Ragnar’s Commitment to Runner Safety

For most Ragnarians, the overnight running experience can be summed up with the phrase, “Sore legs. Great memories.” Nearly half a million runners have had safe, fun and unforgettable experiences running with Ragnar. In the 14 years, we’ve been hosting overnight relays, we’ve developed a robust safety system to address the inherent risks with open-course events and with running in general, including:

  • Safety Committee – Senior Ragnar employees meet monthly to constantly review and update all safety protocols.
  • Race command – Each event has a dedicated crew of Ragnar staff whose sole focus is to aid teams, coordinate with local police, inform teams of updates on the course and ensure that teams abide by the safety and community guidelines.
  • Race-day safety briefing – Every participant must attend safety briefings and wear night-time safety gear.
  • Community coordination – We work with local communities leading up to race day and during race weekend to have a full picture of the areas we run through, and enlist help as needed with issues that may arise.

In light of recent events, including when a Ragnar runner was accosted at Ragnar Cape Cod, we have redoubled our focus on safety, developed new options for night runs and expanded our guidelines. We’ve updated our night time safety protocols with the following 3-prong approach:
1. Proactive review of all our night legs and courses.

    • We’ll be updating course descriptions to include night-time considerations such as how remote or urban a leg may be. Also, we’ll have even closer coordination with local communities and police to ensure that we’ve developed the best routes and have volunteers and police stationed in the appropriate locations.

2. New options for night runs.

    • The Buddy Pass (*Ragnar Relay road races only) – If a runner doesn’t want to run alone at night, they can have a teammate run with them. They are, essentially, running two legs at the same time and the ‘buddy’ runner will be able to skip a different leg.
      • The Buddy Pass details: We’ve added a new night run option – the Buddy Pass. Here’s how it works: If a runner doesn’t want to run alone at night, they can have a teammate run with them. They are, essentially, running two legs at the same time and the ‘buddy’ runner will be able to skip a different leg. Teams who want to use a buddy pass will need to let Race Command know which leg they are running together, and which leg they will skip. When a team reaches the leg they intend to skip, they will need to allow time to pass (estimated pace of the ‘buddy’ runner on the skipped leg) before starting the next runner. Details on how the Buddy Pass will work and impact on finishing times will be posted in the race bible in approximately two weeks.
    • Pacers – We’ll be making accommodations for more pacers.
    • Team check-ins – Vans will be encouraged to increase contact with the active runner on night legs (More consistent van support or periodic texts, etc.)
    • Live tracking – Ragnar is investing in live-tracking in our new app so teams can monitor their active runner’s location. This feature will be available later this year.
    • Better education – We’ll make sure participants are aware of safety guidelines and night run options such as: Running with a phone, not using headphones, running with personal safety devices (ID bracelets, whistles, etc.) and making runners aware of general safety considerations like stopping at red lights, running against traffic, etc.

3. Investment in race-day notifications through Ragnar app.

  • We are making investments in localized alerts through the Ragnar app. These updates include clearer communications to runners about course updates and runner incidents so runners and teams are aware of incidents that may arise near them on the course.

Running at night can be intimidating, but it’s also what makes Ragnar special. There is real magic that happens when we come together to accomplish something we could never do alone. We are incredibly grateful to all those who have run with us over the past 14 years. We will continue to improve and focus on safety efforts because, to us, nothing is more important.
We’d love to hear from you. If you have thoughts you’d like to share with us, please email us at safety@ragnarrelay.com.
Be safe and have fun,
Chris Infurchia
CEO of Ragnar

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14 Comments

  • Thanks for updating nighttime policies. My 14 year old niece is running with us and I want her to be safe at night. I do have a suggestion. Could you do some scouting around for good places for support vans to pull over to cheer and support in rural areas at night and then mark them on your map? Sometimes it’s hard to find a legal spot in the pitch black in rural Wisconsin (Great River). Last year my sisters lost my brother when he did the 10 mile leg during the night. He waited at the next exchange for half an hour while they backtracked not knowing they had simply missed him running past because they could not find a place to safely stop.
    Another suggestion is since some of the police you hire are auxiliary officers, can you make sure that when they are helping at intersections that they DO NOT park their squad cars, with all emergency lights flashing, in front of signs and in spots that blind van drivers and runners? I was in a van accident in the Chicago relay a few years back that was a direct result of this behavior by an inexperienced officer. The squad car was parked next to the stop sign with all lights on and not only could I not see the sign, I was blinded on my right side and did not see an approaching minivan who had the right of way. I was not even aware the lights had blinded me, I saw only darkness and assumed there were no vehicles crossing my path. I was charged with causing the accident and I have refused to be a nighttime van driver since.
    I love running at night in the dark and even alone so night legs are no problem for me but I have younger team members to keep safe. I think the buddy pass is a great idea as long as it is not routinely used to let teams out of covering the longest legs. Maybe you could consider having an extra runner at night who could participate only as a night buddy without having to pay extra and somehow not compromise the races and the competition fairness. Thanks for working on this! Good luck and see you at Great River (again!)

  • I love that Ragnar is being proactive about this issue and support the proposed changes. Will the changes apply to road and trail races both? Or just road races? My only concern is that if trail runners choose to run in tandem at night, the trails (especially single track sections) will be very congested and we’ll just be swapping one safety issue for another as people have to make more passes.

  • I just finished being involved in the Madison WI to Chicago Ragnar race on June9-10th. I have done this same Ragnar race now for 3 years. I actually was the van driver this time because all our spots were filled, but what I did was to run the night legs with the females of our group so they were not alone. When you are running through forest preserves there are no places for the vans to make contact and runners were about 50 yards apart. We were a mixed +40 group and we just made sure that no female was running alone in a park setting, either the van driver took a turn being a running buddy (or security) or another runner just “doubled up” and ran as a buddy but still did their full run. No team should care about running times Vs safety and the bottom line you need to provide an escort/running buddy/security runner for any female running in a “park like” trail. Note that when the trail is along city streets at night, you have the lights from the street and you can stay as close as you want to maintain security so that part of the course is ok. If your team can’t provide the females that protection I don’t think you should be entering the race.

  • Are you adding the buddy pass to the trail relay as well? Please?! I loved Wisconsin Northwoods last year, but I was mostly concerned with animals at night. It’s easier to make noise to keep them away if you have someone running with you who you can talk to. Another issue we had was that it was hunting season, and there were hunters in the adjacent woods. We heard guns go off a lot. Requiring some blaze orange would be a good move. It was nerve wracking hearing shots when you’re running through the woods.

    • Hi Brenda – Thanks for the comment. That sounds really scary about running at night at Northwoods, and I have passed your comment to the Race Director. At this time, the Buddy Pass will only be available for Ragnar Relay road races.

  • Please consider allowing the buddy system for trail races also. A few of the women in our group would like this idea. We usually do the So-cal trail race in Nov. I don’t feel the trails would be too congested. I hardly ever see anyone when I’m running!!
    Thank you!!

  • Love this idea!! We do need to remind people not running to stay visible at night. That means vests need to be worn and not covered. We almost hit runners who were crossing the street wearing blankets last year. When we slowed down and pointed out they could not be seen, we were treated rudely. Uh folks, just trying to keep you from being run over. Light yourselves up like New Years Eve people!

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