Saturday, March 26, 2011
A Road Runner’s Plea
I have been running for more than a year now, with a brief hiatus during the winter nastiness, and I have a few thoughts which I'd like to share with drivers. I realize that, for a driver, the few moments involved in driving past a person running down the road are quick and almost not worth considering. I know that to be the case, because until 16 months ago I was behind the wheel giving very little thought to those lunatics running on the side of the road. Now that the shoe, (the high-stability, lightweight, wide, New Balance running shoe, that is) is on the other foot, allow me to suggest a few things for you to consider.
I run in the left lane of the road, facing oncoming traffic, so that I can see you coming. Though I'd like to carry a big flag to wave in order to insure that I get your attention, sadly, I cannot. I am, therefore, praying from the moment I spot you, that you see me. I am normally running near the center of the lane, since the absolute edge of the road slopes too steeply for me to comfortably stay there for the duration of my run, but as soon as I see you coming I move to that edge, staring intently at you in an attempt to discern if you see me. My only clue that you see me is when you merge toward the center of the road to give me more room. Though the interval between seeing me and making that adjustment may pass quickly for you, this seems like an eternity to me.
Now, I am still a driver, and I realize that driving on the wrong side of the road on these back roads isn't the best place to be. There may be a hill or a curve obscuring your view of the road ahead, and I certainly don't want to be the cause of an accident. This is one reason I make a point of running during the lower-traffic times of the day, yet, there may still be a car coming from the opposite direction. So I am not expecting you to endanger yourself. Perhaps slowing down a tad until you can see the road ahead may help. I know that it would help me, and I'll even wave you on if I know the coast is clear. I'm not asking for an hour of your time, merely a few moments which you could easily make up once you have safely passed me.
For those of you who are coming up from behind me, I cannot see you. I am listening for you, but my hearing isn't always the best out on the road. Because of the safety concerns I do not wear earbuds and listen to music while I run. Other runners, however, do listen to music, and are therefore not as aware of approaching vehicles. Though I am not listening to music I am listening to the sound of my breathing, which, frankly, gets rather loud after a while. If the wind is blowing at all, combined with the noise I'm already making, I may be, for all practical purposes, deaf to the sound of your car. As I said earlier, the extreme edge of the road is often sloped, it may be breaking apart into ragged potholes, and in places out here I frankly feel safer if I'm not running in the shadows on the verge. Please give me a wider berth than you think necessary.
I run in order to strengthen myself, but while I'm running I may not feel very strong. Once I'm a couple of miles into my workout I might feel downright weak. If I'm near the end of my run I am likely to be feeling limp spaghetti, rag-doll, and knock-me-over-with-a-feather weak. Relative to how I feel your car seems to be a freight train- even if you're driving a Prius. When you pass me by with only an arm's length distance- or less- between my vulnerable self and your car, it's more than a little unnerving to me. So if there's no room to give me a bit more margin, please, please, slow down. There's nothing cute about you passing close enough for me to touch your side mirrors.
For those of you who do give me a wide margin and slow down as you pass, I notice, and I am extremely grateful. I do try to give you a smile and a wave, although I realize that the look on my face may actually appear to be more of a grimace than a grin. For all I know you are one of my neighbors, my son may have sold you popcorn, and we may see one another in the grocery store. I haven't the strength to fully express my gratitude for your kindness as you pass me with consideration, but I am truly thankful. If I see you in your yard as I run by I'll try to wave and say hello, because I'm neighborly that way. (I especially appreciate it if you keep your dogs under control in your yard- but that's a different topic.)
Finally, if the world is indeed coming to an end, the sky is falling, you're driving your pregnant, laboring wife to the hospital, or you've got to get to the bank before it closes and you really, truly can't spare an extra 15 seconds to slow down to under the speed of sound, take a quick glance in your rear-view mirror after you've blown past me. If you don't see me still running along, pull over and call 911, you may have just eliminated another obstacle from your path.