BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — While selectmen like the idea that people are getting in shape during the loosely organized Wednesday evening D5K fun run around town, they are concerned about safety when 40 runners head out on some pretty congested streets after dark.
“We don’t want to stop you,” Selectman Dan Bennett said. “We hopefully want you to tell your folks to be cautious.”
The weekly 3.1-mile run, which starts at 7 p.m., is an informal gathering of runners of all abilities.
“It’s just show and go,” D5K organizer Adam Prentiss, 34, of Danvers told selectmen Tuesday night during a meeting in Town Hall.
However, selectmen said they were concerned about some participants running three abreast in the road, some wearing dark or nonreflective clothing, and about a runner who drags a tire strung behind him as he runs.
Selectman Gardner Trask said Prentiss was asked to come before the board because of the complaints that members have received about the unsafe mix of a large number of runners and cars on town streets.
“Forty per week crossing that many intersections is causing problems with drivers,” Trask said.
The D5K is not new. In fact, the run celebrated its five-year anniversary in November. The run used to start at the former Cody’s Brewing Co. alehouse in Danvers Square before the brewery moved to Amesbury. Three years ago, the run switched to its present location on Pine Street.
“We’ve been doing it for five years now, and we haven’t had an incident,” Prentiss said.
While it may be congested at the start, the pack thins out quickly. Prentiss said he always urges runners to be safe, wear reflective clothing or lights in the winter, and run single-file. Those who do not obey are asked not to come back.
“We don’t want to make any trouble or put anyone at risk,” Prentiss said.
The run starts and ends at Sweet Williams Garden Center, 141 Pine St. The run goes clockwise around the roads in the summer and counterclockwise in the winter, so runners go against the traffic and are more visible. The run travels on Pine, Holten, Centre, Hobart, Charter, Elm, and back to Holten and Pine streets.
Prentiss is exploring the possibility of using a portion of the Danvers Rail Trail for the course, to avoid the difficult intersection of Pine and Holten streets in the vicinity of the busy McKinnon’s Market and a gas station.
While it’s not a formal event that requires sign-ups, the run has a website, danvers5K.com, and tracks runners’ times. Its Facebook page has 727 likes. The Dec. 26 run drew 44 participants. Last week’s run drew 62, Prentiss said.
“I never know what to expect,” Prentiss said of who might show up.
While runners are never asked for money, from time to time, they are asked to bring nonperishable food donations for local food pantries. Local merchants like chiropractors and massage therapists are also asked to come to the runs as a way to support local businesses.
“We’ve had people from all over the country,” Prentiss said. “We’ve had people from other countries come here.” The pack includes some top 100 finishers in the Boston Marathon who use it for training.
Selectman Mike Powers said that even though the run is not a formal event, it may give runners the mindset they can run with some impunity down the street. Powers said he once had to swing his car around runners. However, he likes the idea of the run and wants to see it continue, so he urged Prentiss to keep runners safe.
“If someone gets hit by a car,” Powers said, “we would all be scrambling at that point.”
“The only issue I have is the guy dragging the tire,” Selectman Keith Lucy said.
That runner, Prentiss said, happens to be the “world’s toughest mudder,” an endurance athlete named Junyong Pak, who has won the world’s toughest 24-hour obstacle course race twice. He trains by pulling a tire attached to a backpack with a rope, Prentiss said.
Selectmen did not vote on the recommendations they gave Prentiss, a graphic designer who, after he got a lecture on runner safety, received a certificate of appreciation from selectmen Chairman Bill Clark. Prentiss had created the initial layouts of the interpretive signs that have been put up along the Danvers Rail Trail.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.