Back in 1999, author Stephen King was struck and seriously injured by a minivan while walking on the shoulder of the road near his summer home in Maine. The driver was distracted by his dog in the back of the minivan and was apparently not driving recklessly, speeding, nor had he been drinking. King’s injuries, which included a collapsed right lung, multiple fractures of his right leg, cuts to his scalp, and a broken hip kept him in the hospital for almost a month.
I run every morning on rural Wisconsin roads. Like Stephen King, I go against traffic. I also wear a reflective vest. While I’m on my run, I see perhaps 3 cars. If I run later, mid-morning, that number increases to about a dozen.
I appreciate those people who either slow down a bit as they come toward me and those who, as they approach, veer a little over the center line to give me a bit more room. Being appreciative of this kindness, I began waving at those motorists and saying “THANK YOU” as they passed.
Back in January, while running in the dark, a car (I’m assuming they weren’t expecting to encounter a runner at 5:30 am) came so close to me that I stumbled down the snowy embankment. I think they were as shocked by the closeness of the encounter as I since they slowed and pulled over—to check that I was ok (I again assume). They then continued on their way.
|Huey-Girl and I|
After waving and thanking anyone who shows me courtesy, I began to think…while it is nice to be nice to people who are nice, how can I get more drivers to be…to be NICE and give me some space? I figured that if a driver made a connection with me, I could be their sister, wife, mother, or maybe just that “nice, crazy running lady with the dog”…well, maybe more people would move over and running would be safer for me.
|This is my gym.|
In March, on a crisp, bright, spring morning, as I was running on the left and making a left turn onto a new road, a car making a right turn came so close that I slipped on the gravel (as I swerved off the pavement to get out of the way) and took a digger. Fortunately, my running pants and mittens protected me from the worst of the rocky impact. The driver didn’t stop.
Now, I wave at every car that approaches me. It’s nice when I see a neighbor! Even when a stranger passes, sometimes the driver waves back, sometimes both the driver and passenger wave!
After I began my “wave at everybody” plan, I realized that it does take my focus off of safety. This became apparent when I allowed a car to get so close to me that the rearview mirror almost hit my outstretched hand.
As I look back over what I’ve written here, I realize that my mom will probably age 10 years reading this. What is the answer? I don’t want to get smashed up like Stephen King. (He endured five operations and physical therapy after nearly loosing his leg.) My dog, Huey, loves and needs the exercise. I enjoy the stretched-out highway, the quiet, the time to myself to think my deep thoughts.
Now, maybe I should just drive into town where I can run on the sidewalk… Maybe I should wear a helmet like motorcycle riders do… Maybe I should just run on the treadmill in my basement… Maybe I should just stick to exercising in the evening at the Y… Maybe I should ask my husband to check-out military full-body armor… maybe, maybe, maybe…