I pride myself on playing it safe. When I run before dawn, I stick to well-lit streets, I wear a headlamp, a reflective vest, and my Road ID. Sometimes I carry a flashlight as an extra precaution.
Yet there I was at 4:05 a.m. yesterday, face down on the concrete, dazed and contused, a mess of blood, dirt, and tears.
Dodging danger had actually been a key motivation for getting out so early. With this late summer heat wave, and all the college kids returning, a super-early run promised breezy traffic-free miles. There is nothing as sacred as the peace of the streets before sunrise.
And in the cloak of darkness, I can dispense with any self-consciousness. I don’t have to worry about the fact that I look like a crossing guard. And I don’t have to worry about singing aloud; in fact I think it warns any oncoming raccoons, deer, or the pledges stumbling home from frat parties, to make way for the crazy runner.
So there I was, putt-putt-putting down the street, belting out the opening bars of Right By Your Side, (which, ironically, were “Give me two strong arms to protect myself”) when I saw an oncoming car, and lept to the sidewalk to get out of the way.
My toe hit the curb on the way over, and in a split second, I was airborne and pavement bound. On the way down, I jacknifed a metal waist-high bollard meant to prevent cars from veering on to the sidewalk.
I sat there for a second, unsure of whether to get up or give up.
Heck of a way to start off the day. We always like to say that running really grounds a person, but this is not exactly what we mean.
The damage is pretty minor. Have some road rash and bruises on the arms, rear, and knees. Luckily I missed the face and the teeth.
Now I fall a lot. I excel at it. I can trip over anything – pavement, rocks, roots, dust, air. Coach Bart Yasso has warned me repeatedly, in an I-mean-this-in-the-nicest-possible-way kind of tone, “Jennifer you are NOT a trail runner.” He is right. At the JFK 50-miler last year, I went down twice on the “easy” rails-to-trails section. The day before training started for the San Francisco Half-Marathon, I sprained my ankle while running in the woods, and couldn’t run for two weeks. Lesson learned: just stick to the streets.
Hmm. Guess this incident serves as a good reminder that no running plan is ever fail-proof or fall-proof. And with the changing seasons – shorter days, longer runs – perhaps I should have brushed up on our rules of the road.
Or maybe I should just stick to the treadmill.
Stay safe out there, folks.