A Change Of Pace, Part 1

There is one particular thing which I consider the bane of running at any time of the day, no matter where you happen to live, and that one thing is called simply ‘automobile traffic.’ I can avoid other runners, and I can avoid bicyclists and I can even avoid those kids who insist on plaguing the sidewalk with skateboards and scooters.

But I doubt that I could outrun a 1982 Caprice in westbound traffic on a major road at the peak of the morning rush hours. This is not to say that I haven’t been forced to make the attempt to outrun this Caprice and hence outwit its distracted driver. This is in fact what happened to me a few days ago.

Before I relate the story of this near-idiotic scene which almost happened between me and a scruffy little man in a beaten up sedan, I wish to tell you what my runs are like when there is a lot of traffic on the streets.

First of all, because there are many major local roads along my usual running routes (and one that stretches from Detroit to somewhere out west), I am used to stopping once in a while. I don’t mind the red lights, for it is entertaining to watch intrepid cyclists ignore the red lights around here, and it is probably entertaining for the drivers to watch me stretch and run in place.

Therefore, on especially heavy days, the rhythm is like this — run, run in place, run, run in place, run, run in place and get sideswiped by a kid on a scooter, run … well, you get the idea. It isn’t overwhelmingly easy to work up a good running pace, and I find pace very crucial to my best
running.

So, I will now tell you what is specifically bothering me about automobile traffic when I am running, and it has to do with this person that almost cut my running career short by cutting me a little short with the front bumper of that battleship-sized car. Crossing the street while the “Walk” sign was lit is exactly what I remember being taught in driver’s education as being the time when one is to cross.

However, this 1982 Caprice did not share this safety-minded philosophy, as evidenced by his crossing the white line while his light was red. Inches, folks. Inches at 35 miles per hour. I was horrified at the prospect of coming within inches of not being able to run, walk or pummel this person for being so careless. However, by the time I got to thinking about using a primitive brand of persuasion, he was at the next intersection, so I had to continue running. Fortunately, the rest of the run was traffic-free, as I was unprepared to face another moving vehicle that morning.

The lesson here is that, as a runner, you have to face the brute force of man’s invention on a daily basis. It could be a Schwinn mountain bike with 24 speeds, three coolers for convenient water storage, and a horribly uncomfortable sport seat or a large, apparently immobile construction vehicle which nearly turns you into ground fill as it springs to action while you run behind it.

You are just a human being, naked to the forces of nature and the enhanced mobility of humankind. You are a runner, and these forces are working against you in a way unique to people who are participants in other sports.

After all, I doubt you’ve ever seen an SUV try to barrel over John Elway in the middle of Bronco Stadium, or a bullpen car attempt to run down Nolan Ryan at the Astrodome. They just don’t happen to the rich and famous athletes in stadiums where there isn’t convenient vehicle access as such.

It is not times such as that one which I described, however, that actually bother me to a point where I want to bang on cars with my shoes.

On Sunday mornings, when people are in church or at some quiet place having a family breakfast or in bed or wherever, I almost always can run through the streets interrupted only by the occasional thud of someone falling out of bed.


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