Where Can a Renner Run?
How Cluelessness Impedes Our Fitness
A recent poll showed that a staggering 100% of the local population loves big road races such as the Boston Marathon. Surprisingly, in the same pole, 50% of those same respondents said that if they came across a runner in a non-race situation, they would either throw trash at him, spit or shout something clever like ‘Run Forest Run’. It must be noted that this wasn’t exactly a pole; it was more along the lines of me asking two people who I saw arguing with a street sign outside of North Station. Not scientific (or even recommended), but the point was clear: it’s not easy to be a runner in Boston.
This got me thinking about just what exactly is sacred ground for runners these days? I don’t ask for much; I just want to be able to run without people forcing me to give the finger or moon them (yep, I’ve been known to show some cheek). Just where can we go to unleash our inner speed demons without having to worry about interference or pissing anybody off?
Treadmills can be a royal pain with all of their rules, although they can be a life saver in the tough winter months. Speed limits, time limits, and knowing that no matter how fast you go, you won’t be able to escape the smelly/wheezy guy next to you are all good reasons to avoid them. Plus, farting and spitting in the gym are highly frowned upon. All these reasons are enough for me to forego the treadmill for all the promises of an outdoor run.
When it comes to the streets vs sidewalks great debate, I go with the streets every time unless I’m pretty much forced onto the sidewalk. Sidewalks are for pedestrians and there’s nothing at all pedestrian about what we are trying to accomplish. Drivers don’t seem to understand this and don’t want to give us our right of way. The crosswalk is a prime example; why must motorists insist on driving through it when they clearly have to yield? Do that to me and you’ll get the same reaction as if you just made a pass at my woman. Punching a car as it drives by you is a great way to get their attention and the reactions are fun to watch. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t do any harm to the car, but from the inside it sounds like someone bounced a brick off of it.
Cyclists are another fun lot to deal with. Some of them will give you grief for running in the road, but what can you do? Up on the sidewalks you have to deal with pedestrians and….you guessed it….more cyclists. You can have the road or the sidewalk, but I won’t give you both. There’s enough road for everybody, and I think runners in general are good about ceding the right of way. We need the streets, the sidewalks just aren’t a good option. As morbid obesity tightens its grip on modern day America, the sidewalks are not widening to meet the demands of the expanding waistlines. If you’re running on one, odds are you’ve got an obstacle course set out before you. No thanks, I’d rather deal with lousy drivers.
Escaping it all is another option, and the Charles River is a very popular reprieve for many Boston area runners. The activity along the river seems to move in sync with the seasons, and is somewhat comical. Most people seem to go into hibernation as the weather takes a turn for the worse, but one can’t get used to the resulting peace. Just when one becomes accustomed to the relative solitude, the weather turns and everything springs back to life….including the habits of the wannabes. Watching these people venture back out doors is akin to observing new born animals: bewildered, frightened looks on their uncertain faces and some of them even have a funny walk like a day old fawn trying to get her legs under her. How are we supposed to get in a tempo run when John Doe forgot what it’s like to be out in public and is clomping all over the path? And don’t forget the groups that form a human chain as if they’re with Greenpeace and are attempting save California redwoods from the bulldozers.
Well, the track has got to be a place for us runners to go and let fly, right? Apparently the general population doesn’t know how to read, because nobody follows the rules. All you want to do is mind your own business and crank out some quarters, but no….you have to worry about all sorts of hazards. The two worst offenders seem to be bad parents and lacrosse players. Some of these so-called parents pronounce the word track as playground and let their offspring do whatever wherever, with no concern for their kids’ safety or the safety of anybody else out there.
Then you have the lacrosse players and their complete lack of respect for the track. Not only are the fields and sidelines not enough, but then they need to mess around in lanes 1 and 2 as well? Give me a break! For example, say you’re doing mile repeats and you come upon a couple of lacrossholes swinging their sticks in lane 1. You say ‘track’, they just barely get out of the way in time. You never disappear from their sight, as you’re traveling around an oval with nothing blocking the view, reappearing 80ish seconds later at the same spot you were in earlier, and they act surprised to you again? Really? Where do they think you went? It must be black magic! They view the track the way people viewed the Earth 500 years ago: flat. In their minds I was a crazy guy who fell off the edge at the end of the straightaway.
Where ever you go, remember these words of advice: take your right of way, the crosswalk is your friend, and faster the pace the cooler it is to moon somebody who heckles you.
I assure you there’s not typo in the title. This was my first published piece of writing and it appeared in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Level Renner. It’s not my strongest work but it just might be my most important (personally) because of the path that it set me on. Kevin (the editor) threw in a line at the end that said:
Eric Narcisi runs fast for Whirlaway. Watch out: he may become a regular columnist for The Level.
A few months (and columns) later the website goes up and all of a sudden I’m the web director. Who knew? Funny how that worked out.