Gordon Cherr,


Ok, I stole that, but it was too good to pass up. It is the wonderful title of a blog authored by an ultra running acquaintance of mine from the Chicagoland area, Paige Troelstrup. But it was perfect for what I was thinking about all week. I was fuming, wishing a bad case of the runs upon someone I do not even know.

Well, we did meet, sort of, but it was just a passing encounter. I was finishing up a particularly long and hard effort a few weeks ago. You know, you get tired and want to get it done. Plus, on weekdays I tend to run in the early morning, finishing with the sunrise. Now, this time of the year it is darker even later into the morning despite the recent time change, and if I had my druthers, every run would be somewhere on a golf course or on trails. But no one always has his “druthers” — that’s life, live with it my friends.

Of course, any run is a good run, even if on the roads. Besides, you can zone out on the roads without worrying about tripping over roots and logs or turning your ankle by stepping into some leaf camouflaged rut or hole. But when I do run on the roads I am rather wary of cars, especially in the early morning, wearing reflective straps on my ankles or wrapped around my hand held water bottle if need be. And I run into traffic. You should always run on the left side of the road if you can, facing into traffic. It doesn’t matter if they see you, it matters only that you see them before it is too late (and why do drivers like to flash their high beams in your eyes? It isn’t like you cannot see them to begin with when the low beams are on. Jerks.). And while we are discussing these running “rules” of the road, perhaps you should take off those silly headphones and ear buds too, you need to be an animal out there. I have read articles about people being so engrossed in their music that they have actually been hit by trains. Really. I mean, if that is what it takes to get you out there, then fine. But try to save it for the trails where you don’t have to worry about someone having a bad hair day and driving up and over your back while talking on the cell phone, yelling at their kids, putting on makeup, and drinking coffee at the same time. Don’t trust those drivers!

We have all had those encounters. I vividly recall Richard Henry being hit by a car at the intersection of Magnolia and Apalachee Parkway during a run one morning while we were crossing the street, in the pedestrian crosswalk, and with the green light in our favor. The driver, wanting to make a right turn onto Magnolia from a service lane, saw us a moment too late and slammed on brakes. Richard was hit ever so gently and he rode the hood of the car for about 15′ before the motorist came to a halt, sliding off the hood, uninjured, and right back onto his feet. The other two of us (myself and Mike Johns) started to laugh, mostly relieved that Richard was not a permanent hood ornament. The driver’s window came down, the fellow began to apologize profusely, Richard walked calmly over to the now lowered window and tried to sucker punch the driver right in the kisser. This prompted Mike and I to immediately initiate an interval workout in the opposite direction, but Richard just stood there screaming obscenities at the driver. Luckily, that fellow drove away post haste, and we completed our run without another thing being said about it. That might not have been the preferred way of handling matters but it worked that day. These days it just might get you shot.

Another time I was racing the late Jim Hanlon down the big hill on Jackson Bluff Road during an ancient edition of the Turkey Trot, when a young woman in a bright red Corvette suddenly turned left, directly in front of us, causing me to slide over the trunk of her car headfirst, on my stomach. But Jim was to my left and he ran directly into the side of the car without breaking stride. He fell down, got up, and furiously started kicking the stew out of the driver’s side door. Sebastian Janikowski could not have done it any better than Jim that day. Me? It was a race. I got up and opened some daylight between us while he was still venting. Jim eventually recovered his senses and ran me down before the finish line, but not before cursing me out from behind and then as he went by me, in the last 3 miles of that race.

You have been there too. Cars and runners make a poor and sometimes volatile combination. But I digress . . . .

So, the other day I am finishing up my run, actually running on the sidewalk (!) of all things, at 7 AM. I get to the intersection and the painted crosswalk, and there is a big white SUV coming up the hill from my left. A “lady” is driving, she has the stop sign, I have the right of way, not that that would mean much if we were to try to occupy the same space at the same time. Besides, morning traffic is already heavy and building and the road onto which she wants to make her right turn is loaded with traffic crossing in front of her. She begins to brake and noticeably slow down, and I follow the cardinal rule before stepping out in front of her, I make good eye contact with her, no question about it. I start out across the road, still running, but she sees a small opening in the traffic passing in front of her and guns it, running the stop sign and turning right, and turning right into me. I run smack into the side of her big SUV and it makes a big noise, hitting that sheet metal. I did not hit the vehicle hard and I might have inadvertently (yeah, right) punched the side of her vehicle to emphasize my plight. A real human being would have stopped to see if I was dead or maimed. Instead, she kept on going, leaning on her horn in disgust, I suppose.

Lady, I hope you got a bad case of the runs.

Anyway, it is getting dark earlier and staying dark later and it will be that way for a few months longer. Try to remember that in the final analysis we runners are all most dependent upon ourselves for running safety under these and all other conditions, whether on the roads or on the trails. And watch out for each other (and me) when driving too. As another running and writing buddy, John Morelock, would say: “Run gently out there.” It is good advice.