She Was in a Grueling 340-Mile Race. Then Came a Highway, and an S.U.V.

Aug 18, 2020 · 323 comments
Mountain Dragonfly (NC)
While this accident was tragic, the obsession with running and marathons seems somewhat trivial. We shouldn’t need athletic events to have healthy bodies we just need to get off the couch.
Alan Crawford (Lisbon, Florida)
Thank goodness for the truck driver who knew to use his truck to block the road. I venture to guess he has seen emergency vehicles to the same thing. Or he is a first responder himself and a volunteer at that.
Freddy (Ct.)
I'm very impressed that someone would run ultra-marathons. But when things go wrong, point with your thumb, not with your finger.
me (AZ unfortunately)
"Catastrophic injuries and collisions with cars are rare in ultrarunning, though the sensation of dodging death ... can be part of the appeal." Does not appeal to me. At least the race organizer didn't make them leap off an overpass onto a highway to stay on-course. These events stop just short of being suicidal.
Lorraine (Portland, OR)
There is an option to place bunches of reflective flags to carry at such crossings. That doesn't sound inline with the ultra survivorship of these races, but crossing a highway isn't exactly natural.
Nick (Denver)
Anyone who participates in endurance sports across the heartland, from the Midwest to the South to the Plains, knows that these sports have inherent difficulty in being forced to operate on infrastructure created to foster driver and denigrate running, cycling, horseback riding, or any other sort of non-automotive transportation. As a cyclist hailing from Indiana, I've faced death more times than I can count. This is an intensely sad story, but it's a story that most endurance athletes are all too familiar with. The runner was a person, the organizer was a person, but somehow the car was just a car. Is crossing a highway on foot ever safe? Certainly not. But is it truly akin to swimming in shark-infested waters, creating the presumption that we are secondary to traffic and must therefore pray fealty to the headlight gods? Please. It's not like they had to cross a six-lane interchange. Four-lane highways are a dime a dozen in rural America and I would bet such a race route would be nigh impossible to plan without including at least a couple. I wish this lady, the driver, and Lazarus the best as I'm sure they're all utterly heartbroken. But let's talk more about the physical and mental infrastructure that causes this and the blame we fail to assign to cars time and again when these tragedies happen.
Lorraine (Portland, OR)
@Nick I'm not understanding if you mean blame to the "car" that hit her, or blame to the imposition all cars create for other forms of transportation, including running. If you mean the car, and therefore the driver, they mentioned headlights. That means it was dark, no street lights, making it nearly impossible to notice someone darting out from the median.
Cameron (Pennsylvania)
I don't blame anybody here, but I do feel terrible for the driver. Ms McCoy is free to pursue her passions, with all the personal risk that entails, but it's entirely possible that the driver will take a very long time to get over the emotional trauma of hitting someone with their car. These types of roads are not uncommon in rural America. Two- or four- lane highways in the country where the speed limit is 55+ mph. These are the arteries that rural folks use to get from one place to another. You are always thinking about the risk of encountering wildlife, or a drunk driver, or a motorcyclist, but a runner or pedestrian? No. People on foot are so uncommon that to encounter someone on foot is surprising. It is almost unimaginable thinking about setting off one morning and winding up hitting a pedestrian. It just isn't up there on the list of risks driving on a rural road. I wish all the best for Ms. McCoy in her recovery, and I equally hope that the driver can eventually move on from this trauma.
kenm (ny)
@Cameron l have accidentally hit just a few small animals in my 40 + years driving to and fro in semi-rural environs. It feels bad and so i deliberately drive at or a bit below posted limit to avoid such. Ifeel a bit alienated from fondness for fellowman and perplexing to see so many dead animal lives on the road and then even more shockingly to think of human lives injuries caused by high speeds. What is with all the fast driving, to get where? What warrants it? I wonder if it's the same 'syndromelif if you will of becoming disturbed /irritated when our remote devices and gadgets don"t respond to our command within split seconds. Or a variation of FOMO (fear of missing outl because inner life is restless, un filled. Just sharing my thoughts, hoping to contribute a bit here.
Lorraine (Portland, OR)
@kenm The speed at which the driver was going isn't presented here, so I don't know that it's the case that he/she was speeding beyond what you describe as a more cautious pace.
nevada (Nevada)
Will this give Gary Cantrell reason to pause and rethink about how "harsh" he makes his courses for races in the future? This was a freak accident but he owes a responsibility to his runners to give them adequate notice and information about the course that they are going to be running.
Cary (Oregon)
When does engaging in a physical challenge transition into ostentatious self-abuse? I can't formally define that point, but I think I know it when I see it. And with so many people apparently desperate for self-promotion and affirmation and driven to be regarded as "winners", today's physical challenges seem to be moving further into that self-abuse territory. It reminds me of anorexia, but instead of a distorted body image, some athletes seem to develop a distorted perception of hard work and sacrifice.
Francois (Chicago)
@Cary brilliantly said.
wh (Seattle)
People choose their passions, and some involve grave risks. I'm sure it must be an awesome feeling to finish races like that and emerge in one piece. I knew a hanglider in his 50's, who had been doing it for many years. As his chiropractor, I occasionally saw him after he got banged up doing his favorite sport. One time he was hurting, from head to toe, bruises everywhere. I told him "One day this hang gliding will kill you!" He replied, "Yes, but at least I'll die doing what I love". Sure enough, one day I saw his obituary; he had crashed into the side of a mountain. I was so sad that he died, but he lived the way he wanted. I hope Ms. Mcoy can get back to her passion without any serious injuries.
Will (Illinois)
@wh I agree with the sentiment of your comment - some of us have a bit more drive to explore and risk than others. But I don't think ultras are exceedingly risky. This is an isolated incident.
CHICAGO (Chicago)
Only in the South.
Darlene Moak (Charleston S.C.)
@CHICAGO I am originally from NJ but have lived in Charleston SC for almost 33 years. I am also a former marathon runner & admire the ultra-runners. This could have happened anywhere on any ultra marathon or any race for that matter. The reality is that people drive too fast & they are distracted. And perhaps the runners themselves did not have the reflective clothing & lights that they should have had if they had been properly warned about the dangerousness of that particular crossing. My heart goes out to Ms. McCoy and to her fellow runner who has to live with the memory of the accident. I think the race planner should be held responsible for her injuries. I wish her healing as complete as it can be.
Thomas B (St. Augustine)
Daniel Boone ran from Ohio to Boonesborough Kentucky but then he was being chased by Shawnees.
Deb (New York)
I wouldn't cross that highway unless in broad daylight and could see for miles in both directions. Actually, I just wouldn't do it.
Chris (Virginia)
@Deb With all due respect, you would never sign up for a race like this. You are a normal, risk averse American, who does not desire to push the limits of human potential. You are not sensitive to the norms of this culture, or other cultures where risk aversion is not the defining attribute. If we were all like you, there would be no fighter pilots, special forces, space exploration, or even settlement of North America. We knew what we risked, and knew what we wanted.
Chelsea FC (Davis)
@Chris There is a huge difference between being brave and taking unnecessary risks. That's what differentiates fighter pilots from exhausted runners crossing a highway in the dark.
Lcb1 (Pittsburgh, PA)
@Chris Really? And were the drivers on that ROAD supposed to know or intuit what ‘you’ wanted? to cross that road in the dark, hungry, exhausted, sleep deprived? Did anyone ask the drivers “How do you want your adrenaline jolt this morning? Coffee, or bodies dashing out of the dark in front of your headlights?”
Planetary Occupant (Earth)
From a long-time runner who has run across the Grand Canyon three times (and please do not try that unless you are very well prepared): The simple and necessary answer to the question posed in the subtitle, "After 270 miles, should runners have had to cross a four-lane highway?" is, emphatically, NO. My sincere sympathy to Kim McCoy, and my admiration for her courage. The race organizer must in the future be a lot more careful.
Chris (Virginia)
@Planetary Occupant First, congrats on running (one way?) across the Grand Canyon. But you do not understand the culture of Journey Races, and clearly you have not tried to. With all due respect, you would never sign up for a race like this. You are a normal, relatively risk averse American, who does not desire to push the limits of human potential. You are not sensitive to the norms of this culture, or other cultures where risk aversion is not the defining attribute. If we were all like you, there would be no fighter pilots, special forces, space exploration, or even settlement of North America. We knew what we risked, and knew what we wanted. Please stop the blame game.
Will (Illinois)
@Planetary Occupant I don't understand your comment. Did you run the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim trail (47.5miles)? This trail, and others in the Grand Canyon are technical, and no doubt more dangerous than crossing a country highway, where one exhaustion induced misstep could send you off a cliff to your death. While I do think race organizers need to be strong advocates for safety, in any of these runs or races, we have to advocate for our own safety. I've done many long format adventure races - 80 hours of racing straight, with 3 hours of sleep total (broken into 10-30 minute cat naps). There's no way for a race director to sanitize every intersection, even section, be there to watch every racer spread across the course. We do these races for the challenge, the pain, the thrills, and for pulling somethings our of ourselves we didn't know we had. If you want sanitized challenges, there are many closed course marathons, ultras on easy trails, even crazier ultras on short monitored loops. While I feel horribly for Kim, and perhaps the race director should have staged a sign to traffic, or a volunteer at this corner, ultimately it was her responsibility to determine if she had the faculties to keep going safely. From the descriptions posted, this is a rural highway, while fast and four lanes, not full of traffic, and with a grass median, should not have been that hard to cross safely. The race has obviously taken its toll on Kim - she should have stopped and rested, or pulled out.
Minmin (New York City)
@Planetary Occupant —to Will and Chris, I agree with Planetary Occupant. Having a dangerous crossing like this near the end of a super endurance race is as much an error or the part of the race designer as as it was for the runner, who through exhaustion, may not have the best reflexes. Removing a dangerous crossing like this wouldn’t change the overall culture of the Journey Races, but it would remove a particularly dangerous spot. Did the race designer run the course himself under identifical conditions as the racers, or just map it out from the comfort of his car?
Mike (Rossland, BC)
There is no such thing as a "safe shoulder" alongside a highway or any road with traffic running faster than 20 mph.
Chris (Virginia)
@Mike Blah, blah, blah. We all knew what we were getting into, which was a 340 mile road journey race across 5 states and up to 10 days. The fact that this was the first accident in 40 years speaks volumes to the multiple Monday morning quarterbacks allocating blame.
Mike (Rossland, BC)
@Chris Hi Chris, Highway shoulders are not safe. Solutions are safe distancing from higher speed traffic, which is usually achievable through design. Nothing against ultra-running. No need to insult. Let's keep the discourse civil.
Will (Illinois)
@Mike But they weren't walking along a highway, but crossing. Crossing can be done safely, and your 'exposure' to the highway is very minimal. A freak accident, likely from a combination of factors.
Chevy (South Hadley, MA)
Without getting into the issue of fault, I know from personal experience that some drivers feel that pedestrians, runners and bicyclists have no business using a public road. They will not slow down or take similar precautions to give wide berth to possible danger. Call it inconsistent use of a road, impatience, entitlement or what you will, but attitudes have to change. Metal against flesh is always a mismatch. Accidents don't just happen, they are waiting to happen. Many roads are poorly designed and unsafe at any speed.
Harry B (Michigan)
We all pay for the selfishness of individual ruggedness. Who do sue when you die climbing Everest? My empathy tank is on empty.
MKW (NorCal)
Maybe this will create some empathy with you. McCoy--a labor and delivery nurse--has been on the NYC COVID frontline and joined the ultramarathon as a relief/vacation. "Since the coronavirus pandemic, however, she’s been on the frontlines as a nurse. Of New York’s 24,800 deaths, 17,591 were in the city. At one point, 58 percent of her hospital’s beds were being used for COVID-19 patients. When the numbers finally slowed down, she decided she needed a vacation and left to do HOTS."
john (philadelphia)
@Harry B This race appears to be organized, curated, advertised and promoted. They invite participants like Ms. McCoy to get involved. The organizers and planners owe participants a duty to make the event safe while not detracting from the inherent nature of the activity. While ultramarathoning, especially in events like this, may be inherently dangerous, and some risk is assumed by the participants, the organizers, planners and managers should not act so as to make the race more dangerous than it already is. We understand it is inherently dangerous, just don't make it more dangerous. This would seem to be the case here. Certainly the organizers, planners and managers could have directed participants to a safer place to cross. Certainly they could have foresaw that incredibly exhausted runners on foreign terrain could have been seriously injured negotiating this sections of highway. Don't they bear some responsibility for sending her this route?
