First things first -- our hearts go out to the family of Mount Marathon runner Michael LeMaitre, missing since he was last seen in the Fourth of July race and now presumed dead. And we join the family and friends of veteran runner Matthew Kenney, in a coma after a fall on the mountain, in hoping for his swift recovery.
Finally, we're glad that Utah runner and National Guard helicopter pilot Penny Assman is up and about after her fall that resulted in broken ribs and a lacerated liver.
Mount Marathon has always been a tough and dangerous race. But there's never been a year like this one.
The disappearance of LeMaitre has officials and runners talking about changes in the rules. Mandatory helmets? Qualifying races? Escorts down the mountain if you fail to make the top within a time limit?
Consideration of new safety rules is wise given what's happened. Blood, bruises, broken bones and even heat exhaustion have long been risks of the race, and officials stress safety and warn runners of the dangers ahead.
Could race organizers do more? Yes. Having volunteers stay on the mountain until everyone is accounted for, and having trailsweeps making sure that no one gets lost and back-of -the-pack runners are OK just make sense. Even these fixes won't be foolproof -- or even easy, given that not everyone who gets a race bib may show up for the race. But such fixes are doable.
Further, race organizers could use this year as a lesson to future runners that Mount Marathon is no lark, to further stress what they already stress. Come prepared, come fit. Know the risks, and know your abilities and limits.
And it would make sense to keep a record of injuries and where they occur, the better to warn runners of what they're up against.
Could race organizers do too much? Yes. Keep a closer watch and more help at hand, but don't try to tame the race. It's a mountain race. The risk is part of the point. And in the adult races, it's up to each runner to decide how much risk to take, going up and coming down.
BOTTOM LINE: Mount Marathon organizers should take a hard look at safety provisions, but leave the risk in the race.