On The Run: Volunteer group seeks runners who can also provide medical treatment


On The Run, by Jay Kumar

Large road races do a good job of having medical professionals available to treat injured runners, but a group hopes to provide even more immediate care by having runners themselves available to help those in distress.

Race Guards was founded in 2012 in San Diego and now has more than 800 volunteers serving on teams throughout the U.S. Janice Penrose, president of Race Guards, says the group has focused its efforts on a putting together a team in the Boston area.

“With Boston’s incredible running and racing community, Race Guards is looking forward to developing a large team of Race Guards in the Boston area to support running and endurance events throughout the market,” says Penrose. “Once we develop a large team in a market, we then begin expanding the number of races we are able to support.”

Brett Grieco of Danvers is leading the effort to establish a Boston Race Guards team, with the goal of helping with the Run to Remember Half Marathon and 5-Mile Race in Boston on Sunday, May 28.

Penrose says Race Guards actually participate in the events themselves, but are available to spring into action if an emergency occurs.

“Our Race Guards are endurance athletes and medical professionals looking for a way to give back to the sport,” she says. “Every team member is certified in First Aid, CPR and AED. For new team members, we also provide certification courses.”

Anyone interested in becoming a Race Guard should visit raceguards.org to learn more and fill out an application. Volunteers get to join the races for free, but are expected to aid their fellow runners if need be.

“Race Guards is the only company in the country providing in-race first aid and support,” Penrose notes. “Our team of volunteers runs the course from start to finish providing first aid and medical support. We are on the course to help runners with cramping, dehydration, blisters and other race-related issues. We carry first aid supplies and AEDs on course and our team can spot issues quickly as we are running with the participants. Race Guards is sponsored by 3M brands ACE, Futuro and Nexcare and we carry their supplies with us.”

Penrose says at any given event, Race Guards will treat hundreds of athletes who need assistance on the course.

“Race Guards will see a variety of issues on race day,” she says. “Our most challenging days on the race course come with extreme weather, heat or cold. Often runners are not prepared for the weather, and the number of people we treat can skyrocket. We are prepared to help in all situations, and as Race Guards grows across the country, runners recognize our branded team on the course and know that we are there to help. They seek us out, but we are also able to see and respond to issues very quickly as we are running with the participants.”

Race Guard volunteers don’t need to be exceptionally fast to join. They need to be in good enough shape to handle the race, but runners are needed in a variety of speeds, ages and sizes to support runners at the front, middle or back of the race. According to the Race Guards website, there are typically between six and 25 Race Guards at its events. They are guaranteed three races per year, but volunteers may be able to do more.


Starts and stops: The fourth annual Rocky Neck 5K Run/Walk and Team Challenge is scheduled for Sunday, May 7 at Rocky Neck Park. Participation in the race is capped at 400. Registration includes a ticket to the Studio Restaurant celebratory buffet brunch after the race. Visit http://rockyneck5k.com/ for more information.


The inaugural Griffin’s Gift 5K will take place on Monday, July 3 at 10 a.m. to celebrate the late Griffin Lamar’s 3rd birthday with a family-friendly 5K run and walk. The event will start and finish at Danvers High School, 60 Cabot Road, Danvers. All net proceeds from the event will go to Griffin’s Gift, a nonprofit charity dedicated to helping potential adoptive families with the initial financial burden of the adoption process. Visit https://risingreg.com/griffins-gift-5k/ for more information.


On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to jay.kumar@gmail.com.

Upcoming races


Friday, May 5: The 28th annual Evelyn’s Run for the Roses 5K Women’s Road Race, the Winner’s Circle, 211 Elm St., Salisbury, 6:30 p.m. Profits and donations from the race benefit the Jeanne Geiger Women’s Crisis Center in Newburyport and gene therapy and research through Cure CMT4J. Visit http://runthecircle.org/wordpress/racing/wcrc-races/roses-5k/ for more information.

Saturday, May 6: The 5th annual NECC Campus Classic 5K and Fun Run, Northern Essex Community College, 100 Elliott St., Haverhill. The fun run starts at 9 a.m. and the 5K begins at 10. Visit www.necc.mass.edu/campus-classic/ for more information.