Stephen (Dallas)
@Harry B If you have empathy in your tank, it never runs empty. don't pretend you've ever cared
Matthew Belmonte (Kolkata, India)
Only life can kill you.
Dbsmith1 (NY)
"Who bears responsibility for McCoy’s accident is a question lawyers and insurance companies may have to decide." DOH! Really?! It was no one's fault; it was an accident. Or, if you really want to allocate blame, it was the runner's "fault" -- she's an adult, voluntarily participating in an event with obvious risks. She's the one who decided that it was OK to cross the street, no one else. Sorry for her misfortune but she really has no one to blame but herself.
Ryan A (NJ)
I think this article has the wrong narrative. The article blames the runner for being reckless. What the article doesn’t focus on is the increasing weight and poor pedestrian safety record of SUVs. None of this needed to happen if the driver had chosen to drive a lighter car. We could be incentivizing drivers to pick pedestrian-safer cars. We should not blame the victim. We should blame the culprit — a person who recklessly chose to drive a death machine, and the system that incentivized that choice.
VCuttolo (NYC)
@Ryan A Hatred of free market capitalism is a sorry world view, really.
CV (North Carolina)
"I am fully aware and assume all risks associated with participating in this event. I understand that the race is on public streets that no traffic control will be provided, that there will be no race-provided aid, and that participation could be hazardous."
Agent 99 (SC)
many Of the comments mention groups of racers and the responsibility of the organizer, drivers, runners to behave or act as if the group was important To this story. Ultramarathons are individual events. There aren’t clumps of runners. Assuming then concluding that the characteristics of ultramarathons are like any other race is wrong. Watch the video, the barksdale race. it will be edifying. Then reconsider how unique ultramarathons are. They are a completely different beast. .
Over 80 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
How about a horse-drawn buggy? Or tractor-drawn wagons loaded with grain? Bikes? Or driving a car at the posted speed limit on a roadway where every other vehicle is going 20 km above the limit?
Salix (Sunset Park, Brooklyn)
I am stunned to think that runners were supposed to dodge across a 4-lane divided highway - and at dawn no less! It is particularly heartless to put that sort of a "obstacle" in near the end of the race when the runners are feeling the finish so close. Just plane nasty.
Virginia S (Ohio)
I hope you will be running someday soon my friend. Best of luck.
Lisa (Jones)
This is just horrific. She had not wished for much, just to run. Those who are negative here have most likely never ran a mile in their life. This is just so sad
Chris (Virginia)
@Lisa Dear Lisa, You are doubtless a thoughtful person. However, you do not comprehend the philosophy and life view of ultra runners. Kim was a veteran journey runner, and will return, I hope. We desire to expand the human experience beyond the mundane, and see how we can push beyond conventional bounds of human accomplishments. Please do not presume to understand and thereby limit other groups. We know what we desire and what risks we accept.
Darlene Moak (Charleston S.C.)
@Chris So what you are saying is that we who chose to run mere marathons are lesser human beings? I admire those who run ultramarathons greatly but you aren't gods.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
@Chris "However, you do not comprehend the philosophy and life view of ultra runners. " What have you done with your life, other than run what is called an "ultramarathon?" People who devote themselves single-mindedly to a pursuit that is at it's root rather inconsequential, just to prove they are more or better than ordinary mortals, tend to bore. And I don't hink of Kim as this type, she was a nurse doing worthwhile work. Going to work during the covid pandemic too much more courage and guts and sense of purpose than ultrarunning ever can.
Bradford McCormick (New York)
Did I miss the part where the driver of the vehicle that struck Ms. McCoy stopped, rendered aid, showed his driver's license, called for help and waited for the police to arrive to report what he did? Who knows, maybe he or she really was innocent, but surely not innocent of leaving the scene if he or she did not stop. Or was he or she of she too under the influence to know they did anything? I sure hope the police ivestigated this. On the other hand good persons should not be foolish. When I was young I was bicycling down a road and my ankle got slashed by one of those litttle things cars used to have that make a scraping noise just before your tires scruff the curb. I was lucky. I got the message, too.
Chris (Virginia)
@Bradford McCormick please! This post is nothing but presumptions, blame, and thoughtless innuendos. Go away!
Harris Silver (NYC)
When I read this article I thought of all animal species killed crossing roads every year.While we know 1 million humans (not a typo) are killed in vehicle crashes every year world wide. The statistics for animals are unknown. This is a design flaw of road design. So when we ask who is responsible it’s the designer of the road which doesn’t take into account the need for animals to safely cross it. It is also the driver who was speeding, clearly not paying attention who hit a human animal trying to cross.
Abraham (DC)
"[...] dodging death — from exposure, exhaustion, dehydration or even an encounter with a bear, a mountain lion, a rattlesnake or speeding traffic — can be a part of the appeal." So an utrarunner gets bitten by a rattlesnake or attacked by a bear -- who is to blame here? The organizer? The runner? The native fauna? It's hard to both design an event where "part of the appeal" is "dodging death" and also guarantee that "your number doesn't come up" while attempting the said appealing dodging. No? If you choose to get your kicks "dodging death" by crossing a highway at night while judgement-impaired from ultrarunning, and you get hit by a vehicle, well, surely that's the other half of the bargain. I really don't see how you can have it both ways.
Dan Murphy (MA)
@Abraham No runner is thinking of dodging death doing an event like an ultra. Those are NYTimes words and I don't agree with them. People do these events to challenge themselves.
Glen (Pleasantville)
I’m surprised how many people are in the comments just to criticize ultra marathons and the people who run them. It’s not something I would do, but I can admire the grit and discipline and dedication it takes to run at that level. There are all kinds of people in the world who do amazing things that push human boundaries. I’m glad we have people who run 300 miles at a stretch, or memorize thousands of digits of pi, who swim the Channel or perform a quadruple salchow... What an impoverished world it would be if everyone hewed to “common sense.” If nobody ever did anything beautifully useless just to show us that our limits are wider than we suppose.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
@Glen I'd just like to see all that grit and discipline and determination applied to something a little more worthwhile in the scheme of human life.
Lulu (NYC)
Just curious. Did the SUV that hit her stop? Seriously.
John (Colorado)
@Lulu Yes, and helped prior to the arrival of first responders.
Cindy (New Rochelle, NY)
Why is crossing a 4-lane highway part of a race?
Will (Illinois)
@Cindy Because it's a 340 miles race in the south, and we're a country of highways. Unless you want to run 1360 laps around a standard track, which in my view, is even more sadistic.
Liddie (Columbia MO)
@Cindy an ultra often means getting from here to there; roads are in between.
Joseph M (Sacramento)
Organizing a race where people are running across a 4-lane highway is definitely negligent. Jeez
Chris (Virginia)
@Joseph M Joseph- you are in a protected cloud. We run because we don’t desire to be in a government and lawyer protected sphere. We desire life as we choose it: with challenges and unforeseen obstacles. Please: stop the Monday morning quarterback malarkey.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
@Chris You seem to have delusions of grandeur.
Karl (Pa.)
I understand that people will always do things that many others think is just plain stupid. I remember reading an article about several people trapped on Mt. Everest in an a brutal snow storm. The one climber called his wife to say goodby. She had to tell his son that daddy wasn't coming home. Why did you climb the mountain? Because it is there. All extreme sports are as one person said a human endeavor to see what our limits are. Louis and Clark had no idea if they would survive when they set out. I would hope that in future you should have to get a permit and have the rout gone over with state police. Not to make it risk free but to maybe be able to suggest where to cross a highway. I can not believe that there was not an overpass that could have been used to not actually 'cross' the highway. At 55mph you are traveling 80+ft/sec. Headlights are to illuminate about 350 ft. At night people don't look at the side of the road but AT the road itself. 99% of drivers will not see people on the side unless they are carrying a light and wearing reflective clothing. They fact is that since the driver swerved it was fortunate that they were not both killed as he could have gone to the right and not the left. I see no blame here for anything. The only thing I see is that the organizer might have had an idea when most of the runners would reach that point and try to have it done during the day. I hope all make a full recovery and if runing is what she needs? Then I she does.
PBJT (Westchester)
If we want to talk about an obsessive behavior that commands even more time and leads to even more disorientation and danger, consider Internet Gaming Disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, this affects .3 to 1 percent of the population.
Bones (Jones)
Four ultrarunners went into the wilderness, Only one came back. Two died from diarrhea, The other died from you, Jack Kerouac.
follow the money (Litchfield County, Ct.)
When I was about 13, I was with my father driving home on the Merritt Parkway, when a man walked or staggered out onto the highway, going in the opposite travel direction. He was struck and his body hurled over the top of our car and landed several cars behind up. The speed limit was 60, and that's about what we were doing. The man, according to the newspaper, was not killed, and only suffered 2 broken legs. He was intoxicated. I'm 79 now, and have never forgotten it. The screech of brakes, no discs then, bias ply tires, cars slamming together as they tried to avoid the accident. I also, a few years later, survived a head on, where the other party was completely in the wrong. You never forget the noise. Never. It is the height of irresponsibility to have a road crossing in such of an event. Stupid.
Chris (Virginia)
@follow the money please: you are superimposing your own experiences and biases. Kim ( and I) choose this race, and had to repeatedly reconfirm our acceptance of risk. We were both willing to accept, as veterans of previously substantially similar events. You are unwittingly accepting the retrospective blame game, where every accident requires a (deep pocketed) ultimate responsibility. We know the risks and we choose to play. No more.
Cynthia (NY)
@Chris: the driver never signed up for the race. Was never given advanced notice of the race, was not alerted by advertisement, nor by highway sign that the road would be shared with humans. Yet the driver in this story is intimately a part of this ultramarathon forever. It is no longer equitable to speak of “she signed up knowing the risks,” if you do not also consider the trauma also incurred upon the driver involved in the accident.
RLiss (Fleming Island, Florida)
OK: everyone over 21 is allowed to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. Yet everyone here (with some exceptions) think the runner, the race organizer and / or the driver is at fault for something. She chose to run this race. No one is "at fault" because it ended badly for her.
Minmin (New York City)
@RLiss —reread most of the comments. A vast majority of them accept that ultra marathon running is inherently dangerous, just want more thoughtful course design. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.
Upstater (NY)
Runners are putting themselves in jeopardy not only in these "ultra" competitions on or near highways, but right smack in the middle of Chicago! I have seen and avoided runners in the MIDDLE of Armitage Avenue at 5:45AM this past April and May, when it was still dark, wearing dark clothes! People....the sidewalks are empty at that hour! Use common sense! Stay out of the traffic!
Alison (Hawai’i)
Kim, you sound like a champ. What a horrible accident. I have a feeling you will continue to inspire many of us with your determination and strength. May you get back out on the road soon.
Hari Prasad (Washington, D.C.)
Arnold Cooper (in Psychology of Running), suggests that one of the reasons people are motivated to take up running is that they have “narcissistic and masochistic needs”, which are “beautifully gratified by running distances which are clearly beyond the intended uses of the human body”. See this link:
Liz (Montreal)
@Hari Prasad sorry but so what
Liddie (Columbia MO)
@Hari Prasad Incorrect: the human body was made for travelling hundreds of miles on foot. Ask the nomadic hunter-gatherers and pilgrims.
Aaron (New York)
Pretty weak article with a ton of unanswered questions. 1. Who was the driver? Was this a hit and run? 2. Was the runner wearing a light or reflective vest? 3. What was visibility like at the time of the crash? 4. What is the typical speed of cars on this highway, and how often do pedestrians cross? Not minor stuff. Do better, NYT.
Jake (Texas)
And the driver? Was she okay?
Richard (New Mexico)
From the perspective of a health and safety professional (with experience in construction projects), you can violate many laws, except the laws of physics. Force = mass X acceleration. I posit that the “victim” Ms.McCoy was somehow distracted in her physics class when the scientific laws were being discussed. She is responsible for her behavior and as a result has inflicted emotional harm to the motor vehicle operator to which she had unintentional contact.
Cynthia (NY)
While agree that emotional harm was incurred to the driver, I do believe that the runner’s ability to make a quality judgement call was predictably impaired by exhaustion and low visibility. No one wants anyone to die while Participating in an organized event. Working with that, it is fair to talk about changes moving forward.
