Friday, August 17, 2007

Seriously, Someone Else Can Get Your Boss His Coffee This Morning

In addition to being great exercise for the body as well as the mind, running offers many unsung benefits. One of these (if you do any amount of road running) is the excitement of knowing that you could become nothing more than a clumpy, hot asphalt grease spot at virtually any given moment during your run. I guess this knowledge is always in the back of your head somewhere, but it's typically manhandled and bitch-slapped around by that part of your consciousness that thinks you're basically invincible.

I don't mean to imply that I'm not extremely careful when I'm out there, because I am. Any runner worth his salt knows to treat every car as the instrument of death that it can easily be and to never, EVER assume that a driver sees you. We know all these things, and we're very careful, but just being out there is a risk in itself so you have to silence some of these cautious voices, if just a little. It has to be this way, or we road-runners would never really get any quality miles in because we would piss our already sweat-soaked shorts at every busy intersection.

Every so often, however, I experience one of those "Holy shit, I seriously almost died just then" situations that rock me harder than a Poison coverband. You know, the kind of thing you would never tell your mother because you're glad she doesn't have insomnia and two stomach ulcers from worrying about you. Today I had one of those experiences.

I have a half marathon tomorrow (which I'm not racing, but I'll be running fairly hard) so today was a very light easy day - about 4.5 m at a 7:40 pace. Really just to stay loose. Lately I've been doing my runs in the mornings because it's been hot enough to melt sky-scrapers in the afternoons. Seriously, if you wanted to replicate running in our current weather conditions on a treadmill you would need two assistants: one to continuously pour hot soup over your entire body and one to hold a soggy pillow over your face holes so all you are able to breath is recycled steam and sweat. Really, it's pretty bad.

The problem is that in a city like Charlotte, which has such a healthy population of bankers and other less important professionals, you've got some pretty gnarly morning traffic. Even at 6:00 AM, when most respectable analysts, fund managers, and what-have-you are either just starting to shake off that early morning wood or maybe letting Mulligan out to shit in the neighbors yard, you will indeed encounter several piss ant, bitter-because-I'll-never-make-it-to-the-top, no talent ass hats out on the road driving like there's a race to get their boss' coffee and they're in last place.

In addition to this, if you know anything about Charlotte you know we've got some pretty F'd up roadways and intersections. The best way to describe it is this: Picture taking a very complex system of trolley railways built around 1670 or so and placing another equally complex, yet totally different system of "modern" roads on top of it. Now convert the railways into roads too, intersecting and criss-crossing the existing roadways in all different ways and places. It looks this way because this is exactly what happened. It's about as tangled and unsightly as a Ukrainian orgy.

It was on my way through one of these hermaphroditic intersections (Kings and Morehead, for the natives) that my life was nearly ended this morning by this bluetooth cock-neck, wielding a semi-late model BMW 325i as his only weapon and source of self pride. His entry-level, helmet licker blue imitation luxury sport sedan screamed past me at about 1000 mph, missing me by literally inches as he body-rolled through his right hand turn (I had the crosswalk by the way).

First of all, if I go out road kill style, it better not be on the grill of some pussy ass wannabe-mobile. If I'm goin' down it better be the biggest, loudest, dirtiest, tires so big they're not even legal, banged-your-girlfriend-last-night Ford Mega-ExpeHummerExcursion out there. That way in my last breath I can at least say, "I lost the battle today, but at least I was laced up against the baddest mother fucker out there."

The thing is, these things happen when you least expect them. I know two runners who have been hit by cars (one by a bus, actually), and obviously neither of them saw it coming. We all have close calls - I once had to jump up on the hood of a Mustang that almost crushed me turning right into a MEDICAL center, of all places. When these things happen, it makes you realize just how much more defensive you need to be, and how much more of your focus needs to be on the traffic around you. I like to think that every close call makes me that much more aware of the cars around me, and in turn that much safer.

I guess in a weird way it just gives me a little comfort to think that maybe if I hadn't ALMOST gotten hit today, I might have GOTTEN killed tomorrow.