Sunday, May 7: Step Up for Colleen 5K, Andover Central Park, Bartlet Street, Andover, 9 a.m. (opening ceremony at 8:45). Net proceeds will benefit the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to Andover and Danvers High School seniors who demonstrate a passion for teaching. Visit www.stepupforcolleen.com/ for more information.

Tuesday, May 9: The Bent Water Thunder Squad Weekly Running Club, Bent Water Brewing Taproom, 180 Commercial St., Unit 18, Lynn, 6:30 p.m. A free weekly 3.2-mile run from the taproom to the beach led by local runner Angel Dee. Runners who complete seven runs receive a Bent Water t-shirt.

Wednesday, May 10: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Osborn Tavern, 49 Maple St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail adam@danvers5k.com; Meters for Liters, Notch Brewing, 283R Derby St., Salem, 6:30 p.m. Free group 5K run from the brewery. Beer and pretzels provided to runners after the run. Runners who complete 10 runs (aka 50,000 meters) will receive Notch swag.

Saturday, May 13: The 3rd annual Spring for the Trails Half Marathon, Willowdale State Forest, Ipswich, 8 a.m. Part of the 2017 New England Running Company All-Terrain Race Series. Visit http://ecta27.camp7.org/event-2435751 for more information; The Yukan Fast Half Marathon, Hamilton-Wenham High School, 775 Bay Road, South Hamilton, 9 a.m. Visit www.yukanrun.com/Fast-Half.html for more information; The 9th annual Dan Ford Road Race, Fireside Restaurant and Pub, 171 Pelham St., Methuen, 11 a.m. Visit www.danfordroadrace.com/ for more information.

Tuesday, May 16: The Bent Water Thunder Squad Weekly Running Club, Bent Water Brewing Taproom, 180 Commercial St., Unit 18, Lynn, 6:30 p.m. A free weekly 3.2-mile run from the taproom to the beach led by local runner Angel Dee. Runners who complete seven runs receive a Bent Water t-shirt.

Wednesday, May 17: Danvers 5K Fun Run, Osborn Tavern, 49 Maple St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail adam@danvers5k.com; Meters for Liters, Notch Brewing, 283R Derby St., Salem, 6:30 p.m. Free group 5K run from the brewery. Beer and pretzels provided to runners after the run. Runners who complete 10 runs (aka 50,000 meters) will receive Notch swag.

Thursday, May 18: The 30th annual Backshore 5-Mile Road Race, Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, 6:30 p.m. Part of the YMCA of the North Shore 2017 Road Race Series. Visit http://northshoreroadraceguide.com/event/backshore-5-mile-road-race/?instance_id=983 for more information.

Visit www.northshoreroadraceguide.com/race-calendar for more race listings.


Press Release: Austin, TX – Race Guards partners with High Five Events in Austin, Texas

AUSTIN, Texas, December 20, 2016 -- High Five Events, one of the largest privately owned event production companies in the United States, is pleased to announce the partnership between Race Guards and the 2017 Austin Marathon® presented by NXP. Participant safety is paramount and this partnership will provide in-race first-aid support, when needed, throughout the entire course.

“Participant safety is one of our top priorities,” said Jack Murray, co-owner of High Five Events. “We will have stationary medical personnel at every aid station, but Race Guards will be the individuals who can handle certain situations between aid stations and notify medical personnel as needed.”

Race Guards, an organization based out of San Diego, California, provides in-race first aid for endurance events throughout the country. Race Guards is comprised of volunteers trained in CPR, AED and First Aid. They will be easily identifiable on course by their bright jerseys. Race Guards will be fully stocked with first aid supplies and have a direct line to medical personnel.

“Race Guards is excited to partner with the Austin Marathon,” said Janice Penrose, President of Race Guards. “Race Guards is quickly expanding throughout the country and we look to partner with race management companies, like High Five Events, who are committed to the well-being of their participants.”

