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January 20, 2014

 

‘Track Pack’ runs for safety

Local joggers organize run after Va. woman killed on morning jog

TrackJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Tammy Custer of Cortland, left, and Corena Morse of Virgil, right, lead a pack of runners Saturday who braved the cold to promote runners’ safety.

By TYRONE L. HEPPARD
Staff Reporter
theppard@cortlandstandardnews.net

A group of runners in Cortland who normally convene twice a year to train were inspired by a recent jogging accident in Virginia to brave the cold and run for a cause Saturday afternoon.
Meg Menzies was killed by a drunk driver on Jan. 13 in Virginia while she was out for her morning run. The incident received national attention, sparking solidarity among joggers in cities across the country.
The message resonated with a majority of people, especially Cortland resident Melanie Arnold and a some of her fellow joggers who call themselves the “Track Pack.”
Last year, the group began holding a biannual fun run, an event where joggers get together and run a few miles to stay in shape. But this year, Arnold said she and her friends wanted to dedicate their “Faux 5K” to Menzies and to highlight how important it is for drivers to be aware of others on the road.
“We do this slow 5K twice a year just for fun,” Arnold said. “We had planned this Tuesday night, (then) we all got a message on Facebook about this woman in Richmond, Va., who was killed on Monday by a drunk driver.”
She added the group did not give a second thought to using its run as a way to promote the message of runner safety and sharing the road with drivers.
“Every single runner has experienced a near miss,” Arnold said. “She’s (Menzies) has become a poster child of this cause — to make people aware of the dangers of inattentive driving and to realize there are other people the roads.”
At noon, 20 runners gathered at the Dark Horse Tavern on Main Street to lace up sneakers and bundle up in blue and purple jogging gear — Menzies’ two favorite colors — before snapping a few quick pictures and taking off up Tompkins Street at 12:15 p.m.
“Runners are always running for a cause. This is a no-brainer,” said runner and Virgil resident Shannon Anderson.
“It hits home. Every one of us — whether there’s distracted or impaired drivers — we’ve got to watch out whenever we’re on the road. There’s a lot of them.”
Tammy Custer, a runner from Cortland, emphasized that winter months are especially unsafe, and that some drivers don’t understand runners can risk hurting themselves on sidewalks covered in snow and ice which forces them into the road.
“The problem we have now (is) homeowners aren’t shoveling their sidewalks,” Custer said. “It’s dangerous for us to run on.”
While it is important for drivers and joggers to be cognizant of each other on the road, the runners recommend those sharing the road with drivers should do what they can to be seen at all times, such as wearing reflective gear, running in groups, and avoiding running in weather conditions that make it difficult for drivers to see them, such as heavy snow and fog.
Even though making roads safer will require a great deal of education and cooperation, for now, the Track Pack hopes that by sharing Menzies’ story, joggers, drivers and everyone in between will do more to look out for one another.
“We hope this brings awareness,” Custer said. “Whether it’s a runner, a biker, or a child.”
“I love my running friends,” Anderson said, “and I want them to be safe.”

 

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