Kathy B (Fort Collins)
There is another conclusion to be drawn that I haven't seen in the article or the comments: no one was at fault. Not the organizer or the driver or the runner. It was an accident. All of the other runners made that highway crossing without incident. The runner was in the road when hit, not the median. The driver didn't see a whole bunch of people waiting to cross, because there were only those 2 runners at that time. The organizer's unique races were well known, esp. to the runner. She embraced the risk-taking aspects of it. See? It was no one's fault. It was an accident. This will make lawyers go apoplectic, of course.
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
@Kathy B - Yup! In skiing terms, life is a series of linked near-disasters. Tons of fun but, on occasion, somebody hits the tree. Tough young woman you are, Kim. You'll make it work!
R B (UK)
@Kathy B I agree, a tragic accident that will continue greatly affect the lives of all concerned, Kim, who has to learn to live a completely different way, the driver who has to live (and constantly relive in his mind) the horror of hitting Kim, her running companion who had to witness the awful accident up close and the organisers who simply could not possibly predict or control what mistakes or errors of judgement desperately tired people will make, as was the case here, when faced with decisions such as crossing busy highways. I sympathise desperately with all concerned and feel they all deserve relief of some kind and cannot see this other than as a tragic accident.
KCF (Bangkok)
In America everyone's a victim. She was not forced to enter the race, she was not forced to cross the road and she was not forced to NOT look for cars before crossing that road.
michael Leary, (Spain)
@KCF Nonetheless , as a driver you have a duty to drive with care. Driving at night is dangerous and is different to daytime driving. Cattle, horses, deer, people, other drivers with alcohol, drugs, tiredness, personal fitness, lights, the tedium of highway driving and weather - many of these issues are not factored in. Many drivers are not aware of the distance required to stop a 1 ton vehicle at 70 mph, until too late.
Keith (Knoxville)
@michael Leary, You are blaming the driver????
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
@KCF - "…and she was not forced to NOT look for cars before crossing that road." Oh, for Goddess' sake! What's up with your need for such mean-spirited judgment, citizen??
Jeanie LoVetri (New York)
I'm sorry for Ms. McCoy's loss and I hope she does get to run again. I do not understand extreme anything but I know many people think such events are great. Putting yourself in harm's way, especially as a nurse, seems foolhardy to me and a loss to her patients. People will always put themselves into places and situations that make no sense. Ms. McCoy could have died or ended up brain dead. I wonder if any event is worth that risk.
Liddie (Columbia MO)
@Jeanie LoVetri Sometimes I wonder if life is worth the risk.
Steve (SLC)
The point of these events is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and access parts of ourselves we cannot reach in our day to day. Risk and pain are not an anomaly; they're a design feature. The Catch-22 is that you are not controlling a particular test's parameters and these courses are designed to fit a bell curve of comfort zones. On one end of the curve is glory for the elite. On the other is probably a come to Jesus kind of humbling, or if things really go south, real injury or even death. In a variety of mostly self-imposed tests over the last 35 years, I've had very brief tastes of the former and a lot more of the latter. I am currently processing a close call that occurred last month on the Salmon River where I should have------not could have----- died. There are nights where I still do not sleep well. In the end, I am who I am. I've made my decisions and if it's true that in each given moment, our brains' biochemistry determines who we are, I would make the same decisions again. That said, putting yourself at risk is one thing; endangering others is another. Mr. Cantrell should not be sleeping well.
Chris (Virginia)
@Steve Mr Cantrell is a caring and thoughtful human being. He organizes these events to bring together the community of ultra runners. Each participant understood the risks and nature of the challenge. This is the first serious accident in over 40 years of him organizing races.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
@Steve Just living in NYC is to push oneself out of one's comfort zone. :)
Mari (New York)
Dear Kim, I am sending you the warmest and best wishes for your recovery and successful life post recovery. Thank you for your work as a nurse. I am absolutely positive that there are millions of runners who care, cheer on and understand you. We can not all run ultras, but we get it. We get you. Xo
Chris (Virginia)
A rush to find negligence. Why is it that the writer needs to find blame? This article is emblematic of our societiy’s aversion to personal choices and ultimate responsibility. I was in this race, and we all understood the risks and responsibilities. You simply cannot have a race of this dimension without road crossings at all hours. The race stretches over 10 days and 5 states and involves hundreds if not thousands of road crossings. To mark and have flashing lights at each intersection is not realistic. This isn’t a 5k trot through Queens. Kim’s accident is truly tragic. And that is enough. The writer’s emphasis on finding legal culpability illustrates a uniquely American philosophy, where life is to be shielded from risk and every bad outcome requires a retrospective analysis of who can we blame. The high value and personal choice of pushing our human limits is not considered.
Diane (Vancouver)
@Chris I think you are putting two much emphasis on what is actually a footnote to a fascinating story. It is a comment at the end, presented in a neutral manner and in no way does it taint the essence of the article. The question of responsibility or blame is legitimate discourse, and one that would probably cross most readers' minds. In a nation where managing health care can worry, frustrate and bankrupt a person, the question of liability especially of insurance is a legitimate concern.
Billy Walker (Boca Raton, FL)
@Diane Because in America it is always somebody else's fault, never your own. We seem to be under the mistaken belief that roadways are to be shared with pedestrians. The facts are quite simple: roads are for self-propelled vehicles which frequently drive at speed. Now, if you feel you can compete against cars and trucks while you run down a road, fine and dandy. But some discover an alternative universe. One in which you turn into a big loser. Common sense would seem to tell you that you shouldn't be playing with cars and trucks. Most of the time people get away with it. For those that don't there's a price to be paid. So, so sad but true nonetheless. My heart goes out to this woman.
Chris (Virginia)
@Diane I must respectfully disagree. The article multiple times questions negligence, the marking of all crossroads, retaining of lawyers. My read is that we must find someone to blame other than the race participant.
Dan (Montana)
Before everyone goes passing judgment, it’s really worth watching the Barkley Marathons. Then you will start to understand the sport, the participants, and the director. This isn’t the NYC Marathon nor is it some Spartan race. Watch the flick and try to empathize. Not everyone wants or needs some else’s guardrails on life’s personal decisions. This is not the same as wearing a face mask in public. My empathy goes out to the woman and the driver. Hindsight is always 20/20.
Peyton Collier-Kerr (North Carolina)
Once upon a time I was a runner but I ran at the edge of the roads in my country neighborhood. Until loose dogs and increased vehicular traffic made me re-think my exercise plan, I also rode a bicycle. It became too dangerous and was no longer fun for me. I must confess to not understanding the appeal of ultra-marathon running or riding a bicycle. To each his own... I tried to find a little more information about Ms.McCoy's accident when her luck ran out. According to the Alabama State Trooper’s Office, the Ms. McCoy and a running partner/Grinovich started across highway 72 near Woodville, Alabama, at approximately 5:35 a.m. on June 24 when Grinovich noticed oncoming headlights and jumped back. McCoy couldn’t move out of the way in time—and the Toyota Highlander swerved but clipped the right side of her body. The accident occurred at an intersection with limited visibility. If I had been the driver, I would have been inconsolable at having inadvertently hurt someone. The runners were running on the road, not the side of the road. The driver of the car tried to swerve and was able to avoid hitting both of the runners and unfortunately the driver hit Ms. McCoy. At 5:35 am, it is dark; I must assume the driver was not expecting to see people running - on the pavement. If there is blame, it belongs to the runner, not the driver.
Clarity (NJ)
Sunrise would have been about 5:30 AM on June 24. It would not have been dark so close to the summer solstice with extended morning twilight. The runners were apparently on the median. I can imagine that would have been unexpected by most motorists. I wonder if motorists and/or runners were looking into a rising sun or light through fog or mist. I walk daily and in suburbia. It can be tough to cross roads at well signed intersections.
Greg S (Boston)
@Peyton Collier-Kerr The organizer Cantrell, is to blame. "The number comes up.' outrageously callous and irresponsible.
fed up (las pulgas)
Commonsense is indeed the uncommon virtue.
Galen Palmer (Baltimore, MD)
There is no comment in the article (and none, that I can find at least, in the comments) that perhaps a driver, seeing a bunch of people on the side of the road might have a responsibility to slow down. The idea that a road should be considered anti-human death traps to anyone not in a vehicle is a shame.
a2zmom (NJ)
@Galen Palmer 5:30 in the morning when it's not even light out and the last thing anyone would expect is people running in the road. I can't fault the driver who did try to swerve. Going at highway speeds you are not going to even see someone until basically too late.
tsdrown (Phila., PA)
@a2zmom you may want to check the sunrise time on the date in question. The time the sun rises actually changes every day.
farhorizons (philadelphia)
@tsdrown Sunrise that day in Huntsville ALA was 5:34. First light. Maybe not yet great visibility.
Mary Ann (Erie)
Really! Find a more sensible way to get your exercise.
Albert (CA)
It's illegal for pedestrians to walk along highways, let alone across highways. It's a suicide rather than an accident.
Will (Illinois)
@Albert This is a country highway. The road, that while fast, and divided, have many roads that cross them, and are not packed in the way that LA highways are. While tragic, This isn't an interstate highway where those prohibitions exist (i.e. you could likely walk on the side of, and have farm equipment on this highway). Also, they were just crossing it. It could be done safely. She messed up.
Ray Zinman (Nyc)
I used to do ultras. Only one day. I once nearly fell off a cliff on the last lap of a marathon through a swamp. The organizer thought it would be cute to have a drop and a sharp turn. Fine on the first lap. On the last, in 100 degree heat, it was nearly fatal. Another time at the Bear mountain 50, after a week of rain, the organizers decided to run the race and were back boarding racers off the mountain. Racers do bear some responsibility. I’m not fast and I consider rescuing a fellow runner more important than a finish. I can’t tell you the number of times I have got to the start line and met people who did not review the materials. People who didn’t know how to hydrate and had not trained properly. These races aren’t 10ks. But crossing a road when you are traveling on mostly guts is hard. You are moving at a snails pace. In some of these races a 10-15 min mile is hauling. Furthermore dehydration and fatigue can cause you to hallucinate. The race director knew all that. What a mess.
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
This piece throws blame on Gary Cantrell. I don’t agree. Everyone who ran this race knew it was hazardous. They ran it willingly. They knew they would have to cross a highway — although they found out about that on short notice. They could have pulled out of the race, though, on hearing about that cross. The blame lies with the driver who plowed into a runner — driving too fast, with too little attention paid to driving. On a highway like that one can encounter wildlife crossing at night. You need to be alert and keep your speed down.
Salix (Sunset Park, Brooklyn)
@Passion for Peaches Try reading the article. It was a four-lane divided county highway at dawn. Why would anyone expect a group of runners to try & cross the road?
farhorizons (philadelphia)
@Salix And it wasn't a group, just a few at that point.
Tom (Maine)
This data point seems cherry-picked, without a broader look at ultra-marathon routes and experiences overall. Is there a larger point being made in this story, or is it just an opportunity for us to spectate on a gruesome accident?
Jack (Rhode Island)
I’ve done long distance runs before and they have always had signs. To not have a sign at a 4 lane highway, or volunteers to help them across is pure negligence. Literally asking for it.
Chris (Virginia)
@Jack Jack- appreciate what you are saying, but this is a 10 day race across 5 states. Unlike an ultramarathon where there might be need for intersection help for a day, in this race there are thousands of intersections. The leaders and the trailers are separated by up to 5 days. We understood the risks. We took them for the opportunity to push our limits and expand the human experience.
Jack (Rhode Island)
@Chris I hear yah. But, I wouldn’t think that something like scoping out the most dangerous intersections of the race and at least placing signs down the road, alerting oncoming traffic of the runners, would be too much too ask. I get the need to emulate the human experience, but not at the expense of the participants.
Lowell (California)
The "find a way to blame the promoter" tone of this screed is another example of many in our society veering away from personal responsibility. It's not a good thing to teach, or to encourage.
Cynthia (NY)
But there is space to examine where Mr. Cantrell could have done better? Perhaps gone the extra mile (pun intended) to secure permits or reach out to the relevant DOT and rent out one of those large traffic signs with messages spellled out in flashing lights? The article did not discuss entry fees for an ultramarathon. A quick google search stated that entry fees for a typical ultramarathon can range from $0 to $1000, to cover costs for aid and hydration stations, permits, etc. According to the article, the participants in the Deep South race have to work out their own sustenance and comfort plans. Perhaps in the future Mr. Cantrell can compute the cost of permits and traffic clearance into the entrance fee and pass the cost benefit down to his customers. Then, in a broader context, can there be space to take a look at the current state of America’s roads, and imagine what would be the best distribution of space and open air as vehicles co-mingle with pedestrians in unexpected places?