The Austin Marathon will celebrate its 26th year running in the capital of Texas. Austin’s flagship running event annually attracts runners from all 50 states and 20+ countries around the world. With start and finish locations just a few blocks apart, and within walking distance of many downtown hotels and restaurants, the Austin Marathon is the perfect running weekend destination. Participants can register for the marathon, half marathon, or 5K.

About High Five Events: Beginning with the launch of a single triathlon in 2003, High Five Events has grown to become one of the largest privately owned event production companies in the United States. In addition to the events it owns and produces, the Austin, Texas-based company offers consulting and event production services to dozens of additional events each year. High Five Events is community-centric and has more than 83 years’ experience organizing large events across different venue types in a variety of locations. Follow High Five Events on Twitter (@highfiveevents), Instagram (@highfiveevents), and Facebook (facebook.com/HighFiveEventsWorldWide/) for news and updates.

About NXP Semiconductors: NXP Semiconductors N.V. (NASDAQ:NXPI) enables secure connections and infrastructure for a smarter world, advancing solutions that make lives easier, better, and safer. As the world leader in secure connectivity solutions for embedded applications, NXP is driving innovation in the secure connected vehicle, end-to-end security and privacy, and smart connected solutions markets. Built on more than 60 years of combined experience and expertise, the company has 45,000 employees in more than 35 countries and posted revenue of $6.1 billion in 2015. Find out more at www.nxp.com.

About Race Guards: Race Guards was founded in 2012 with the mission to “give back’ to running and endurance events by providing in-race first aid from start to finish. Race Guards is comprised of volunteer endurance athletes trained in CPR, AED and First Aid who are committed to assisting race participants with any medical or physical support needs. Sponsored by ACE_Brand/Nexcare, Race Guards run the entire race – at all different paces -- stocked with first aid supplies. Race Guards work directly with the race medical staff to provide an extra layer of medical support on race day. For more information on Race Guards visit www.raceguards.org.


Stay vertical,

William Dyson, M.Ed.
High Five Events
Communications Manager
211 E. Alpine Rd, Suite 400
Austin, TX 78704

The International Institute of Race Medicine (IIRM) and Race Guards form partnership


The International Institute of Race Medicine and Race Guards form partnership to promote and ensure the health and safety of participants in road race endurance events throughout the world.

The International Institute of Race Medicine (IIRM) and Race Guards have formed a partnership to improve the standard of in-race medical support offered at road race endurance events.  The partnership brings together two organizations committed to ensuring the health and safety of race participants throughout the world.  

The IIRM is an international collective of medical professionals with the goal of furthering research education and best practices in marathons and other endurance races throughout the world.    Race Guards is comprised of athletes who support running and endurance events of all sizes and distances throughout the country.  Race Guards are CPR, AED and First Aid certified first-responders who volunteer at races throughout the country to provide an extra level of medical and first aid support on the race course. Race Guards work in tandem with the race medical team to bring another layer of medical support to race participants.  

“The IIRM and its members advocate for safer races, and Race Guards “raises the bar” on the level of in-race first aid and medical support provided on the course”, said Chris Troyanos, Executive Director, IIRM.  “It is our goal to have Race Guards to establish “best practices” at races throughout the country, and we look forward to working with their team to ensure a safe and rewarding race experience for runners. “

Race Guards and the IIRM will share best practices, education, and research amongst its membership base and work together in an alliance that is focused on advocating for safer events that will make a difference in the well-being of athletes.   

“Race Guards was founded because we saw the need for more “eyes and ears” out on the course, “ said Andy Voggenthaler, Founder of Race Guards.  “The running industry is experiencing tremendous growth, and with that growth comes the need to assist and educate novice runners to the sport and provide race directors with the support they need to ensure participants a safe racing environment.  Our partnership with the IIRM will enable us to provide additional research and education to our team of Race Guards, as well as bring another level of support to race directors throughout the country.”

One of the most compelling reasons to form the partnership was the desire to expand the sharing of knowledge, research and data amongst the two groups that represent the leaders in the sports medicine and first aid arena.  

“It is our goal to assist medical directors and medical teams in improving first response times and treatment outcomes for runners who are treated on the race course,” said Voggenthaler.

