The other day a co-worker (a non-runner) came in my classroom and said, “I’ve got a question for you, Runner Girl.” I thought he was going to ask how to start a running program, or maybe ask about an injury. I didn’t expect him to say, “Look. Yesterday I was stopped at a stop sign, about to turn, and this runner just showed up in front of me, OUT OF NOWHERE. I almost hit him. What do I do in a situation like this?” He was clearly shaken up about the situation, but surprisingly didn’t rip on the runner. He actually just wanted a runner to advise him on how to deal with “all of those runners on the road.”
I paused before answering him, not really sure whose side I was on at the moment. On one hand, I wanted to be a voice for “my people” and offer practical advice about drivers dealing with runners. I wanted to even stand up for runners everywhere and their rights to enjoy a run without getting nailed while crossing the street. Finally, I had “one of them” right in front of me- all of those years of frustration about “those drivers” could soon be remedied! God knows I had plenty of close calls of “idiot drivers” not paying attention to lowly runners like myself. Yet, I realized that those close calls were not always the driver’s fault. I had to admit that sometimes the close calls were brought on by me thinking that because I was a runner… I could simply run without stopping at corners. I had been running around (literally) thinking that my being a runner trumped exercising common sense and safety at all times.
Now, before my family members reading this start plotting their Runnerchica intervention, I must say the majority of the time, I did and do look both ways and obey pedestrian laws. But, talking to my friend that day, I realized that I, and others like me, were indeed guilty of being just like the bat out of hell my friend came to talk to me about.
So, my answer to my friend went something like this. “Look, I have to tell you, I know exactly what you mean. We runners, can be idiots. Sometimes we do blow in out of nowhere, and I know we probably freak you out. Heck, other runners do it to me when I’m driving. I get what you’re saying.”
Yet, being a runner, I couldn’t give it all up. I had to share something I have noticed many times while running.
“The one scenario that stands out in my mind involves drivers turning right. They’re stopped at a stop sign, and they look left- naturally to see if anything is coming, and if they can proceed to the right. The problem happens when the driver feels it’s all clear left, and then doesn’t look right, to the sidewalk and its pedestrian traffic. This is where runners can come out of nowhere and then get hit when proceeding.”
This is true, it happens. Out of nowhere, runners approach cars that look like they are “playing nicely” waiting for the all clear. Yet, unbeknownst to the runner, the driver isn’t even considering the direction the runner is coming from. They are only focused in one direction, not considering the whole picture.
I finished my runner discussion by borrowing a phrase from an old friend. “What you gotta do… is keep your head on a swivel. Always watch out for the other guy.”
As I thought about that conversation later in the day and week, I realized that keeping our heads on a swivel is a good idea on the road, and pretty much everywhere in life. It’s not the runners vs. the drivers, or vice versa. We share the roads… the planet for that matter… with a lot of people.
And if we’re only looking in one direction, we’re bound to miss the things we really need to see.
So, keep moving forward, friends… but don’t ever forget to look both ways before crossing the street.
by abbey algiers
READ “Head on a Swivel” again… on the Runner’s World Website!