Hey runner, got a light?

Seriously?

Today’s run (street): 4.4 miles

I was about halfway through today’s run when I noticed a guy exiting a small neighborhood park, holding a cigarette. I saw him from about thirty feet away, walking towards the street. The man began crossing the road and I wondered if I’d need to run around him. As I got closer he asked, “Got a lighter?” I yelled back, “I run, why would I smoke?” I didn’t hear his response, but I’m sure it wasn’t a compliment regarding my active lifestyle.

There were lots of people out this morning, and almost everyone I encountered on today’s run made me question the intelligence of the average person. Shortly after my exchange with cigarette guy, I saw two women walking side by side on the right side of the road. My neighborhood has no thoroughfares, but a few roads (like this particular one) have steady traffic. I felt I should advise them on the danger of walking with your back to traffic. They acknowledged my point, but I saw them later on the run and they were still tempting fate on the wrong side of the road.

These women weren’t the only people I saw walking with traffic, but I decided to stop playing safety patrol after that. There was a couple walking on the right, who spaced themselves so wide that the man was positioned in the middle of a busy road. He was a big boy, and I just hoped his size would be noticeable to drivers who would brake, thinking he was a Fiat 500.

Between the careless walkers, cyclists without helmets and drivers that ignore stop signs as a matter of course, I’m often frustrated with neighborhood running. That’s why I love running Stillwell, Trailview and Bethpage. Except, of course, for those big hills.

Which side should you run on a bike trail?

My halfway point on the northern trail

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 6.5 miles

I managed to get out of the house fairly early this morning and got to Bethpage just after 7:00 AM. The heat was moderate at that time and conditions were pleasant at the start. I’d taken along the cooling bandanna in anticipation of the rapidly increasing temperature and I think it helped. The morning sun was low enough to be blocked by the trees, so the first miles on the northern bike path were well shaded.

As I made my way up the hill leading to the trail head, I thought about the New Hyde Park 8K that was due to start at 8:30. I’ve run the last four races, but I decided to skip it this year. I didn’t really like my experience in 2012. It’s a fine event that I’ve enjoyed in the past, but I felt it was time for a change. Besides that, I don’t feel prepared for competitive running right now.

My first steps on the bike trail felt odd. Had someone told me that I’d gained 30 lbs. overnight, I probably would have believed them. It was Virtual Heaviness Syndrome, as explained here in simple terms. I didn’t feel especially tired or low on energy, my body just felt heavy. I figured I’d propel myself along and hope for the best.

There were a surprising number of cyclists on the trail and a smaller number of runners and walkers. I got plenty of “on your left!” warnings from approaching bikers. I began to wonder, after all these years, whether I should be running on the left side of the bike path, just like on the road. After studying the other runners and walkers, I decided there are no rules, but people generally keep to the right. I read later that runners should stay to the far left, but I think that person had a cycling-centric view. Probably wishful thinking, rather than accepted practice.

I was originally planning to run all the way to Washington Ave. and turn around, but that would have put me past 7 miles (out and back) and I wasn’t looking to do that today. Instead, I turned around where the trail showed 3.1 miles, making my total run (including segments from the trail to the lot) 6.5 miles. I ended up gaining strength as the run went on and finished strong.

I really like the the Bethpage trail because the out and back route makes base run distances seem more manageable. There are lots of hills and you feel like you’re getting a workout, but it’s never intolerable. I was able to stay relatively cool today by going early, but by mid summer it will be tough going. Fortunately, the wooded trails run directly below and/or adjacent to the paved trail, so I’ll be able to duck onto the dirt paths for some relief from the sun.

The Emerging Runner risk mitigation policy

What’s wrong with is picture (see rule #1)?

Running after Hurricane Sandy (though I think we’re supposed to call it a “post-tropical cyclone” now) has become a little more complicated and dangerous. I do everything I can to avoid risk when I’m out on the roads, but two weeks after Sandy hit, my local streets are still covered with debris. In addition, some roads still have hanging or fallen wires, along with electrical cords running across the street from neighbors sharing generator power.

I got a comment from Running On Candy who expressed concern about the dangers of the road under these conditions. I was horrified to read that she had some close calls with cars due to limited room on the roads that she runs. I’m a low risk runner and, even under the best conditions, I’ll never cross a busy road on a run unless traffic is sparse. I’ll only run on a main road if there’s a sidewalk and most of my runs happen within my neighborhood or at parks and preserves like Stillwell and Bethpage.

I occasionally see a hostile dynamic with drivers who don’t like the idea of sharing the road with runners. Ask any runner and they’ll tell you the same. I also don’t trust that drivers are paying attention or consider stop signs anything more than a suggestion. For what it’s worth, this is the The Emerging Runner’s risk mitigation policy:

  1. Always run on the left side of the road (facing traffic).
  2. Assume that every driver is distracted, drunk, high, texting, on the phone or incompetent.
  3. Do not run on main roads that don’t have a sidewalk.
  4. Keep in single file formation when running with others on the street.
  5. Wear bright, colorful, reflective clothing no matter what time of day you run.
  6. Wear a reflective vest when it’s dark, at dawn and at dusk.
  7. Wear a headlamp or some type of light when running in dark (too be seen as much as to see).
  8. Avoid crossing four-lane roads, even those that have traffic lights.
  9. Don’t listen to music at a level that will drown out the sound of approaching cars.
  10. Always have an exit strategy for cars (run up on the lawn, prepare to dive into a snowbank).

It’s also a good idea to bring a phone and carry ID of some kind for emergencies. Accidents can be avoided as long as runners consider their safety as importantly as the do their workout.