Max Digital (Teslaville)
If you organize races you need to make sure you can get a permit before asking someone to sign a waiver. Otherwise, don’t.
Max Digital (Teslaville)
He should have made sure there was a big caution sign. A permit would have required it. Negligence will be p Ryu oven most likely. Save your judgement.
Jason Sypher (Bed-Stuy Brooklyn NY)
Running, or cycling for that matter, is not an addiction and just may be the antidote to addiction. In a society where so many turn to food, sugar, alcohol, drugs, prescriptions, tinder, and suffer the ill effects of their choices, extreme exercise can be an incredibly powerful life coach. I started cycling when Covid hit slowly building to my distance record now at 80 miles.I average about 40-50 miles a day. I am a musician but music was not providing me the tools or solace to deal with our current predicament. I needed some serious processing tools and I found them in cycling, in particular, fast long distance cycling. It is a heightened experience. Driving a car is just the opposite, it is a dulling experience. Driving a large SUV is the epitome of this disconnection. People who run or cycle crave the connection with the elements around them, crave the High Definition experience of being in a body and pushing that body to do incredible things. They crave the clarity, anything the dulls the senses become anathema to them. There is a point in exertion where the mind tires and starts sending mixed signals, sometimes it appears and goes away. I'm thinking this may have happened with Ms. McCoy. I do think the race promoters might have anticipated some of the possible dangers, perhaps creating a place to cross with a crossing guard and some signs to warn drivers. But hitting a person with a car is a crime, period.
Sacajawea (NYC)
@Jason Sypher no, hitting a person with a car by accident is not a crime. Share the road.
Jason Sypher (Bed-Stuy Brooklyn NY)
@Sacajawea OH! By accident! Well, that would need to be proven. "Share the road" to a cyclist is just hilarious.
EB (Earth)
I am very sorry for everyone involved in this appalling situation--especially the driver of the car. That said, I often find it quite difficult to summon up a huge amount of sympathy for someone who engages in these unnatural, extreme, and dangerous endeavors (ultramarathons, sky diving, mountain climbing, etc.) and who then experiences an accident. When you push yourself to such unnatural extremes in order to enjoy the "thrill" of danger or of massive exertion, all you are doing is potentially causing your family a lifetime of grief and putting everyone else to a lot of trouble and expense when they have to rescue you or recover your body and/or provide medical treatment. I'm not suggesting we all spend our lives wrapped in safety bandages. We have to live, and have fun. All aspects of life involve some risk, and we have to accept that. But for those whose idea of fun is doing excessively dangerous and/or extreme things--well, go right ahead, but acknowledge the selfishness inherent in it. Perhaps just try getting your kicks some other way next time?
Will (Illinois)
@EB First response: Ultra-running is 'unnatural'? Long distance running is as old as people are. Driving 75mph in a 3000lb vehicle is unnatural. 2nd response: Lumping ultra-marathoning with as a thrill sport means that you've never done it, and don't understand the data. While I don't discount there is the potential for serious injury, or worse, it is exceedingly rare. Third response: The drive for adventure is built into most of us - in reading many adventure books, including where people are killed, I can't recall instances where the family and friends blame that person. They ultimately understand that was their love and assion. Moreover, except for the extreme adventurers (base jumpers, wingsuitors, and free soloists), getting outside and being active tends to increase lifespan, even accounting for the accidents. It's certainly true for marathoners. If you don't think sitting at home eating a donut, being afraid to go for a run (remember, she was hit on a road, which could happen on any run that mixes with cars) isn't a risk - the incidence of heart disease in the US begs to differ.
Patrick (California)
@EB you aren‘t to blame for picking up on a very common misconception: ultrarunning is not all that “thrilling”, despite what the (social) media says. It’s usually just very exhausting and when it gets extreme, it has far more in common with the crazy things monks do than with the crazy things skydivers do.
Chrislav (NYC)
@EB I can't help but agree. Many years ago I was on a work trip in Valdez, Alaska. had gear to put in my car that I was struggling with, two men walking by, dressed for some kind of winter sport, stopped and asked if I needed help, which I did. As they helped me I asked them what kind of sport they were dressed for -- I knew it was outdoors, but didn't look familiar. They looked like skiers, but wearing odd helmets and had strange pick-axes and ropes. Turned out they were both in the army from Virginia, on vacation in Alaska to pursue their favorite sport: climbing up frozen waterfalls. I was maybe 45 at the time, they were in their 20s, and my first thought was: I am so glad I'm not your mom. Being a professional soldier isn't daring enough -- they flew clear across the country to climb frozen waterfalls? I had never heard of such a sport.To this day I have never met another person who claimed that as their avocation. I don't think these people need their heads examined, but maybe their body chemistry to see if somehow ordinary life simply isn't enough for them, so they physically crave a rush they can't get unless they push to some extreme. I'm glad I don't have that gene. Of course with global warming maybe soon I can stop worrying about those soldiers, if they are still alive. Maybe they are, running ultra marathons. Here's frozen waterfall climbing, if you're interested (I'm glad I'm not your mom, either).
Aaron saxton (Charleston, WV)
On a highway you are traveling at a speed so fast that pedestrians and indeed even traffic lights are omitted because at that speed your reaction time and judgement can not be juggling other things. And dodging a pedestrian out of reaction at that speed will likely mean you are off the road and possibly dead or you will hit another vehicle. In broad daylight a highway is nowhere for pedestrians to be; and at night it is exceptional risk taking putting the drivers and their families at grave risk too. If people are asking for the driver to apologize, the pedestrian in question equally if not more should also apologize.
Pablo Casals (California)
I am very sorry for Ms. McCoy's loss. As a former avid bicyclist who once bicycled everywhere - literally - I find the following 1) There is no such thing as a safe road shared by bicyclists and motorists in America. None. 2) An automobile is a weapon of immense force and weight and can kill anyone riding a bicycle even at low speeds, under 20 miles an hour, and even if the bicyclist is wearing a helmet and other protective gear. I have been struck twice by purported slow moving vehicles and suffered damages. 3) Motorists who are not themselves a pedestrian, runner, or bicyclist aware, as in they don't those activities to appreciate the severe danger of being on the sidewalk let alone the street, do not see the people or animals on the road as viable. Psychologically, the motorist who does not accommodate for the others on the physical road, generally sees them as nuisances. Those motorists don't slow down or move from the people on the road. My brother was hit by a drunk driver while he was running long distance at track training camp. He had won multiple medals - gold and silver and at age 16, broke world cross country running records. I don't blame the camp for permitting my brother and the other top runner to run outside the camp on a country road, well off the road - grassy area, I believe. The collision put him coma for 2 months; he lost smell and taste permanently, his memory and the ability to speak clearly. The driver made no apology.
JR (Bronxville NY)
@Pablo CasalS Spot on: 1) There is no such thing as a safe road shared by bicyclists and motorists in America. None.
Sorry for your loss... country road and highway... 2 very different roads.
Chuck (San Francisco, CA)
Accidents happen, and everyone is impacted and suffers. That said, to everyone (non-runners) piling on the race director to instantly declare him at fault for organizing an ultra event (seriously?!), owning the public road crossing, etc. that ‘caused’ an accident that can happen to anyone anywhere at any time walking or running, is silly. Runners- especially trail, marathon and ultra runners know every time they leave home to pursue their passion, there are countless risks to overcome- managing the risks and overcoming challenges is an appeal of the sport. As I sit here with my newly broken toe and bandages from a recent unfortunate running fall, I read the piece to appreciate a runner’s personal story of tragedy and now perseverance to continue racing in whatever capacity is possible. Less litigation, more running!
Patrick (California)
@Chuck hear hear. But if Kim sues, bear in mind that she’ll probably have been forced into it by the insanities of the U.S. health care system. I always assumed people had the option not to sue, but often that is the only way to get the insurance to pay out, in the end, as I learned after a friend was hit by a car on their bike :(
Jonahh (San Mateo)
@Chuck Please cite how many major four lane highways you cross with your training.
Dana (Tucson)
In a newer event, sometimes things don't go 100% perfect. And I applaud the effort of all these runners, including Ms. McCoy, as well as Mr. Lake, without whom the fun run at the Barkleys would not exist. It's a shame that this incident at the race happened, but in future years this highway crossing can be made much safer. Perhaps two cars with volunteer drivers could be there to take turns picking up racers on the side of the road, then swiftly take them safely to the next overpass on the highway, then circle back to pick up others. If i lived in the general area i would so volunteer for this, regardless of the hour. Whatever the case, there has to be a practical solution to this particular problem, and it's not to give up, pave everything over with cement, have more cars on roads, get fat, and only watch stadium sports on the television. Kudos to Mr. Lake for making a race like this happen.
Thomas (NYC)
I’m seeing a ton of judgement from non-runners in these comments. Questions that presume there is something wrong with people who run like this or that it’s not worth the risk. I can tell you that every person who runs does so for their own reasons, all fighting their own battles. Running is much more akin to a spiritual practice, working every day to be a better version of yourself, reaching brain states otherwise unachievable. To those uninitiated it can only be a mystery. But to those who find existential peace through running there is no substitute. For a glimpse of the value of running, notice Ms. McCoy’s attitude - no regret, no bitterness - while the public is gossiping and gawking, emptily guessing what’s wrong with her, with society, or with “other people”, her sights are set on getting a prosthetic leg so she can get back on the road. She’s spent her life cultivating a level of grit unknown to most and this is just a temporary setback. No amount of condescending online comments are going to stop runners from running. And as a runner, I’d prefer to die of old age, but dying in the act of running would be a pretty good way to go out, too.
Lim (Philly)
I couldn't run around the block, but I admire all runners from the fun run runners to the ultramarathoners. I am fascinated by all of them! They have something special inside.
Al K. (Central California)
@Thomas Amen, my friend.
Reg (Hickory NC)
@Thomas or as some have suggested it could be an addiction to brain chemicals
LW In CT (Connecticut)
Bad decisions usually lead to bad outcomes. Everyone involved appears to have made bad decisions.
Gkhan (WA)
I'm an ultra-runner, and I got into it out of curiosity about my own limits. I've learned a lot about patience and persistence, my body's limits and my perceptions--and mis-perceptions--of those limits. The physical pain of ultrarunning is not as great a challenge as the mental pain of it. After all, there is no rational *need* to keep going in an ultra race. But accomplishing something that you doubted you do could gives you a reservoir of confidence and calm to draw on in the rest of your life when things get bad. As others have commented, it sounds like the blame, to whatever extent it exists in this sad event, may be spread between the runner, the course director, the driver, and Alabama's state government. But one would be wrong to assume that the races have no value, or that the runner is a helpless victim, or that the race director is cruel and careless. The reality is more complicated than that. And ultras span the gamut from easy terrain with lots of hand-holding (frequent aid stations, etc.) to totally unsupported races like Laz's Barkley Marathons. Some of us want to test ourselves against the worst of the worst, and if lawyers get involved in this case, the outcome will surely be a tamer, less interesting world. So I wish Kim McCoy a speedy recovery and Laz a spate of self-examination and reassessment, and I hope to see them both out there in the future.
Tor Krogius (Northampton, MA)
@Gkhan Is it clear the driver was at fault?
Marie L. (East Point, GA)
I feel horrible for Ms. McCoy. At the same time, I can't help thinking that people who push themselves to these physical extremes are addicted, in a very real way, to what they are doing. Just like climbing Mount Everest, there are things that to me, make no sense except to fulfill an obsession which is more dangerous than anything. Reading this story makes me wish that both sherpas and ultramarathon race organizers would find a different line of work.
Dan Murphy (MA)
It may not make sense to you, but it makes sense to the participants, and that's all that counts. There are fanatics of all sorts of endeavors, many of which make no sense to me. So what? People are different. Gee, who would think.
Edward (Honolulu)
When you climb Mt. Everest you have to wait in line for your turn, and when you get to the top, you are greeted by the sight of other people’s trash. The ultra-marathon is your own personal Everest without the distraction.
David (NY)
To each their own
Max T (NYC)
Aside from the stupidity of a race of this type, the design itself is flawed. People driving on highways do not expect to see pedestrians crossing. At night, it's even more difficult. The race designer bears full responsibly for the trauma he caused McCoy and the driver who hit her.
