Archive for September 21, 2010

I’d like you to do me a favor as I am truly struggling to understand something.

Please sit back in your chair and extend your arms out in front of you.

Bent slightly at the elbow, hands outstretched toward the edges of your computer screen.

Place your left hand at 9 o’clock and your right hand out at the 3 o’clock position in front of you.

Now, “turn” both of your hands counter-clockwise to the left about 3 inches, so your hands are now at 8 o’clock and 2 o’clock.

O.K., now turn them back to 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most difficult, how hard was that?

A one?  Two at the most?

So tell me why it is that at 6:00 a.m., with no other cars on the road in either direction for miles, would a driver on a four lane divided highway refuse to switch from the right lane to the left for only 5 seconds to give runners enough room to feel safe?

I mean, can’t we all just get along people?

Here in Austin they recently passed a law that motorists need to yield to cyclists on the road and allow them a full 3 foot berth when passing.  Seems reasonable, as those cyclists pay local taxes and federal taxes for the roadways just like the drivers of those automobiles.

But what about us runners?  Before we all leap to the, “why can’t you just run on the sidewalk” argument, which I understand appears to be a valid point of view from non-runners.  Let me just say that we are entitled to our spot on the road as well.

The reason that runners prefer the shoulder of the road, running against traffic is three-fold.

  1. Sidewalks are essentially 100% cement.  It is terrible for your knees, ankles, hips, back, tendons and cartridge if you are a high-mileage runner.  It frankly is terrible for you if you are a low-mileage runner.  It just isn’t realistic for us to run on cement and risk injury.
  2. Each intersection will require a small jump, leap, stride adjustment or change in our running economy as we go from block to block to block.  I counted more than 75 of these on my 12-mile run Sunday morning.  Again, not realistic.
  3. Lastly, runners “want” to be seen.  Running against the traffic allows runners to not only see the approaching cars, but to see ourselves, “be seen”.  Running on the sidewalk puts us directly in the line of fire with cars rolling through intersections, only looking to the left as they pull out on the road.  Dangerous stuff.

I think all of us would prefer to run on trails and parks if given the choice.  I know I would.  But we also have jobs, lives and other commitments that make it difficult to add a commute by car to said running trail or park if we are fortunate to have that option at all.

For some of us, that trail may be underwater or in a state of disrepair, which is the case right now for us who love to run on the Brushy Creek Trail in Austin.

Even on my “trail days”, I still log close to 2-3 miles on streets to get to and from the trail system.

This brings me back to my original point.

Can’t we all just get along?

Does it not take more energy to flash your high beams at me than to rotate your hands 3 inches to the left?

Does it not take more energy to honk your horn loudly as you speed past?

How about the driver who actually stops, turns around, comes back the other direction, stops again, turns back around for the second time to pull up next to me, proceed to put down their window and then yell something at me?

Again, 3 inches to the left.  Really?  Really.

I’m not a “Ranter” or an “Advocate”.  I’m not out to change the world, I just needed to get this off my chest.  We’re all in this together people.

Life is a garden.  Dig it.

So the next time you see a distance runner out there, battling the elements, fatigue, hills and their own will to keep going – show them some love – turn those hands on the wheel to the left those three inches and give them a little room out there.

If you do that I bet you’ll even get a wave from the runner as they go by, a smile and a thank you.  I know every car that passed me with that level of consideration on Sunday morning did.

As for the driver in the white Ford Aerostar who decided that the right lane was just too precious a commodity to give up Sunday at 6:22 a.m. on Avery Ranch Road – I’m really sorry that you haven’t “gotten it” yet.  Perhaps things will turn around for you soon, and priorities in life will become more clear to you in the coming years. 

But today, I feel sorry for you.  You missed one hell of a sunrise on Sunday, as you were too busy honking at that annoying runner who was taking up “your” lane to notice.

Next time maybe you’ll give up those 3 inches.  Sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.