A Change Of Pace, Part 2

Background noise is never a problem. Unless it is some high school student thinking that the whole world listens to hip hop, And, as a public service, plays it loud enough so that we all may partake in the aural delight of such modern virtuosos as Master P and Snoop Doggy Dogg (you know, the Carnegie Hall crowd).

The problem is the one car that manages to screw with your pacing on that otherwise quiescent Sunday morning. Usually, it happens within the last mile of your run, condemning your last mile to some mediocre and unmentionable time.

Another way in which traffic can really be the harbinger of doom for a good run stems from a lack of one particular item on more rural roads. Sidewalks are a very humane invention, for they keep people off the streets and in the runner’s path where they belong. Actually, I do prefer sidewalks to the alternative, which is the bare side of the road.

Around Ann Arbor, there are many small communities with many rural routes ideal for a run, assuming that you can avoid being plowed over by the odd farmer driving a tractor with that humungous sprayer attached to the back. Better still, the semi-dazed people with trucks that sit on wheels whose diameter rivals the tallest buildings today are also potential trouble.

As rural roads sometimes lack lane markers, these people take it upon themselves to drive “English style” and nearly turn you into runner ala Goodyear Radial. I often wish for sidewalks in the country for these very reasons, but then, it would clash with the trees and the high grass and the other pretty things out there.

As a runner, I am sad to report that it is now almost impossible to completely escape these contraptions of man. Even if you find one of those very isolated spots in the Western US in which to run, chances are you drove to it (or part of the way) and you’ll see a car (even your own) at some point in the journey.

In suburban American, where I reside, there is no possible way to avoid the automobile. You are confined to getting a good pace on the few long stretches of lightly traveled sidewalk which remain, and if you’re in my geographic position, those are on the other side of town (Murphy’s Law strikes again!).

Not being one to ever fall to defeat unless there was no alternative, I am always looking for ways to live harmoniously with the automobile as I run.

Thus far, the best solution I have found is to use raised medians, though people stare and point and it really looks rather inane, especially as you know people are wondering why you would choose the precise middle of the road in which to run. Hey, at least people don’t drive on the raised medians, but some people do drive on the sidewalks. This is a university town. I’ve seen it.

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