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Affected runners should contact with data and details on how the train crossing affected their times.

Credits - This true article, "Marathoners who leaped moving train scolded by rail company" by Sara K. Satullo, was published on "".

 True running stories - A growing collection of incredible, bizarre, and unusual stories from the world of running. Prepared to be shocked at what we uncover when it comes to strange news, first-hand accounts, headlines, and reports from running around the world.

Since September 7, 2007 - © Aerostato, Seattle - All Rights Reserved.

JOIN THE WORLDWIDE RUNNING NETWORK | | | | | | | | Maratone & Maratoneti | | | | | | | | |