Dan (Montana)
I couldn’t disagree more. I too feel for the lady who lost their leg. But why is the race direct responsible? I could see doing this race, if I was strong enough, and I would be personally responsible for any negatives that happened to me on the course. Unless of course the driver is negligent. There are inherent dangers in many things we do. Some I’m okay with, some I’m not. My danger threshold is different than yours and that of the next person. Evaluate the risks before hand and take ownership of the results whether good or bad. It’s no different than one person playing in avalanche terrain and someone else smoking cigarettes & drinking alcohol. This just happened to be an extremely grueling race that has potential for danger.
Kate F. (California)
I also feel terrible for the driver who had zero expectation of encountering a runner on a giant highway. Imagine being that driver, whose life is also permanently altered. It’s sad for everyone.
bess (Minneapolis)
@Dan He's responsible because he designed the course--I would have thought that would be obvious. You expect race courses to be safe from certain kinds of readily predictable and controllable dangers, such as trucks that don't actually realize that a race is happening. How tough is it to put up some signs? It might take a while, but not as it takes to run the course.
David Binko (Chelsea)
Put this sport in the same category as cliff climbers.n Part of the allure is the risk, the adrenaline rush. Running forever across the wilderness. The participants don't want to run around a track for hundreds of miles. The participants can run in safer routes in safer races. Seems like that is not appealing to them.
jt2 (Portland me)
yikes. a human made an error in judgement all around. think of the 'lower'animals who try to cross these roads and die.
dlb (washington, d.c.)
@jt2 And quite often there are signs up along these roads warning drivers of 'the lower' animal crossings.
NYTMAN (Cape Cod)
@jt2 This seems to be a very flawed observation, seeing as that Mrs. McCoy is a human, being of a considerably larger value to society than a few dead squirrels.
Deb O'Rah (Yonkers)
As a "Camel-smoking ultrarunner," Cantrell plays Russian roulette with his life daily. Does such a person have sufficient judgement to appropriately assess the risk for others?
JO (San Diego, CA)
Runners entrust their lives to race organizers. Would you go under the knife with a surgeon who said this?: "There's been so many thousands of times people have done these things," Cantrell said of his races. Eventually the number comes up."
Tall Tree (new york, ny)
@JO On a race like this one on open road, over hundreds of miles, you're own best judgement is all you have.
Blue Jay (Chicago)
Since there's no mention of the driver, I wonder if (s)he even stopped after the accident.
John (Colorado)
@Blue Jay She did and, I am told, was very helpful prior to first responders arriving.
SLP (Philly)
@Blue Jay Thinking the same thing
Karin (PA)
There's one person I really feel bad for here...the poor driver who struck her. Everyone else seems to have tunnel vision.
bess (Minneapolis)
@Karin I don't share your judgment about the runners, but you make a good point that the trauma to the totally unwarned driver also deserves consideration.
rose (seatle)
A very brave woman for even attempting this race. Tragic what happened. Who is a fault? Lots of answers, I guess everyone - participant and race organizer. I hope her spirit stays strong and if this race is held again an alternative route is considered.
Red (NJ)
I hope all the commenters here who are horrified by the what they see as reckless decisions and lack of accountability described in this piece are wearing masks.
Alex (Montana)
Good read. But the idea of somehow blaming the race organizer is just silly. Yes the runner was exhausted, yes it was dark, yes she was testing the limits of her body and mind... does that mean she can’t look both ways? If crossing a street is too dangerous while you’re in this state of exhaustion maybe you shouldn’t be in this race. When people are on Everest and they get confused from exhaustion and make life risking decisions do they blame the guide and say that no one should be allowed to climb Everest? Of course not.
Oscar (Wisconsin)
I hate highways like this. People drive like it's limited access, but there's cross traffic. Confused tourists turning around, farmers moving from one field to the next, tired locals who are on auto pilot at places they have crossed 1000 times, bicycle riders passing through, all mixed with people driving faster than their IQ number. Unless that's a very unusual stretch, no one would be expecting pedestrian traffic, because the local pedestrians would not be that crazy unless that could see, clearly, that they had at least 1/4 mile to cross. (And that would still be cutting it close.)
l provo (st augustine)
I was crossing the desert in Arizona East of Monument Valley. Driving in a complete daze late at night.aP itch black 2 lane road. There was a man on the edge of the road in an isolated area. No lights anywhere to be seen .I swerved at the last minute just barely missing him. Drivers can also be in a daze.
Anyone who signs up for a 340 mile race knows there are risks involved. The more important question is why is there a 340 mile race?
Tall Tree (new york, ny)
@N Why not? To each his own.
Dan Murphy (MA)
Why not? There are even longer races. People like to challenge themselves and ultras present all sorts of challenges - physical, mental, strategic, etc.
Djinn (shelton, WA)
She made a choice and choices have consequences. Runners and moving vehicles don't mix well for the runners. She knew this, and still...
Martha Reis (Edina, MN)
Perhaps an ultra marathon could use volunteers at road crossings. I remember waiting as a volunteer to usher mushers across a back road in the John Beargrease sled dog race -- which runs through the nights in Minnesota winter in the wilderness. No cars came at all on my shift. I did see the stars blazing in the dark skies above, shiver in the -40 below temperatures, and watch sled dogs glide quietly across the road.
Agent 99 (SC)
Cantrell’s ultramarathons are simply just courses. Each runner is responsible for his/her own safety, nourishment, resting requirements. To get a real taste for his philosophy watch the documentary about the Barksdale race. This excerpt from Outside Life sums it up. “In some ways, runners today have an advantage over those who attempted the Barkley in the eighties and nineties. Back then, running headlamps, hydration vests, and endurance gels didn’t exist, let alone lightweight, technical shoes and apparel. So Cantrell has done his best to counteract the benefits of modern gear. Participants are not allowed to use pacers or GPS watches. Instead, he hands out $11 timepieces from Walmart. The only on-course aid comes in the form of a few gallon jugs of water stashed along the route. Success requires speed and endurance, yes, but also navigational prowess, grit, a mind for problem-solving, and the ability to keep it together after more than two full days and nights without sleep.“
Agent 99 (SC)
@Agent 99 Correction: Outside Online Documentary’s link.
Maryjane (ny, ny)
You lost me at ultramarathon. Even just a regular marathon is dangerous and can lead to injuries. It goes without saying that a so-called ultramarathon would be ultra-dangerous. Where’s the story here?
Dan Murphy (MA)
A marathon is dangerous? Really? Running is dangerous? There is risk of injury with any athletic endeavor, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't participate in athletics. I've injured myself many time skiing, biking, running, tennis, etc. You recover and pick it up again.
Frank (USA)
In the US, when somebody "accidentally" murders a human with a car, it's generally a misdemeanor. This is morally and ethically wrong. A person who "accidentally" murders a human with a car should be tried for a felony and put in prison. Yes, that would make driving more scary. Yes, driving SHOULD be more scary for more people. Driving is a dangerous activity that kills and maims tens of thousands of people a year in the US. There should be extremely serious repercussions for driving badly. Yes, many people may not be able to drive any more, as a result. Why are people's convenience valued over human life in the US?
A (Brooklyn)
@Frank In general I agree with you, but there’s not too much that can safely be done to avoid a person who runs out into the road in the dark when you’re going 70 mph. Swerving or doing a hard brake at those speeds is a bad idea, especially with other vehicle traffic around.
@Frank It was a 4 lane highway at night. What do you suggest driver should have done to prevent it? I know that lot of drivers are dangerous and careless. But this is all on the pedestrian.
Debbie Crane (North Carolina)
Kim is a plucky woman. I'm impressed with her will. I don't know what drives this kind of athletic endeavor, and I won't psychoanalyze its participants. But, the race did hurt other people as well. I looked at local reports on the accident. This article doesn't make it clear, but the driver involved was doing the speed limit and swerved to try and avoid the runner, clipping her. Think about the driver's psyche. I'm sure they feel terrible for something they couldn't avoid. Runners like Kim should have very chance they can to pursue their sport. But they should do it in a way that is safe for them and for other people who might happen upon them. Running across a four-lane road before daybreak is never a good idea. Mr. Cantrell should not be allowed to organize races in this fashion.
Nancy (Fresno, CA, USA)
When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, the thing I feared losing most after my life was my ability to run. How devastating for Ms. McCoy to have her life altered like this. I understand the pain of that loss. Luckily I was able to recover my strength and conditioning after treatment and lived to run another day. I home Kim will be able to return to running, too. There is nothing else like it on earth.
Purity of (Essence)
Ultramarathoning appears to be to running what bodybuilding is to weightlifting. After a certain point the line between exercise and mental illness starts to blur. And, just like bodybuilding, there is rampant PED use, too.
Thomas (NYC)
@Purity of Are you joking? My ultra running PEDs are sweet potatoes and coconut water. Curious where you’re getting your information.
Cynthia (NY)
@Purity Of: ultra marathon running, bodybuilding and weightlifting are three separate and mutually exclusive sports. The only thing they have in common is that they are solo sports: you are judged solely by what you bring to the table on the day of the competition. With that being said, all successful bodybuilders (the only sport I will speak for) have a coach or mentor guiding their success and helping to navigate failures. The nutritional needs of a bodybuilder on showday would be planned out by a nutritionist or dietician to maximize the appearance of lean mass and minimize the appearance of inflammation. Sleep and recovery is as heavily regimented as exercise. There is a coach to teach you how to maximize your posing on stage. A seamstress will make you customized trunks. Then there is the artist who sprays the tanning solution on you (because the stage lights are not friendly to pale skin and if your tan is not done correctly, it will melt in a pool of sweat right there on the stage). In any sport, an athlete performs activities that a non-athlete simply will not do. Each one of these sports have their own particular activities.
Francis (Cleveland Ohio)
Having been a cop for 30 years and having had to run onto the highway and remove debris from the roadway or run across several lanes to get to somebody on the other side I know exactly how hard it is to judge the safety of doing so even in the best conditions. When cars or headlights are heading right at you at 60-70mph it is very hard to judge their speed and how little time you have before a car will reach your position. Even in broad daylight. Let alone an exhausted person in the dark. Feel very bad for all involved. The victim, the driver of the SUV and the witnesses. All of them experienced a traumatic incident. But I am not sure exactly how you could foresee every possible eventuality that might come about on a run that long.
Toula2 (Massachusetts)
Seems like the fault of the participant. A car on a highway would not have seen her till the last minute in the dark. It’s crazy that a running course would require crossing a highway this big and fast and before daylight , but as always a person needs to take care of themselves regardless.
GBR (New England)
@Toula2 To me, it seems like the fault of the race organizers. It’s fine to have road crossings, of course, but there should be crossing guards managing traffic/runners at those locations. This is not rocket science.
Anne (CA)
I am dismayed at the promotion and glorification of these extreme sports. National Geographic promoted a photo of someone walking a tightrope without safety equipment above beautiful rock monuments the other day. If you love to run long distances, why not do it safely and enjoyably? Why add danger to the mix? An inability to enjoy life?
Alex (Montana)
Some people like to challenge themselves. Physically and mentally. There’s nothing wrong with that. Should we outlaw the circus too? How about Olympic skiing?
Pablo Casals (California)
@Anne In the past in California, there was word of mouth and the newspapers to inform persons, hikers generally, of the grave dangers of walking near to the cliff's edge on the Pacific Coast. People fell to their deaths, playing a flute and just walking. To put yourself in danger is what we try to teach or kids not to do. Having been struck twice by moving automobiles, I can tell you that it is like being slapped with a thousand pound hand - incredible pain, incredible pain at ever place in your body which makes contact with the vehicle and the road. A bicyclist gets thrown a bit differently than a runner and the bicycle takes the brunt of the collision - and becomes toast. But a runner has no protection. It's folly.
HarveyB (Westchester, NY)
1st of all, my sympathies to Kim McCoy. 2nd, I am not a lawyer. But I offer my opinion because I was brought up among lawyers and that is why I didn't become one. This seems like a law school case study in the making. If Gary Cantrell accepted anything for organizing this race or offered any prize, his refusal to get the proper permits could be a criminal matter; rather than a civil one. Next we have the fact that Kim McCoy had reason to know that this particular organizer was running an outlaw & extremely dangerous event. Even without the waiver, there is an implied assumption of risk in a venture like this. It is not understandable why she was not wearing a flashing light and/or reflective tape. The driver is in an interesting position, too. While he/she was more likely to hit an animal like a deer, it seems reckless to be going to faster then one can stop in an emergency. Wyoming used to have no daytime speed limit, but the night limit was 55 MPH. Alabama uses the contributory negligence standard. That means that if Ms. McCoy is deemed to be in any way at fault, the other parties might skate. Lastly, I do not understand the comparison to bikes in the comments. If I wanted to bike in the area, I would probably chose smaller roads & daylight. But if it was legal and I had no choice, I would ride in the middle of a whole lane. At night I would have proper lights and reflectors. That still doesn't account for a reckless or drunk driver.
