Valley runner reminds community of safety tips while sharing the road

Leslie Harlacker was in a car-involved running accident that left her with a broken jaw.
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 10:48 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - In 2015, Leslie Harlacker was in a car-involved running accident.

“I was running in the bike lane facing traffic like you’re supposed to, on Vine Street so I was coming from 11 around to I think it’s Washington that has the water tower,” Harlacker said. “A car drifted into, really swerved into, the bike lane coming right at me and it didn’t quite hit me but, in getting out of the way of the car, I tripped over the curb and landed on my chin and broke my jaw and I also lost two teeth.”

Harlacker said the driver of the vehicle did not stop, but some good samaritans took her to the Sentara RMH.

“I really wish that I had gotten their names, but unfortunately I was a little too shook up to be thinking straight,” Harlacker said.

At the time of the accident, Harlacker was preparing for the Richmond Marathon, but her injuries kept her on the sidelines. She even had to have a liquid diet for a few weeks.

Now, years later, Harlacker is president of the Shenandoah Valley Track Club and is looking to remind everyone on the road to be alert, especially with more college students back in town.

Harlacker said runners often run on the street because many of the races they participate in are not on a track.

She said runners need to face traffic when out on the road and advises losing the headphones.

For drivers, Harlacker stresses the importance of putting the phone down and being aware of your surroundings.

“Being aware that there may be runners moving faster than a pedestrian as you approach intersections,” Harlacker said. “Actually another one of my running friends sustained a pretty serious injury getting hit by a car in a crosswalk.”

The Harrisonburg Police Department reports nine pedestrian-related crashes in the city in 2020, and four so far this year.

The department says many of the incidences involved people crossing at an intersection, but crash reports have no note of anyone specifically running.

After not being able to run the Richmond Marathon in 2015 and over the last few years for several reasons, Harlacker is hoping to be back in the race this fall.

“As long as I get to the starting line in one piece, that’s the most important thing. And, that’s what hopefully everybody, whether they are on foot or on a wheeled vehicled of any kind, hopefully, we can work together to get everybody to their starting line safely,” Harlacker said.

Harlacker added that the safety measures aren’t just for runners, but apply for bicyclists too.

A few bike laws went into effect on July 1. You can find more information on them here.

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