“All board members of the IIRM are leaders in the field of endurance medicine and dedicated to the field of sports members, “ said Troyanos.  “Race Guards team members are dedicated to and passionate about keeping athletes safe by being on the course and working hand-in-hand with the race medical team.  Our shared research data and “real time” in-race data and incident reports will provide race directors with greatly enhanced medical support.”


The IIRM was formed in 2009 with a mission to promote the health and safety of participants in road race endurance events through research, communication, education and the development of medical standards that can be utilized by all involved. The IIRM’s goal is to advance the safety of running/endurance events through education of medical professionals, emergency management agencies, hospitals, event administrators, public safety agencies and other professionals providing medical care at road races. The IIRM encourages races throughout the country to join the IIRM to ensure the delivery of the current information and research as it pertains to all aspects of endurance events.  For more information visit racemedicine.org


Race Guards was founded in 2012 with the mission to “give back’ to running and endurance events by providing in-race first aid from start to finish.  Race Guards’ team of medical professionals works with the race directors and the race medical teams on race day.  Race Guards run the entire race – at all different paces – carrying first aid supplies to help with minor issues and aches & pains of race participants. Race Guards also directly with the race medical team to organize medical transports and sag wagons and assist in coordinating any major medical needs on the course.



Fast Responders

Race Guards’ in-race first aid teams help runners stay safe every step of the course

Written by Kristin Pladson
Originally published by ACE™ Brand Products
Source: http://www.acebrand.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/AceBrand/Home/The-Wrap-Up/Fast-Responders/

A cool rain fell early the morning of March 22, when seasoned runners Ron Tran, his wife Janie and their three children crossed the starting line of the 2015 Dallas Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Part of a throng of nearly 12,000 runners, the 48-year-old Tran and his daughter Michelle took off at a gentle trot, leaving behind Janie and children Vincent and Sarah to tackle the hilly 13.1 miles together.

Just three miles into the race, Tran couldn’t hold back his competitive spirit any longer. Feeling “energetic and strong,” Tran was ready to increase his pace. Michelle waved him on, agreeing to meet her dad at the finish line.

But Tran wouldn’t finish the race that day.

“At 13 miles I was pretty exhausted but I wanted to push hard for the finish line,” says Tran. “Then it was like a switch turned off. I just went down. The next thing I remember was waking up in an ambulance.”

Tran learned later that he had suffered cardiac arrest, a critical, sudden condition that depends on immediate treatment for survival. In fact, 95% of cardiac arrest victims die, often simply because help can’t be delivered quickly enough–ideally, three to five minutes after collapse. But that day, time was on Tran’s side. Life-saving help was on the way even before his body hit the pavement.


“I had finished the race and decided to go back upstream to see if anything was happening–it’s easier to see runners’ faces that way,” explains Laura Dowd, a San Diego-based veterinarian. “I was about 10 feet from Ron when he went down and began having a seizure.”

Less than three minutes after Tran fell, Dowd began CPR compressions, helping to restart his heart after a previously undetected congenital heart defect caused the muscle to stop functioning.

That Dowd was exactly where Tran needed her when he needed her wasn’t by chance. She participated in the half-marathon that day as a volunteer for Race Guards, an ACE Brand-sponsored organization that provides in-race aid to athletes.

“Laura saved my life that day,” says Tran. “When my heart stopped, my lungs stopped. I could have had brain damage or heart damage or maybe even wouldn’t have woken up. It was a miracle that she was there at the moment I went down. If Race Guards hadn’t been at the half-marathon that morning I don’t know that I’d be here today.”

If Race Guards hadn’t been at the
half-marathon that morning I don’t know that
I’d be here today.

Ron Tran
Cardiac Arrest Survivor

In-Race First Responders

Running in teams of two at fast, middle-of-the-pack and slow paces, Race Guards are staggered throughout the course looking for anyone in distress who may be limping, listing to the side, in pain or disoriented. Every Race Guard is certified in first aid, CPR and the use of an AED (Automated External Defibrillator), and carries a 5-pound pack of medical supplies, including items like ACE™ Brand Elastic Bandages, Nexcare™ bandages, chafing treatments, ice packs and salt packets. Along the way, they help with everything from chafing to heat stroke to simply providing an encouraging voice.