Elizabeth (Colorado)
@HarveyB maybe I missed it in the article but did it say he was reckless or speeding? If not, he could have been going the speed limit and hit her the same way any driver might hit a deer that jumped in front of his car, always a sudden and unexpected event.add in the darkness.
Toula2 (Massachusetts)
@HarveyB no way could the driver have stopped even at 40 mph with this woman trying to make a quick sprint across the road. Very poor decision. I feel bad for the driver.
Pablo Casals (California)
@HarveyB Harvey, "But if it was legal and I had no choice, I would ride in the middle of a whole lane." In California the above mentioned is LEGAL. We have two sets of codes Vehicles and Highways and another - which has a specific code that allows the bicyclist to take the entire road in the event that the road is too narrow to allow safe passage of any vehicle left or right of the bicyclist.
Iplod (USA)
Race director wasn’t just negligent, he was reckless designing a course with that dangerous highway. His defense might be Kim undertook the risk. A very tragic outcome no matter how viewed as insurers fight it out in court. Just my opinion as a former track/XC runner and lawyer. To each her or his own, but I have a hard time understanding the allure of extremely long ultras; maybe once to satisfy your personal bucket list? Why not challenge yourself over classic racing distances less than a marathon for quality over quantity?Recovery after such an event is much quicker and who knows, might bring out sprint or middle distance talent?
James (Italy)
@Iplod I can answer the last part. Some people are built (mentally at least) to run far not fast. I’m one of them. I’ll never break 1:20 for a half marathon or get much under three hours for a full one. So the competitive part isn’t working for me. But when you step out onto a 80 or 100k race, the competition is only with yourself. Everyone who finishes will have pushed themselves to and past their limit in a way that even a full marathon can’t do. It becomes meditative. It becomes very addictive. If you can run a full marathon (regardless of speed...within reason), I’d advise everyone to kick it up to a 50k and see where you go after that.
Stephen (Dallas)
@Iplod I have a hard time understanding how your opinion of her hobby enters into the conversation. you wanted to judge someone, congrats on finding a way.
Ethan Allen (Vermont)
She did not have to cross the highway; she voluntarily chose to run a route across a highway. If the route was planned negligently and she can prove it in court then she should - that’s the American way. Freedom and choices!
Ultra runner (Texas)
I run ultras and I always tell people, if you don’t like running, you are not running far enough. That said, while you do indeed sign a waiver and know what you are getting into, you assume the race director will take safety measures. Man against car never wins, and after 200 miles, you are not capable of good decision making. You are in a fog. People hallucinate. Crossing a highway in this state of mind is just unsafe. After 50 miles, ok... even after 100 miles...but after 200...that was just a poorly laid out course, imo. My heart goes out to the runner. People who run that far do it because they have to... It’s a need that I am sure the average joe just doesn’t understand, but runners NEED to run. I can imagine how badly she wants to get back out there and I wish her all the very best in doing just that.
M (NY)
One could argue that crossing a highway is never safe, after 1 mile or 200 miles. And people who hallucinate should not be running on any public road, regardless of how much they NEED to.
Tall Tree (new york, ny)
@Ultra runner No they don't. That's like saying drug users need drugs. Addiction does not equate to need. FYI, I ran for years, but was sidelined by injury.
Ultra runner (Texas)
@M I agree! And I run ultras! (Trails only!)
art (homeless)
I recall reading about this particular "race organizer's" events some time back in this very same paper. That article suggested that he held the spandex crowd with disdain. He was purported to be very particular about who he allowed to enter "his events". Based solely on these two articles, my impression of him is that he is not interested in pleasing those who are in possession of too much forethought. I get that, I even see some of the appeal of being aligned with a less burdensome lifestyle. I can only imagine that he is exposing himself, as this article suggests, to the contemporary worlds appetite for holding someone accountable. Clearly, some understanding of basic human physiology might be of value to each person who sets out to do something so ridiculously unnatural, in a world that is already incompatible with natural organisms. By the way, I do admire all those who have the spirit to set out on something like this. Better them than me though.
Stephen (Vancouver)
I’ve watched the Barkley Marathon documentary and read a few articles about the guy. He appears to profoundly care about the runners, and doesn’t make any money on the races. His races are difficult but no one could have any illusions about the difficulty before they start. I’d also say that running almost any 300 miles in any direction will lead to some places with more danger than a closed course. And if the course is not closed then it will have dangers. Try running on country roads - it’ll scare you. It is clear from the article that the runners were well aware that they faced a hazard - it’s a big highway - I’m not sure how a sign was really needed when the danger was manifest.
art (homeless)
thanks. I'm gonna check that out.
KimS (Syracuse)
@Stephen I generally agree except they apparently didn't get the course map until right before the start of the race, so really didn't have time to evaluate risks when they were calm (not right at the start of the race) or exhausted (by the time they got to that road). Had they been able to see the course in advance maybe the runners would have made a different decision.
Sridhar (India)
Is it just me who is puzzled as to why people go to this extent of self abuse? Five days , 300 miles in the Alabama heat? People are going to get exhausted and make bad decisions. Beats me as to why we encourage these events.
HRD (Des Moines)
@Sridhar I am just guessing, but I think the time, energy and money that is poured into the increasingly popular extreme sports and activities world might hint at the isolation and meaningless many people who participate may feel.
MN (Michigan)
@HRD Maybe it is simpler to do such events than to make one's way in this increasingly complex life.
Stephen (Dallas)
@HRD well done both of you. you managed to say things that stroke your own need to be self-righteous while offering nothing. people do these things to learn how far they can push themselves. that's about as human a thing to do that I can think of. while on your death bed, you can reminisce over all the chances you didn't take.
Antonia Murphy (France)
What a horrific experience. And yet. We choose extreme adventures because they push us to the limits of our endurance. Massive exertion, fatigue, mental confusion—there’s a risk there. Take the risk by all means. But if it goes wrong, don’t retain a lawyer.
KFitz (USA)
@Antonia Murphy But surely they could test their limits of endurance without crossing a highway?
V (Colorado)
Wow, what a story. America is just full of unsafe speedways that kill people in many different ways. Remember the Tesla drivers who died when giant trucks just pulled right in front of their supposedly self-driving cars on similar roads? This is a terrible tragedy and the even bigger tragedy is all of the other bicyclists and pedestrians (and people in cars) who died and are maimed every year by vehicles in America.
Steve (AZ)
@V The giant truck was making a legal turn. The Tesla driver was watching a movie while driving.
Laura (Watertown,MA)
The US South is car -centric. Pedestrians beware. Their's a huge economic and a huge health risk to car dependency.
Sally (Wisconsin)
The US outside of major cities, even in the Northeast, is car-centric. There is nothing unique to the South here.
DanBal (Nevada)
I'm very athletic, but I wouldn't walk, run or ride a bicycle on any stretch of multilane highway. Too many motorists simply drive too fast and too impatiently. It's madness for these runners to have even attempted this. The real question that this story doesn't answer is why did this woman and her fellow runners feel the need to take these kinds of foolish risks with their lives.
mike (DC)
So much wrong thinking with all the participants in this tragedy, but it is what it is....
Accidental Lieutenant (5 Boroughs)
Instead of these grueling “ultra” races, why not just blindfold runners and have them sprint back and forth across Queens Blvd? Last runner standing wins bragging rights and a Kewpie doll.
Larry Thiel (Iowa)
She sounds like a perfectly lovely young woman. It would be wrong for her to sue.
Not Again (Fly Over Country)
Wishing you the best Kim.
Laura West (Brentwood)
A 4-lane highway with no markers or anything? Why oh why take a chance?
Syliva (Pacific Northwest)
Bad race course. But it strikes me that one could wait until it's light to cross the road. If you think a finishing goal is worth risking your life for, that's on you. But we all do stupid things at times, and most of us stay lucky. She got unlucky this time, and I am sorry for that and wish her well.
Erin (California)
@Syliva I think one of the main issues is that this crossing was so far into the race course, over 200 miles in, and everyone would be too exhausted at that point to make good decisions.
RG (British Columbia)
Seems like a lapse in judgement on both the race organizers and the participant. I've done long (100 km) bike events where there may be a crossing at an intersection of four lanes. They would have flaggers to halt the traffic. But seeing that this is a multi-day event where the participants cross "when they get to it", 24-hour standby flaggers over days doesn't sound feasible. At any rate, I've seen racer friends miss turn off points and generally look delirious as they compete. This kind of 340 mile event holds serious risk where even a reconnaissance "run through" beforehand would not be sufficient.
EA (out west)
I see a lot of comments placing the blame squarely on Ms. McCoy's shoulders, saying she assumed the risks by running the race. True, but wouldn't it also be reasonable to assume that the course would safe? I know when I've taken parts in events like races or even parades, I know that there is risk, but I also trust that the organizers are exercising their duty of care in mitigating risk. I also know that when I'm driving at speed on a rural road I'm always keeping an eye out for animals, let alone people. Seems to me there's plenty of blame to share here.
Lynn in DC (Here, there, everywhere)
@EA I don’t think it is reasonable to assume it is safe to cross an active highway. It can be difficult to see or gauge the speed of oncoming vehicles under optimal conditions.
Barbara (NYC)
Was this a hit and run? It doesn’t sound like the driver of the SUV stopped—they had to have known they hit someone. Has the driver been identified?
NFD (New Orleans)
@Barbara the problem was that it was the low light time of morning, on a type of road where walking along the side of it is illegal, let alone running across it. I feel for the driver. He or she was not expecting a runner suddenly in front of their car when they were probably going around 50 mph or faster. The issue here is not about the driver, but the designer of the course, and, unfortunately, the decision of the runner to take that chance.
RL (Washington)
@NFD "on a type of road where walking along the side of it is illegal, let alone running across it." What's your source for this? It was a four-lane divided highway, not a limited-access interstate.
B (M)
This is crazy that the course is designed this way.
Richard Scott (Ottawa)
I am very sorry for Ms. McCoy, but to me, this kind of marathon is about as healthy as a 5 day drinkathon.
MKW (NorCal)
Maybe fighting COVID isn't either... "Since the coronavirus pandemic, however, she’s been on the frontlines as a nurse. Of New York’s 24,800 deaths, 17,591 were in the city. At one point, 58 percent of her hospital’s beds were being used for COVID-19 patients. When the numbers finally slowed down, she decided she needed a vacation and left to do HOTS."
Donna Odrzywolski (MILWAUKEE, WI)
It smacks of addiction to me.
Ml (Northeast)
No one should have to run across a road where cars are passing - never mind a four-lane highway. And in the dark! It’s as simple as that. (I recall one of the most terrifying road crossings, at night, in a large Indian city, no lights, no crosswalks. The only ‘safe’ way to cross was to wait for lots of other people to join you, in the hope that the cars will see the group, and if anyone does get hit, it won’t be you. I really thought I’d never make it alive). And not knowing the route in advance makes it impossible for the runner to determine ahead of time whether the risks are acceptable. Even without injury or loss of life, it also seems to me an unfair obstacle to wait for favorable traffic, since it would affect your time.
Syliva (Pacific Northwest)
@Ml I agree. But I will point out that no one "had" to run across that road in the dark. That was a choice.
Steve (Portland)
I've done a handful of really long events, but the longest was a 24 hour on a closed course, and I've worked at a couple 200 mile events(for Ms. Burt who was mentioned in the article). There's a few things I think are worth pointing out. There's a stark lack of mention of the driver's culpability. This is a rural highway, not a freeway, and I am absolutely certain she had to have a headlamp on. I could be wrong, but I'm reasonably sure that on anywhere except a freeway cars have to be driving at a speed where they can reasonably expect to stop to avoid an accident. (If perhaps the intersection was at a curve or a hill, that's a different story) All endurance sports have inherent risk. People die attempting to run or cycle or swim long distances. People get attacked by wildlife, or take tragic falls, or their body may simply not be up to the task that day. There are corpses scattered all over Mt. Everest attesting to people's bodies simply not being on par with their will. Race directors fill a role that is simultaneously catering to people's desires to push themselves, but have to balance it in a way that is safe. Any fool could plot a route on google maps that equates to x distance and y altitude gain. But it needs to be balanced by the logistics of sane check-in points and safety measures. I think Laz's approach errs too far on the side of negligence, and he revels in it-as do the people who run his races. Given that, tragedy like this was inevitable.
