Slow-moving train stops Boston Marathon hopefuls in their tracks

Thursday, September 15, 2016
VIDEO: Marathon mess
Dozens of Boston Marathon hopefuls from our area have been stopped in their tracks - literally. Their dreams dashed at a railroad intersection on the race course.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (WPVI) -- The Boston Marathon is one of the most prestigious races in the world.

But on Sunday, a very strange thing happened on the way to the annual event.

About 100 runners trying to qualify during the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon in Bethlehem got held up by a Norfolk Southern Railway train.

"I've had people trying to cross in front of racers and things like that, but nothing like a train," said Rodney Russen of Collinswood, New Jersey.

Twenty-seven-year-old Dave Brown from Massachusetts, who spoke to us by phone, also got held up.

"I was actually throwing my hands up in disbelief as I was running down the hill watching the train kinda go across the course," said Brown.

It was one of the craziest and most unexpected things many of the runners had seen. Some were held up for as long as 10 minutes.

"The scene was just so chaotic. Nobody really knew what to do," said Brown.

Some runners foolishly, if not dangerously, decided to cross between rail cars.

"That was uncalled for. That I'm not gonna condone. It's a bad situation so don't make it worse," said Russen.

Race organizers say as far back as June, they were given assurances from Norfolk Southern that rail traffic would not obstruct the race. They say the safety of their runners is their primary concern. And for those runners affected, they offer their apologies.

"You know I understand that they can't control the rail company. It's just one of those things that can't really be planned, but I'm still disappointed that it got handled the way it did," said Brown.

A spokesman for the Boston Marathon says they feel terrible for the runners that got help up by the train, but they will not accept adjusted finish times in order to protect the integrity of the race.

While Dave Brown is still hoping to qualify on Friday, Rodney Russen, who has won many medals over the years, lost his momentum and will have to try again in 2018.

"It just took my spirit out of it, it took my head and heart out of the race at that point," said Russen.

"Even though I was trying to maintain a positive attitude about it, their lack of empathy, lack of sympathy, lack of anything is more of what's making me upset at this point," he added.