Great Train Race draws large field
Parents arriving at the VA Runner store to pick up packets for Sunday’s Great Train Race weren’t stressed about safety in the wake of bombs near the finish line of last month’s Boston Marathon.
“It crossed my mind, but, honestly, I don’t want to have things like that change things we enjoy and do as a family,” Stafford County resident Sara Nodurft said Wednesday.
Her two older children have participated in other races, and all three plan to run in Sunday morning’s races in downtown Fredericksburg.
The Great Train Race, in its 19th year, is a 1-mile event that starts in front of the train depot, travels along Caroline Street, turns onto William Street and then follows Sophia Street to the finish line at City Dock. The race is run in 16 heats, divided by gender and age, with the cutoff at 18 years.
The littlest runners—ages 5 and under—can participate in the 400-yard Caboose Run.
Valerie Martinez of Spotsylvania County was among the parents picking up runner packets this week who said they have faith in local police and race organizers.
“We’ve just been comfortable doing it so many years,” Martinez said. “I’ve seen how it runs and I trust everyone.”
Race organizers said registration is above last year’s numbers for both races despite the April 15 tragedy in Boston where three people were killed and more than 260 were injured.
Local race organizers reviewed safety and security plans with city police and rescue officials this week, said Sara Carty, one of the organizers.
Fredericksburg police will deploy the usual contingent of uniformed officers at the start and finish lines and along the route, police spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe said.
In addition, the department will have security measures in place that won’t be visible to the public.
Carty said a second ambulance will be added this year and that volunteers will be more diligent about keeping an eye on children at the finish line’s enclosed area to be sure those 8 and younger are met by a parent before departing that space.
A larger contingent of volunteers will man that area this year in addition to the 80 who have worked the course in the past, Carty said.
She asked that people keep their belongings with them and that they follow the national guideline to take note of anything that looks suspicious.
The two men believed responsible for the bombs that exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon placed the bombs in backpacks they left on the ground.
Anyone who sees anything suspicious on Sunday should report it to a police officer or a race volunteer. Volunteers will be wearing lime green, tie–dyed T–shirts with the word “volunteer” on them.
Race directors will have those words on their shirts.
“We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our runners and families,” Carty said.
“We just ask people to be vigilant as always.”
Debbie Quattlebaum of Stafford said she thinks problems are more likely to occur in a big-city event, not at a race for local children, so she supports her son’s desire to take part.
Randall Quattlebaum, 10, has been participating for five years and enjoys the camaraderie with classmates who compare times and revel in their finisher medals.
“He tries to beat his time every year,” Quattlebaum said. “He loves the challenge.”
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Each year, students compete to create the winning design for the T–shirts for the Great Train Race and the Caboose Run.
This year, Fredericksburg Christian School student Jackie Wilson’s design was chosen for the 1-mile Great Train Race, race organizer Sara Carty said.
Cati Watts, a home-schooled student from King George County, had the best design for the 400-yard Caboose Run.
Each student won a $100 gift card, Carty said.
NUMBERS ON THE RISE
Registration for this year’s Great Train Race and Caboose Run has exceeded last year’s numbers, race organizers said.
The Caboose Run had hit its maximum of 400 by Wednesday, up 10 from last year.
And by Thursday, registrations for the 1-mile race had exceeded last year’s total of 1,624 by a few dozen.
Online registration closed Tuesday, but youth can still register for the 1-mile race at VA Runner in Central Park, where race packets are being distributed from noon to 7 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
The Great Train Race is sponsored by The Free Lance–Star and VA Runner. Colonial Internal Medicine Associates sponsors the Caboose Run. Proceeds benefit the Fredericksburg Area Service League, which distributes the funds to organizations in this region that assist local children, said Elizabeth LeDoux, a group spokeswoman.