NFD (New Orleans)
@Steve if you google Speed limit on rural highways, it shows a link to a Wiki page. A portion of it shows average speed limit on a divided highway is anywhere between 65-75 mph; undivided is still 45-55.
Pablo (Seattle)
@Steve I grew up in the deep south: most people driving on these highways are not used to seeing 2-legged animals with bright spandex crossing their rural 4-lane highway. Consider the driver potentially as equally sleepy and lacking distance awareness as the runner. Culturally speaking, driving vs. walking (or even biking) is not equally interpreted from a safety/distance perspective as other places in America, or the world. Any fool can be a race director attempting to extract enough revenues to earn a living, that much is clear as you look at the exorbitant fees to put on a race today. Any "runner" can potentially lack enough insight to know when they are in over their heads. Sorry this happened to the person who is the subject of the story, but the choices you make are your own whether you volunteered for the outcome or not, whether the outcome is better or worse than what you perceived before executing an action or reaction.
Cornflower Rhys (Washington, DC)
Why was anyone running across a highway in the dark where traffic was allowed? Gross negligence.
@Cornflower Rhys because people are actually allowed to be on foot on public roads, other than interstates, at any time of day or night and many choose to run at night, whether in a race or just daily life.
GeorgeR (West Virginia)
Why not require every runner to have a bright flashing light that would be used when crossing roads at night?
Patrick Henry (USA)
At the tail end of an ultra or long adventure race, it’s not uncommon for me to hallucinate. I freaked out when the gnomes jumped out from behind the pines into the Jeep trail. My wife who is my transition team, swerved to avoid...nothing. Then I finished eating a whole wedge of Brie wrapped in a half pound of turkey as if nothing happened. During these events, nothing is normal. Race directors must protect the participants from themselves whenever possible. It’s already bad enough going from one temp extreme to the other, across a wind whipped lakes, and repelling of cliffs in the dark. But the races are long, and roads are crossed (we crossed an inactive bombing range at an army base once). It doesn’t hurt to have a team stationed at dangerous crossings to ensure safe passage. Man, I love these races.
Triogenes (Mid-Atlantic)
Plenty of blame to go around. The race organisers for organising a 320 mile race at all, let alone routing it across a four-lane highway. Races of such length are simply incompatible with the physical and mental health and well-being of those taking part in them. The government and people of Alabama for having such terrible pedestrian infrastructure. The occasional pedestrian bridge might save lives, but they’re not as worthwhile, apparently, as tax cuts. Drivers of SUVs - environmentally unsound ego machines, lethal in collision with pedestrians. The chances of surviving being hit by an SUV travelling above 50 mph are appallingly low. Children practically never survive such accidents And anyone who thinks that, after running 270 miles in 5 days, they are anything else than seriously mentally and physically incapacitated. This is not healthy. This is not overcoming a physical challenge. This is masochism - self-obsessive, self-flagellation. At best, it’s addiction to your own painkilling endorphins. The entire story is deeply depressing - the modern self-absorbed US culture in microcosm. I am very sorry that the poor woman was maimed for life, but a little part of me asks if this accident wasn’t inevitable.
Pete (Pennsylvania)
@Triogenes Your question about the infrastructure is interesting, but it doesn't look like there is anything out there that would warrant a pedestrian bridge, though it's hard to tell from the video. Your other points are well taken. As a runner, though nowhere near an ultramarathoner, I have had too many close calls with inattentive or just plain angry drivers so any race using public roads must be permitted. It may have prevented this accident.
Red (NJ)
Respectful in response: Organizers are not to blame for organizing a race. Personal accountability is at play here. If local taxpayers did not see fit to pay for a pedestrian bridge who are we to question them? The chances of surviving being hit by an SUV, Prius or clown car at 50 miles per hour are appallingly low. Whether or not it’s healthy to endeavor an ultramarathon is not a personal choice. See number one. Ms McCoy gets it.
Thomas (NYC)
@Triogenes Some perspective from a runner: Ms. McCoy doesn’t need your sympathy and is in fact the victor here. She’s still alive - able to breathe, love, and dream, and even get around in a wheelchair. Long distance running is the art of overcoming insurmountable setbacks and not looking back and she’s been training her whole life for what happened. While you’re inexplicably making yourself out to be the victim in your last paragraph there, Ms. McCoy is already plotting her return with a prosthetic. And if that doesn’t work out, she’ll be doing ultra endurance wheelchair events. She has a resolve that you appear to not grasp in the slightest and actually point to the catalyst of this resolve as some sort of mental illness.
WhiteBearLake (US)
The driver of the vehicle who hit her has also had his or her life devastated too.
Kate (Philadelphia)
@WhiteBearLake Leg amputated? Getting by with a walker? Moved to first floor? Yes, they may be devastated but there are many challenges they’ve been spared.
tom (Wisconsin)
i am not sure how you design a race that long without dangerous street crossings. Tired runners, distracted drivers not a good combination
mike (chicago)
We have a bad habit of wanting to match sympathy with blame and anger. I feel horrible for Ms. McCoy. But that does not mean anyone else is to blame.
V (Colorado)
@mike We can work to make American roads much safer for pedestrians and cyclists. We die at astoundingly high rates.
Currie (Virginia)
@mike That may be true, but allowing this is like allowing Russian Roulette to be a legitimate game.
KFitz (USA)
@mike Perhaps blame and anger could be avoided, but the course could be changed to protect future runners? Surely there is a safer route.
Chris (Denver)
Having grown up in the south and an avid runner, it’s almost impossible to run safely for more than a few miles. Their is also a strange disgust and aggression toward runners that is not found in the rest of the country. The organizer is right that it was just a matter of time that someone would get clipped but that’s because it’s considered extremely reckless to cross a highway at night as a runner! At the end of the day, the south is not a place for ultra marathons.
Agent 99 (SC)
@Chris Or riding bikes. Most of our roads are still considered farm to market. No shoulders, ditches alongside the road, no lighting....
Chad (Oregon)
@Chris I wonder if the "disgust and aggression toward runners" in the South stems in part from the fact that the rate of obesity is highest in southern states. Perhaps obese and overweight southerners don't like seeing runners because it reminds them of just how unhealthy they are?
Clarity (NJ)
At 5:35 AM on June 24th, the sun would have just risen. I wonder if sun was low enough on the sky to be an impediment - i.e. looking into the sun was blinding.
Pragmatist (South Carolina)
I wish Kim well and hope she thrives with her prosthetic/blade, but I will never agree that extreme sports such as this should cross paths with unsuspecting drivers on rural highways. Roads in NYC may be able to accommodate pedestrians, but that is just not practical in most of the rural US. And nowhere in this article is the driver of the SUV even mentioned. A young person, any person, on the way to work in the dark of early morning hours is not expecting someone to run out in front of them. To have someone run in front of a family could’ve resulted in over correction and put even more people at risk. This particular race not only put the runners in jeopardy, but also the lives of drivers using roads that are not designed for such events. There is blame to go around, but mostly it should be directed at the race organizer. It sounds like an illegitimate bootleg event if no permits were obtained.
Alan (Columbus OH)
Maybe the driver has a personal or professional need to own an SUV. But our national obsession with huge squared off vehicles riding high off the ground does no favors to pedestrians and cyclists. That police have shifted to these for general purpose cars is especially troubling since they drive so much and drive fast more than most. This is not about blame, but the subtle risks in our choices that are not frequently discussed. Other countries include measures of agility and pedestrian harm in their crash testing. If the EPA's "highway" MPG was measured with a true interstate cruise, we might get a more realistic picture of what we are buying. Cars are having a resurgence in this pandemic. With all the advantages annd modern improvements they offer, we are not likely to give them up afterwards. Let's do our part to make this a sustainable choice in all senses.
Alan Einstoss (Pittsburgh PA)
Having driven it many times in a semi truck,it's not the most dangerous in the South ,like some of the interstates are but it is quick. You don't get bikes and especially joggers on the shoulder ,it's just too dangerous this is not sight seeing country.Where as with the Interstates pedestrians and bikes are prohibited ,some state Highways like this may need more restrictions for safety.
Steve (Oak Park)
How about ultradiving, where you jump into the water from a bridge, like the Verrazzano-Narrows ? Oh, the feelings you will get! Or, maybe, ultraswimming, where you start out from the Jersey Shore and, like swim! Maybe the Coast Guard will chase you down, maybe not. Ultraclimbing! Oh yeah, that's where all those people die each year on Everest. Hey, the lady wanted to risk her life. So, then, was this a victory or a failure? Seems like she thought the collision and amputation was just part of the experience and maybe kind of cool. Good for her!
SP (Portland, OR)
Did the organizer run the route himself first? Not drive, but run. Should be a prerequisite.
AC (Oregon)
@SP Laz, the race director, walked across the entire country all by himself on busy roads and highways in 2018. I am not sure if this was part of his route.
L (Seattle)
I believe the organizer (and many commenters) misunderstands the difference between grueling/difficult/challenging and reckless/dangerous/risky. Riding a bicycle for 100 miles on a closed, marked route: grueling. Riding a bicycle along the shoulder of an interstate highway even for 1 mile: risky. Running 200 miles on a maintained forest trail in daylight: difficult. Running across a highway: dangerous. Swimming 20 miles with lifeguards and race staff present: challenging. Swimming through shark infested waters in spite of warnings: reckless. I am in awe of those who choose to push their limits physically but why they would put their abilities at risk by doing something that clearly poses a safety issue is beyond me. The race organizer is certainly at fault, not just of creating a challenge that put racers and drivers at risk, but of pretending that playing frogger with cars on a highway is some form of mental or physical challenge. It's not. A 10 year old with no athletic training could do it. It takes 0 skill or endurance to run across a highway and it's not a sport. It's just a terrible idea. I hope Ms. McCoy recovers and wish her well, and I hope the states put in place restrictions to ensure no other racers and drivers are put in harm's way like this.
Lynn in DC (Here, there, everywhere)
She is very lucky to be alive. It is extremely dangerous to cross a highway on foot under the best of circumstances. I have a lot of sympathy for the driver because it is reasonable not to expect a pedestrian to cross a highway where vehicles are traveling at 70 mph and there is no stop light. I am guessing the details of the driver were omitted from the article for legal reasons.
Alan (Columbus OH)
@Lynn in DC The driver is a victim also, but people may not see it that way. They probably have a slam dunk lawsuit for car repairs, time lost and emotional distress.
Sally (Wisconsin)
We all know it's dangerous to operate machinery or a motor vehicle while sleep deprived. It stands to reason that running in the dark would also be dangerous. As much as I am sorry for Ms. McCoy's horrific accident, I think the blame lies solely on her. Competitive runners and cyclists know the risks of "interacting" with traffic on roadways that are not cordoned off during races. I think she understands this.
Sarah (M)
From one runner to another, wishing her a speedy recovery and that she runs again one day.
Mark (Toronto)
My heart goes out to Ms McCoy here. I think there is a substantial case for a negligence action against the run organizer, Cantrell. Simply expecting all the runners to cross a four-lane highway at any time of the day or night should be a sufficient basis in itself, let alone after 5 gruelling days of running. I can't speak of how US courts would interpret this but I would think that the waiver Ms McCoy signed could be deemed invalid on the basis of several arguments. From the article, it appears that the runners were not given details of the route until a few hours before the race. Sure, there is an assumption that runners are taking on the risks of injury due to running through all kind of topography and dealing with nature, but I wouldn't think that would include crossing a four-lane highway. I am quite sure where I live, having a run cross a four-lane highway without some kind of supervision would be contrary to our municipal or provincial regulations. I wish the best for Ms McCoy in her recovery.
Din (Brooklyn)
@Mark But the organizer wasn’t forcing her to run, she chose to. The time to push back about only a few hours notice that this crossing would be included was when the notice was given, not after you’ve known about and still chosen to go ahead. She fully participated in what was an extremely grueling and exhausting event.
Louise Cavanaugh (Midwest)
Given that the race coordinator could have applied for permits that would have warned vehicles of possible pedestrians ahead but did not, there appears to be ample reason to consider his actions negligent. Particularly because this crossing of the 4 lane highway was relatively late in a race with a time limit, in which participants are known to run in predawn or evening conditions. An experienced ultra runner race coordinator would be well aware that most runners would no longer be capable of normal levels of awareness and cognizance, much less the heightened levels possibly required to navigate this portion of the race safely.
