Out Walking and Running? Pay Attention!

John Faith has been with Metro Run and Walk since 2004

John has been with Metro Run and Walk since 2004 and enjoys being active!

I’ve stopped running again – a long story I’ll bore you with sometime, but the arthritis that’s eating me alive from inside is playing havoc with my lower lumbar spine.  So I’m back to “race” (brisk) walking.  (In fact, I’ll be doing the Reston Triathlon next weekend, and will walk the run.)

But I digress.  I was out doing my usual five mile loop in the hills of North Arlington a couple of days ago, when a car nearly clipped me in a crosswalk, reminding me of an incident hat happened to me last winter that was going to be the subject of one of these monthly musings.

I actually began this article last winter, but Helen thought it might be better presented in the form of a video on the Metro Run and Walk website.  Of course, that thought horrified me, as I’m deathly afraid of speaking in front of people, even as removed from an audience as the recording the video in the back of the store might have been.  Thankfully, I think she forgot about it in the crush of the needs of the store this past year, and I certainly didn’t press it!

I’m reminded of the situation last winter every now and again, as I was on my recent walk, and I think it bears repeating – especially as the days become shorter as we head into my favorite time of year, Fall, and visibility becomes compromised at dawn and dusk when so many of us are out there getting our workouts in.

The urgency of the situation still resonates within me as I read the opening lines from the article I started months ago:

“This will be a very brief article this month.  It’s addressed to all you walkers and runners – and drivers.  I actually wrote it earlier in the month, but I needed to get it down because it shook me so very much.  Now, nearly a month later, it still shakes me.

“I almost killed a man last night as I was driving home from work.  It was dark.  It was raining.  My eyesight isn’t so good at night anymore.  He was all in black.  All excuses – it was my fault.”

“I did EXACTLY what I get so angry with all the “other” drivers for doing – I was turning right at a “T” intersection, and I looked left to watch out for the oncoming cars.  He was coming from the right and already in the street as I pulled out.  Thank God  I missed him.  I’m ashamed, and horrified at the same time.”

As I think back on this incident, I’m still rattled by it.  The memories of the very visceral emotions it evoked are still very powerful. My hands are a bit sweaty as I write this, in fact.

I’ve tried very hard since this incident to be the kind of driver and walker I want everyone else to be. So far, I’ve been fairly successful, certainly at intersections, and it’s not only in situations like the above, but also in general.  I think I’ve become a bit more aware of my surroundings, which has translated to my becoming a more situationally-aware driver.  I’ve noticed I’m less inclined to describe other drivers as a certain below-the-waist body orifice and/or give them the one finger salute.  Believe me, after nearly 50 years of driving (I began at 16 in Texas), these were difficult habits to break (or weaken!).  And I’m MUCH more aware of pedestrians.

But – I’ve not noticed much change in all the other drivers.  I walk the loop around my neighborhood 2-3 times a week – alternating the direction I go.  One day I go clockwise.  The next, I go counterclockwise.  When I go clockwise, I never have issues with cars trying to mow me down at intersections as I’m coming from the direction drivers look to ensure another vehicle isn’t coming.  However, on the days when I go counterclockwise, and come up on intersections from the right, at least one driver won’t see me, and pulls out.  I’ve learned to be more proactive/defensive on “counterclockwise days,” and will now cross behind the car.  Interestingly, on more than one occasion, if there are several cars at the intersection and I go in between them, the second car becomes the danger.

So – my appeal this month, as the dawn comes later, the dusk comes earlier, and the sidewalks become more crowded as the kids return to school: walk/run/bike/drive defensively.  For you walkers, runners, bikers – watch out for those inattentive drivers.  For you drivers – watch out for those inattentive walkers and runners.

The high school cross-country season starts this week – go witness this beautiful spectacle and cheer on the athletes from “your” high school.

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