Though major incidents like cardiac arrest do happen–Tran was the second runner Laura saved through CPR since joining Race Guards–the majority of issues treated by Race Guards are relatively minor. “Things like blisters, chafing and cramping are all really common,” says Dowd. “As a Race Guard, I almost see CPR as a failure because our job is to prevent something from getting that far. We want to get the people before they fall, before they need extended help.”

That proactive approach is exactly what inspired the creation of this organization. Twelve years ago, Andy Voggenthaler, founding director of Race Guards, had just finished the swim portion of a triathlon when the 37-year-old racer beside him suffered a fatal heart attack. “It made me think about all the things that happen over the course of an event and how they rarely take place near the aid stations or medical tent,” recalls Voggenthaler. “I figured that if we could get people who are knowledgeable and approachable out on the course right next to the runners, they could get help faster and earlier and hopefully avoid the bigger issues.”

With support from a community grant, Voggenthaler tested the Race Guards idea in March 2012 at the Finish Chelsea’s Run in San Diego, a 5K race Voggenthaler co-founded in honor of a California teen who had been brutally murdered while out jogging. Though he didn’t expect much action that day, Voggenthaler’s team of 30 EMTs, doctors and physician assistants helped 13 people who otherwise may not have successfully finished the race.

“We got back to the medical tent, and I noticed that everybody from the Race Guards team had a huge smile and was so excited,” says Voggenthaler. “There was a whole different perspective for these athletes who were able to be out there and give back to the running community.”

While many Race Guards are doctors, nurses, EMTs or have other professional medical training (Race Guards provides the necessary medical certification training for all), the primary qualifications for volunteers are a proven track record in endurance sports, a friendly attitude and a passion for helping others. “It takes a special individual,” says Voggenthaler. “They have to be fun, outgoing people who want to make a difference. Many have just gotten to the point where they’ve trained so much over the years that now they really just want to help others achieve great things.”

A Growing Field

Today, there are more than 700 trained Race Guard volunteers spread across the country. And this year, the organization hopes to cover 35 to 50 events ranging from 5K community events to marathons as well as some triathlons, cycling, swim and obstacle events. But with more than 40,000 races taking place in the US each year, Voggenthaler admits they have room to grow. “Now there are so many events that are themed,” he says. “New runners are more interested in having fun with their friends than they are about training. It’s great for them and great for the sport, but we’re seeing a lot more folks that are undertrained.”

Of course, even seasoned running veterans like Tran can get into trouble, as a result of anything from undiagnosed medical concerns to extreme weather. That’s why having Race Guards present and available is more important than ever. “We want to be the standard of care in endurance sports moving forward,” he says. “We’re helping people accomplish a goal and do it safely. It’s about getting people to the finish line.”

We’re helping people accomplish a goal and
do it safely. It’s about getting people to the
finish line.

Andy Voggenthaler
Race Guards Founder

Run Safe with Race Guards

Whether it’s your first 5K or your fiftieth 26.2, crossing that finish line is something special. But getting there takes preparation and smart choices. Here are some Race Guard-approved tips to help you make it through the chute safe and strong.


Train properly: The single best way to guarantee a not so fun run – and perhaps a medical issue or two – is not putting in the mileage before race day. Every race – especially if it’s the first time you’ve done the distance – requires appropriate training. If you’re a beginner, Voggenthaler suggests finding a local running group or signing up for a training program that will help you safely train for the distance.


Know the course: If the course takes place in an unfamiliar area, be sure to get a course map and drive, run or walk it if possible, suggests Voggenthaler. By becoming familiar with the terrain, turns and elevation changes, you’ll have a better sense of where you need to push and where you can cruise. And knowing the starting area will save on unnecessary race morning stress.


