Even though the Boston Marathon is still two months away, the course is already busy on weekend mornings. Locals start running the course – portions of it, at least – in January, ignoring the cold, snow, and hostility of sedentary motorists unwilling to share the road.
Witness the complaint (right) to the Hopkinton Police Department:
Officer O’Brien’s fine police work notwithstanding, let’s be honest: At one point, the runners probably were in the lane. And what of it? Middle-of-the-road running is sometimes necessary when there is three feet of dirty snow on the road shoulder, and icy trails are impassable.
We shouldn’t run in the road when there’s a car bearing down, of course. But when there’s a break in the traffic, what’s wrong with a careful runner occupying the blacktop? Bicyclists are allowed there.
So, yes, you unidentified caller, I confess. That was me brazenly running down the center of a snow-narrowed road earlier today. Yup, right in the middle. I call it Runner’s Roulette, and yes, I know, the Road Runners Club of America does not approve.
But when you really need to run, and find your neighborhood has somehow been replaced by Siberia and the only snow-free zone is the road, what can you do? Leave the headphones at home, dress for high visibility, and run down a less-traveled road.
I always begin cautiously, trotting as close to the icy edge of the road as I dare, and every time a car emerges on the horizon, I stop and climb atop the snowbank on the side of the road, meekly offering the right-of-way.In time, however, I get brash, emboldened by endorphins and the cold. I still listen for the faint rumble that indicates a car making an approach, and yes, I move over as soon as I see someone coming.
But as the miles pass, if I’m not careful, I get a little more defiant, a little less meek. I may not have the right-of-way, but I have the moral high ground here, dammit. It’s 20 degrees and sleeting. I am exercising, bud! What have you done strenuous today, besides getting out of bed?
Okay, this is why the sedentary hate runners.
I ramp down the attitude.
But if no one’s in my lane, not even close, you bet I’ll be running in it. Why waste perfectly salted pavement that’s empty, lonely, calling out to be used? Even in the summer, I confess to occasionally drifting into the center of the road if no cars are around. For one thing, running on the side of the road all the time is horrible for your legs. The slant of the road – called the camber –causes unevenness in your strike and leads to all sorts of nasty overuse injuries, such as iliotibial-band syndrome.
So, too, does that Lilliputian track at the local Y, which you have to run around for approximately the length of time of the Academy Awards ceremony before you achieve a mile.
That said, there were at least two cases last year in which runners were arrested for running in the road: one man, on a highway in Canada; the other, on a street in Salem, N.H. We all know pedestrians aren’t allowed on highways, and common sense says you don’t run down the center of a busy street, particularly after–hello?–you’ve already been arrested twice for the same offense. So some sanity is required. I like this lawyer’s tips for safe road running, particularly his suggestion to wave at motorists to quell the animosity. If I get arrested, I’m calling him.
Then again, maybe I should rethink any exercise routine that involves me scoping out a lawyer.
SALTIES, DO YOU RUN IN THE CENTER OF THE ROAD? IS IT EVER JUSTIFIED? ANY TIPS?