Friday, May 14, 2010

Oh, it's okay, I'll just dive into these shrubs over here...

The Greater Peoria Area has a surprisingly large and diverse population of runners. With this large running population comes great benefits, such as several running groups to train with, and lots of well-traveled running routes to choose from, and many local races to participate in. But there are also some difficulties associated with having so many runners concentrated in such a small area: a local shortage of anti-chafe cream, excessively-spit-covered roads and sidewalks, and a high number of poison ivy cases due to having to dive suddenly off a path when encountering a runner stampede.

Allow me to elaborate on that last point. You see, last night during our FAST run, I was getting toward the end of my warm-up and was happily running (by myself) along the path from the cemetery to the bottom of the Hill Of Death, when I encountered a stampeding herd of runners from another running group coming right at me. I moved to the far right side of the path, as is dictated by traditional running etiquette, so as not to get in their way. They, however, did not do the same. They continued to run four- and five-abreast, taking up the entire width of the path. The path is flanked on either side by large trees, shrubs and general wilderness. So the choice I had before me was to either (a) dive into the wilderness and hope I don't end up in a patch of poison ivy or (b) run directly into the oncoming runners. Since I was pretty sure I saw a rabid squirrel off to the side of the path, laughing at me in a sinister sort of way, I opted for choice (b). I looked right into the eyes of those oncoming runners and dared them to try and beat me in this athletic version of Chicken. I was thinking, "I'm pretty short. I can duck and run between their legs if necessary." Fortunately, the evil eye I was giving them was enough to divert them out of my way at the very last second. I came out of the stampede unscathed and, thankfully, poison-ivy-free.

But it was a close call... And it wasn't the first time I've nearly had to risk life and limb when encountering a group of runners who weren't following standard running etiquette. It really shouldn't be this way. The basic rules of running are easy enough for anyone to follow, whether they run in a large group or alone. They are nothing more than common sense and courtesy. But as the weather becomes nicer and more and more people are out running on the roads and trails, it behooves us to review these rules and keep them always in the back of our minds. (Yes, I really did use the word "behooves".) From the Road Runner's Club of America:

  • Run against traffic if running on the road. If running on the sidewalk or multi-use trails, travel on the right and pass on the left.
  • Never run more than two abreast if you are running in a group. Don’t be a road or trail hog.
  • Don’t run down the middle of the road or trail.
  • Alert pedestrians when you are passing them – don’t assume they are aware of their surroundings. A simple “on your left” warning will suffice.
  • Respect private property along your route. Don’t relieve yourself in the neighbor’s bushes.
  • Don’t litter. If you can’t find a trash can, carry your trash home.
  • Stop at stop signs and ensure oncoming traffic yields to you before proceeding across a road. Don’t assume cars will stop if you are entering a cross walk.

See? Common sense and courtesy. Respect your fellow runners, respect the planet, and respect motorists (especially the ones in the big SUV's). But I'd like to add a few of my own rules, because, well, it's my blog and I can do what I want. You don't have to follow them, but I think the world would be a nicer place if you did.

  • Nod, wave, smile, say "Hi" or do something.... anything... to acknowledge other runners when you pass them. Even if you feel like you're near death, remember, we're all in this together.
  • Look before you spit or snot-rocket.
  • If you must run with music, keep the volume down on your iPod so you can hear approaching cars and other people. Be alert to your surroundings.
  • Run with identification, especially if you're running alone. A Road ID is a great way to easily wear emergency info while running.
  • Be visible! I have noticed an alarming trend of runners wearing all black while running at night. While it's possible they're not actually runners, but ninjas, they should know that even ninjas can be killed by cars.

So now that you've been armed with this arsenal of road rules, go forth and spread the safety and courtesy. Together, we can reduce the incidence of poison ivy and rabid squirrel bites among runners! *begin motivational music* I have a dream... of a world where the Hummer always yields happily to the runner... of a world where nobody gets hit by the wayward snot-rocket... of a world where everyone runs on the right side of a running path... of a world where all runners - young and old, fast and slow, with Nike sponsorships and without - come together as one. Help me realize this dream! *dramatic end of motivational music*

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, maybe some of you are wondering about the FAST workout last night. After tackling the Hill Of Doom on Tuesday, could we possibly have to tackle the Hill Of Death on Thursday? That would be an awful lot of hills in one week! The answer is yes... and no. Yes, we had to tackle the Hill Of Death... but only once. So while we didn't have any crazy hill repeats, we did have to slog up it once. And that was plenty, believe me. It was humid last night. Very humid. And as a result, I felt sluggish. Very sluggish. You'll see this reflected in my graph below. The workout consisted of the following: 2 mile warmup to the cemetery and back, a pickup lasting from the bottom of the Hill Of Death to the entrance to Glen Oak Park, a recovery on the inner loop of Glen Oak Park, and another pickup from the end of the inner loop back to the bottom of the hill. After that, we had an easy jog over to the high school track across the street, and then some speedwork on the track. The speedwork varied depending on everyone's goals. The marathoners, like me, did 4 laps (1 mile) of running the straights hard and the curves easy. The 5k and 10k people did something that looked a lot like 200m race repeated several times. I'm not entirely sure what they were up to, but they were running extremely fast. I think this is part of how they are plotting your demise - by training to run at supersonic speeds. I am pretty sure I heard a sonic boom at some point. And I know it wasn't me! So either they were running really fast, or someone ate too many bean burritos for lunch.

The elevation chart (the green graph) shows the workout breakdown nicely. The first large hill was the warm-up to the cemetery and back. The second (and much larger) hill was the Hill Of Death, running through Glen Oak Park, and then running back down the Hill Of Death (which is not nearly so deadly in that direction). Finally, the flat part was the track. It was quite a variety for one workout, which kept things interesting.

As if dodging a stampeding herd of runners and avoiding rabid squirrels wasn't interesting enough.

Peace. Love. Train.

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