Running. Whatever. We’ve all heard the back and forth. Most everyone hates it, some people endure it, and a slim few love it.
I’ve experienced the full spectrum, but a couple days ago, on a jog out my front door in Sandy, Utah, for the most part I hated it. And here’s why.
As I prepared to head out, an enveloping cloud layer took the temp down a notch. Pleasant and cool, good for the brain. Once laced and out the door however, the sky cracked open and direct rays stabbed at the entire valley with sticky heat. Summer 2013 is another scorcher in Utah, and June has been five degrees above the historical average for Salt Lake.
I bore down Fort Union, a main thoroughfare, and along the sidewalk a billion cars zoomed past, twisting and turning, honking and sneezing. Stop lights stopped me every few blocks and the concrete scooped up the heat and followed me every step, as I boiled away in a micro-climate of sweat and exhaust.
I am not tough like some, and had probably gone one mile at this point. My friend Sarah just ran a 100-mile ultra with an average elevation of 11,186 feet and 33, 992 feet of climbing. And she probably didn’t write a blog griping about it.
I thought a run on flat pavement would prove to be fast and clean, like floating on clouds after the steep terrain of the mountains, but yet it just felt soggy with a high gravitational pull clamping my feet to the sidewalk.
At a street crossing a bulky SUV approached, wanting to turn right as I was hoping to cross the street and continue my path, it kept lurching forward, the driver looking over his left shoulder to find an opening to gun it, but not once checking to his right. The marked crosswalk and walk signal gave me priority but his steel cage would knock me senseless in a game of chicken.
He was simply going to turn right as he pleased, as he nosed over the crosswalk. I watched it all, thinking where my body would be, crumpled in the road, if contact was made. As the driver completed the turn, still not having looked right, I gave his window a nice open-palmed high five, with the dull thud reverberating through my own earphones.
He jumped. His frame jolted away from he and his mouth in a small circle, gaping. Now he looked my direction and saw a red-faced runner (not from rage, just hot) inches from his glass, pointing at the blinking electronic white man and the thick stripes of paint universally acknowledged as a place that people walk across. Maybe he thought he hit me, as the car crept forward, nearly stopping, as if to consider seeing what had happened.
I ran off.
Onward to find some rhythm in these streets of incessant distractions. Heartbeat up, breathing hard, sweating, blasting the Black Keys, I held to that universal truth of running as prime conditioning to keep my motivated and moving forward.
Headed down 1300 east on a long and wide avenue, I again made a straightforward move to cross a street, over a crosswalk, wearing a bright yellow shirt, to add. I slowed my run, locking eyes onto the driver of the car approaching the crosswalk as she didn’t seem to stop. Now quite close, the passenger appeared to mouth something direct and firm to her, as she saw and crunched the brakes to heave the car forward, the woman batting her hands in front of her face in nervousness at the shock of nearly plowing down another human.
It was only one hand, actually, as she gripped a cell phone in the other, and was soon giggling and laughing to the other end of the call, now over the brief fright. I shook my head and crossed.
I finished the run and despite my annoyances and bad attitude, I was glad to be outside, getting exercise, and breathing hard. But two near misses with large cars had me worried.
And apparently I should be. There are a reported 270,000 pedestrian deaths worldwide according to the WHO with 47, 392 deaths happening in the US from 2001-2010, according to the CDC. Utah averages about 40 fatalities a year.
Using my favorite comparison indicator to show the reality of things we perceive are dangerous, and vice versa, there have been 36 total fatalities from shark attacks in the US since the year 1670.
We’ve all spaced out when driving, and let’s be real, a lot of use our phones even when it’s illegal, but that’s a whopping number of people dying just for walking down the streets.