Let me start by saying YMMV (your mileage may vary). I run in rural upstate NY where the road is barely wide enough for two cars to pass and there are little or no shoulders. I also want to apologize, in advance, for length. I have written this in several sittings, all while telling myself I was going to take photos to go with it. Ooops.
A week or so ago, I made some verbal notes on my mp3 player for a blog post. In most cases, I would have run home, having finished my running for the day, showered and then typed up a blog post. Well … my life is never ordinary so here I am writing about the dangers that are lurking out on the road for those of us who run on roads. You are probably wonder where else someone would run, other than a road. Some places might be a track, a trail, the sidewalk (I wouldn’t recommend this one).
So what dangers are lurking on the roads in my area? What enemies are out there of the road runner? These “runemies” are the same in some other locales but some are probably a bit unique to my “neck of the woods.”
The biggest issue on my roads, or on any roads for that matter, is that huge hunk of metal known as an automobile or a truck. I use to think that all drivers – of which I am one so I understand some things – were cautious about pedestrians, runners, bicyclists. Now, I know better. I have, since a fall in May that caused some serious injuries, taken to giving the vehicles on the roads in my area the right of way. Why? Pure and simple. They are bigger than I am. If I anticipate two cars – one in each direction – are not going to be able to leave room on the road for me, it is easier to go willingly into the ditch than to be forced into it.
I have grave concerns when the county begins construction work on the bridge at the north end of the road I live on. This will force additional traffic to head south on the road and make running much more dangerous. I was concerned enough that I should up at a preliminary public hearing on the matter, but that is fodder for another day.
A subset, sort of, of the automobile is the snow plow. I know we do not all live where these creatures are necessary but rule number one in my safety book come winter is to not run when the plows are doing their thing. Realize that most plow drivers cannot see over the plows so you are not really visible at all to a plow driver at a close distance. Second reason is that I don’t like having to go in the ditch in the snow. Plows take up more space on the road than a car does so when one is out there, there is considerably less road to be on for me, the runner.
Probably one of the next most frequent problems encountered when running is animals. In my “neck of the woods,” – maybe I should emphasize woods somehow – this can be of two varieties: domestic and wild. Even the domestic animals are of two types: household pets and livestock. Yes, I have been known to have to stop to let a herd of cows cross for milking. My problem is generally with dogs but the occasional rafter (had to look that up AGAIN) of turkeys pass me. Dogs scare me. The turkeys, the deer are willing to share the outdoors with me. The dogs want to jump on me or jump and nip at me. More than any damage to me, I worry about the dogs that get in the road and do not immediately, once I pass, go back up into the yard. Many cars “fly” on the roads out here and those poor animals are just asking for trouble being out in the road.
I do have to warn my neighbors that I carry a cell phone with me. I have been known to call animal control on dogs that just do not go back to their own property. The town has a leash law so abide by it and keep me and your animals safe.
Probably one of the biggest issues, or dangers, when running is uneven pavement. I know most people think road running takes care of this issue as who can’t avoid a large pothole. This attitude is so far from the truth I don’t even know where to begin. Let me start with I wish I had a photo of the maintenance job my local county did on the road I live on. Everyone who lives in NYS knows that the state is broke. This broken state (some sort of word play here I am sure) has trickled down to local municipalities. To this end, one local town doesn’t pave roads. This particular local town tars and puts down a layer of loose stones. While this tends to be okay to run on, it is dangerous because cars kick up these loose stones all the time. It is also a danger should you be cross training on a bicycle.
Now, my road is a different story. It is maintained by the county. To cut costs on maintenance, the county paved just a third on each edge of the road. That is correct. The road looks striped. Not even the entire road was repaved, just parts where the edge was really worn. My oldest son has a good friend who has a motorcycle. He use to love riding on our road. Now he is scared because of all the different pavement levels. None of these patches are even with one another. This unevenness is a true hazard to runners.
On top of the pavement itself being uneven, there are all the little things drivers do not have to worry along the side of the road. You are wondering what I am speaking about. Think about your stride and then, consider what happens when your shoe comes down on a stick or branch. Another round danger is the pine cone. I have many different ones I avoid on a daily basis.
I am sure I am missing some major dangers out there. I haven’t even discussed weather because, as I use to tell my kids in team sports you just have to deal with the weather, just like you have to deal with officiating. But, what are your major dangers as you run? Animals? Vehicles? Pine cones?