Monday, December 2, 2013

Run Defensively

Moments before, I had been happily driving along with my friend to be inducted into a national honor society ceremony at our college.  She sat on the passenger side putting on her last touches of makeup. 

I was driving, and I watched a man coming toward me with his left blinker on.  I looked in disbelief, he was so close to me, there was no way he could make the turn.

That was my last thought.  I have the right of way. 

My very next memory, was waking up in my mom’s smashed up car with a stranger cradling my head and neck. I had shifted from the driver’s seat to the middle of the car.  

EMTs started putting me on a board, strapping me down, and carefully removing me from a broken window.  My body was convulsing and the man who I woke up next to (I’ll save that one for another story) was leaning toward me saying: “It’s OK, you’ve been in an accident.  You’re OK”….

This was over 25 years ago. 

Decades of lingering pain in my neck, back and knees have taught me something very important.  Thinking – or even knowing – that you SHOULD have the right of way does not mean anything if those around you are not clued in.

Sometimes, it’s better to let the wrong person have the right of way and live to run another race (and maybe flip ‘em off).

Remember when you were learning to drive and your mom or dad would say “Drive defensively”? 

Or how about, “Don’t trust that driver’s blinker.  It’s been on since 1957”.  Remember that one?

Well, the same principle applies to running. Simply put, you need to run defensively.  Not only because drivers still do the same stupid things, but also because we are running without the aid of the car’s protective metal shell.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been nearly run over on the sidewalk as some hurdles backward out of their driveway, utterly oblivious to the idea that there might be a pedestrian on the sidewalk. 

You probably have seen this one…Someone is making a right hand turn, but only bothers to look left. No cars are coming that way, right? Why bother to look?

The fact is that drivers are often oblivious to us runners. They are basically good people – but the simple truth is pedestrians are not their priority.  Oftentimes, it’s work, a distracted mind, a list of things to do, traffic, etc.  We are just not in their thoughts.

I was lucky 25 years ago.  I was in a car.  But I was naive, a new young driver. I assumed we all play by the rules all the time.  It’s my turn, I go.  It’s your turn, you go.  No cutting the line.  Like I said, I was young. 

Now, when I see the oblivious driver, texting, talking, or looking the other way, I still get that same thought…

I am on the sidewalk. I am in the crosswalk. I have the right of way

Only now, I have a second sentence run through my head.

Who cares.  Stop anyway. 

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