Fuel up: Sorry, breakfast haters. Your body just can’t store enough fuel from dinner the night before to carry you through a morning race. Skipping breakfast will not only strip the fun from your run but could even cause an early race exit (and a helpful visit from the Race Guards). Try starting the day with simple yet power-packed breakfasts like oatmeal, peanut butter toast or a banana.


Keep it familiar: To reduce your odds of experiencing mid-race GI distress or chafing, avoid trying new foods, new shoes or anything else you haven’t used on several training runs, says Dowd.


Don’t overdress: A good rule of thumb is to dress as you would to be comfortable simply standing outside if the temperature were 20 degrees warmer. If pre-race warmth is a concern, “wear an extra layer at the start then be ready to toss it as soon as you warm up,” suggests Voggenthaler.


Listen to your body: Your best defense against illness and injury is simply listening to your body. Never ignore or try to push through symptoms like chest pain, dizziness or faintness, nausea, shortness of breath or sharp pain. If you need help, ask for it. As long as you take care of yourself, there will always be another race or another shot at a PR.


Keep moving: Grab your medal and keep walking for at least 10 minutes or until your heart rate comes back down to its resting state, and then do some post-race recovery stretches and icing, advises Voggenthaler. And the very next day, do some stretching along with some non- or light impact activity like walking, swimming or cycling.


Enjoy every step: “A lot of people are so hard on themselves when it comes to finish times, but I try to remind them that no matter what their pace is they’re out there. They’re not on the couch,” says Dowd. Whether you’re leading the charge or in the back of the pack, the most important thing to do is simply have fun.


Written by:
Kristin Pladson

A longtime runner, marathoner and Minneapolis-based freelance writer, Kristin's running and stories have appeared in Runner's World, Live Better America, and Whole Living, among other publications.

Runner's World: Safety First



APR 10, 2014

Race Guards put trained medical staff every step of the way along a racecourse.

The way Andy Voggenthaler sees it, race participants don't need medical care only at the finish line of an event. They might need help along the way.

He set out to provide it with Race Guards, billed as the only in-race first-aid support organization. The members are health care professionals who combine medical training and an endurance sport background to assist runners at some of the country's largest events, including Rock 'n' Roll marathons and the TriRock Triathlon Series.

Voggenthaler, who has done marathons, adventure races and triathlons, saw a 37-year-old participant die during the swim-to-bike transition at one event. The tragedy got him thinking there should be a way to get medically trained personnel onto racecourses. The Poway, Calif., resident developed the idea of entering clearly identified health care professionals in events to be on the lookout for runners in trouble and ready to act when needed.


Voggenthaler tested the idea in March 2012 at the Finish Chelsea's Run in San Diego. He invited EMTs, doctors and physician assistants he knew to come out and be Race Guards. He didn't expect his team to be busy in a 5K, but 13 people needed help, including a diabetic and runners injured from a tangle-up at the starting line.

"All the Race Guards were so stoked to be able to help," Voggenthaler says. "Other race directors were at the event. They reached out to me and asked, 'What do we need to do to make this happen?' "

Race Guards carry a first-aid kit, extra fluid and gels, and they are in contact with the command center. They work in pairs, spreading out to cover the wide range of paces that today's events attract. They run the race but don't record a time, checking in with runners who might be struggling and doubling back at times to get a second look. Race Guards cover anything from blisters to heat stroke to simply providing a supportive voice.


Voggenthaler and executive director Janice Penrose, an elite masters runner, expect to keep busy. They hope to double the number of Race Guards from the current 600 by late 2014 and plan to work more than 50 events this year, going nationwide from what has thus far been service to mostly western states and Chicago-area events.

"Today there are so many theme races," Voggenthaler says. "The younger generation is all about the social aspect and having fun with their friends, which is great; however, many of these people aren't in shape. It's a huge new dynamic. People get in over their heads."

Of course, even fit participants get into trouble, either through overconfidence or ignorance. "I've seen tons of things happen out on the course, including [to] myself when I was a young buck," Voggenthaler says. "You cramp up and you don't know what to do. If there was somebody with GU or to talk to when you start bonking, so you could finish the race, that would have been great. We're about helping people reach their goal."