I just feel bad. I hope she gets her like back. Good luck, Kim McCoy. My prayers, Tim
Tom Philips (Delray Beach FL)
I am amazed the kind of risks that pedestrians and cyclists take versus vehicles. Even in my neighborhood people do not even observe the basic Pedestrians walk against traffic and cyclists with traffic. The few times I have been in a similar situation make me swear to never do it again. There are certain roads which are simply not engineered for human vehicle interaction. Let this cautionary tale lead to some good. Please everyone use your common sense.
Kate McGonigal (Ellis, KS)
I followed HOTS on Facebook. Kim, you're an amazing inspiration in the face of tough circumstances. I hope to meet you someday.
John (Colorado)
@Kate McGonigal Kim is an amazing and incredibly positive woman! If anyone can preserver in the face of this adversity, it is Kim McCoy!
EB (New Mexico)
Wishing Kim McCoy a speedy recovery.
Deborah (Minneapolis)
This is terrible, and everyone will suffer, the runner, the driver, probably the run organizer to a much lesser degree. A series of bad decisions was made. The route. Running in the dark. Running across a busy highway while sleep deprived. But I don’t believe anyone is “at fault”. This is a clear case of assumption of risk. Presumably the route was provided to the runners pre race. We can’t always blame someone else when things go wrong.
J (New Orleans)
@Deborah You're kidding. The race was designed so that you had to cross a busy highway, possibly at night, with zero heads-up to the drivers passing by. There was no way for them to know that a organized event was going on that asked their participants to play Frogger. There were no lights for the runners to use unless they brought it along with them for hundreds of miles just for this stretch of road. This is absolutely the designer's fault. Just because they were told about the route does not mean the designer is absolved of responsibility. Rather, it is the designer's job to make sure the race is viable, and not life-threatening because he was too lazy to apply for permits.
Jim New York (Ny)
@Deborah There are plenty of ultras with signs along the way that there's a race in progress . In dangerous spots one could have put a station or flashing lights to alert cars. There are so many ways to alert athletes and drivers.
Peter Schulze (Sherman, TX)
@J Tragic. In case you are just getting into road racing, or considering doing so, in my limited experience (with conventional length road races), at least around here, prep and safety are not what they were back in the 70s when 10K road races became popular (or has my perspective changed?). When my sons (now in 20s) ran pre-cross-country-season road races around here, I concluded the race organizers must have never actually participated in such a road race. Most intersections were completely unguarded. They even ran one in the dark - intentionally. Insanity. I rode my bike with flashing lights along side and just ahead of the lead groups. Have fun running, but if you are new at this keep in mind car drivers do not expect people moving at racing speeds on roadways. (One time recreational road racer, bicyclist with 45 years experience, haven't been hit by a car since I was about 6 when a driver waved me through an intersection, then hit my back wheel. Sheesh. Low speed. No damage).
Jacquie (Iowa)
How could you possibly have studied this route and found it safe? Complete negligence any way you look at it.
Elizabeth (NC)
@Jacquie But why cannot a reasonable adult - especially a nurse - not come to this same conclusion without deferring to a "race organizer?" A child has to be taught to stop and look both ways. An adult should know. Also an adult of reasonable mental capacity should be able to recognize when they are not functioning in a competent manner.
Willow (Milwaukee)
Ultrarunners and extreme runners like this are always risking their lives. Laz is known for making the most extreme races and pushing people to the absolute edge of what they're capable of. Runners know what they are getting into and the dangers surrounding the sport. I'm glad she doesn't seem to be holding any ill will because there is nothing to be done. Even happier to see her spirit! Probably inspired by Dave Mackey who also lost a leg while running and is still doing ultras. Would be very interesting to see them connect on future races!
Peter Schulze (Sherman, TX)
@Willow It's not reasonable to expect a person in that much physiological distress to make good decisions. Aren't most ultras on trails without traffic?
Jean (Santa Rosa)
May this brave and beautiful woman walk and run again soon.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
This is not about the freedom of people to do as they want being denied by self centered people who think that the runners' lives don't matter if they do not accommodate the rest of the people. Freedom! It's about not being responsible for one's self. The person who is responsible is Cantrell. Cantrell set up the conditions which made this accident possible. His attempts to keep the event exclusive and rough became a generator of a black swan, bad black swan, event. Arranging for local governments to provide measures which would reduce the risks to reasonable was a foolish vanity.
Ignatius Smith (Brooklyn)
Rights have responsibilities.
Karolina (Berlin, Germany)
Hmm. I don’t understand how ultrarunning organizers and participants could forget that it is EXHAUSTING and that we - as human beings - behave, react differently when exhausted. Such a road, at night is super dangerous, because no driver thinks of ultrarunners passing. And even if, there should have been a sign or a helper to accompany the participants. So, honestly, the SUV in my eyes is the one less to be blamed. But I’m feeling sorry for everyone who experienced this situation.
trees (california)
It doesn't really matter who is to blame with respect to Ms McCoy's devastating injury. The whole thing is a total and complete tragedy and each individual involved will have to come to their own sense of responsibility. If it is her wish, I for one am eager to hear about Ms McCoy's return to her ultramarthoning career. I think she will do it with the help of well-fitted prosthetics, spirit, grit, determination and support of friends and family. Seems like much of that is already in place. I'm cheering for you.
Steve (NYC)
@trees Since she has only one leg, she should not wear out her good knee joint with ultramarathons.
Stone (Maine)
As an ultrarunner, I feel uncomfortable reading this. I struggle to articulate why, but posing the article as a "who bears the blame" question feels disrespectful to Kim's decision to run. I don't dare to comment on her choice. The reasons to run an ultra are different and always deeply personal. I can only state how I look at it. For me, part of the drive is the challenge of making sober navigation and nutrition decisions while exhausted. There are moments of bliss and acceptance at the starting line and at sketchy moments in the race. The very act of running is about taking advantage of moments when you feel good and accepting moments when you feel bad. I don't know how I would respond if this tragedy hit me, but I know that every time I run far, I'm accepting some risk.
Dante (Inferno)
thanks, stone, for your point of view - it's reasonable, balanced, and it seems it comes from experience, unlike a lot of comments here
Melissa (Montana)
What about the driver who hit her??? I was wondering about that for the entire article. I'm not saying that person bears any of the blame, or all the blame, but did they stop? What were their feelings? I have to think that there should have been some warning to drivers (in the form of signage) that runners might be crossing the road.
Jen Dolen (Saint Paul, MN)
The driver is not exonerated. They hit her. They share some of the blame.
Daria (Los Angeles CA)
@Jen Dolen How does the driver bear responsibility for this accident? The driver was simply driving along a legal roadway in what I assume was a legal vehicle. The runner that crossed the highway while sleep deprived and exhausted bears the responsibility for the accident. We are not infallible.
Muscadine (Georgia)
@Melissa This is such a sad event. However, if the speed limit is 65 or more on that road, there's no possible way to stop in time when something like that happens.
Donna (East Hampton)
As a kid growing up in the Bronx there were many times we had to cross four lanes of Pelham Parkway near the Bronx River. I still have flashbacks of near misses my friends and I laughed off. This article brought those memories back. I wish this brave racer the best and pray for her recovery.
Treasure (virginia)
Nothing is said about the driver of the S.U.V. who hit Ms. McCoy. I am left to wonder if the organizer of the race, Mr. Cantrell, and the race participants have given thought to the driver who may have to deal with the trauma of this apparent unintentional collision for a lifetime.
Mara (Kuenster)
@Treasure Not everyone gets lifetime trauma through faults of others.
Tom (Boulder)
@Treasure I wondered the same thing. The driver has cause for a lawsuit if he or she has suffered as a result of the accident.
Farina (Puget Sound)
She had run nearly 300 miles over days, catching an hour’s sleep here and there and then was set to run across a four lane highway in the dark? The conditions were terrible, and they were set by the race designer. He shouldn’t get to pass the whole buck.
Daria (Los Angeles CA)
@Farina I don’t mean to be insensitive, but she also bears responsibility. She’s an adult that has run many marathons- did she question the safety of the course when presented with it? That crossing reminds me of the highway south of Solvang, Ca, near Santa Barbara. Cars come zipping by quite fast, and if you need to turn left you’ve got to do so very carefully. I’ve often waited several minutes to turn and would never attempt to do so on foot, even with the grassy median. I wish her the best and hope she gets to run again.
ms (Midwest)
@Daria She is not from the area, and the route was not made available to the runners until several hours before the race. I doubt there was enough information provided to judge safety. The designer chose not to seek permits for the race, and it is not clear if he was sufficiently informed regarding the physiology of runners after running for several days under those conditions.
Andy (Denver)
@ms @Farina Gary Cantrell has a pretty established reputation in the ultra running community. He is known for coming up with long, tough, obscure races (ex. Barkley Marathons, Big's Backyard Ultra). Surely McCoy knew of him and had an idea of what she was getting herself into. I am guessing this is also the reason she hasn't filed a lawsuit.
Tournachonadar (Illiana)
I have a beautiful handmade French bike and a family member who was on the Netherlands Olympic team for cycling. But I value my life and eschew all 2-wheeled activities because the idiots here cannot operate motor vehicles safely around each other,let alone pedestrians or other transportation modes.
Ignatius Smith (Brooklyn)
I love cycling. I moved to Brooklyn more than 30 years ago I knew almost immediately that cycling on the streets here was not safe. Between the cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians and now people not wearing masks - forgetaboutit.
Glen (Pleasantville)
The bicycling infrastructure in the Netherlands is amazing. I miss it terribly. There was nowhere you could not go - safely and directly - on a bike. I wish more Americans were able to travel and to imagine other possibilities besides cars, cars, cars, and more cars.
Aristotle (SOCAL)
Rightly or wrongly I began forming my opinion of Mr. Cantrell as a race organizer upon reading the description of him as "camel-smoking." It would be an opinion later substantiated throughout the story.
Red (NJ)
You felt the way the writer wanted you to feel. Perhaps you can look up the Barkley Marathon and decide for yourself how to judge someone.
Michael Kauffman (Santa Monica)
“The race’s organizer, Gary Cantrell, said he studied the route and considered it safe.” Apparently not...
Sylvia (New York)
@Michael Kauffman agreed. According to his own standards apparently.
Sam K (Chicago, IL)
The far more significant issue is that in many parts of the country, infrastructure is built to kill pedestrians. The number of pedestrians killed in the US has risen 50% since 2009, despite all the new safety technology in cars. States in the Deep South are always at the top of the list of most dangerous places for pedestrians--Alabama is #2. New arterial roads are built without any accommodation for people who aren't driving, and more and more drivers ride in trucks and SUVs that get bigger and taller every year. Was there negligence by the race organizers? Maybe, I don't know. But it's no comparison to the decades-long negligence of our government and transportation planners.
paul easton (Hartford CT)
@Sam K You may be right in general but it has nothing to do with this. How could you plan for people crossing a highway in random places in the dark? In my opinion all of those people could plead insanity.
S North (Europe)
The runner who thought that the lack of warning was dangerous was right - and he should have acted accordingly. But reasonable thinking goes out the window when you're near your goal. I think the organizer also bears responsibility. A highway should never have been part of this or any race.
Hazelmom (US)
Responsibility for Ms. McCoy's accident is clear. She bears it. An adult who runs across a busy multi-lane highway understands the consequences.
Klystron (High Desert NV)
@Hazelmom Thanks for giving this point of view but realistically, how would a north Manhattan runner understand the dangers of a pedestrian crossing a divided highway in the deep South. The organizer provided insufficient information delayed until just before the start. Her worn out shoes indicate a runner with limited resources and an unproven track.
JD (Barcelona)
@Klystron And yet she chose to continue without proper footwear and with no previous study of the route. Not wise.
Elizabeth (NC)
I can easily imagine the shock and horror of a driver on a busy highway in the dark having a person essentially run out of nowhere in front of them. If it is a test of rigor versus recklessness, with no permits, no signs, no warnings, I think most reasonable perople would believe it was reckless.
Karin (Florida)
@Elizabeth I hadn't considered that horrified driver, who will have to live with this. Not that it will assuage this kind of suffering, but perhaps a lawsuit could be brought.
L.E. (Central Texas)
@Elizabeth My first thoughts were of the driver of the car who hit the runner. What went through that person's mind when they hit someone who decided to run across a four-lane, divided highway. How horrified that person must have been.
Buff Dancer (Beverly Hills)
@Elizabeth Strange no information about the driver. Not even a "the driver refused comment". Putting a driver in the position to hit someone at 70 miles an hour is a huge part of this story.
See also