I generally feel pretty safe running just about anywhere in Bloomington during the day. Working typical 8-5 hours put me at my weekly outdoor runs around 6:00 p.m. with plenty of daylight sun to burn (for the next few weeks anyway), and Clayton rarely puts up a fuss with my going out alone. And rightfully so because with the exception of a few horrifying cases, our community is generally very runner friendly.
But last night I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I caught a random stranger on what was clearly a very rough day for him (or her). Perhaps he had gotten yelled at by his boss. Perhaps he had even gotten fired that day. Maybe his girlfriend just dumped him. Maybe his mother was a runner and she didn’t love him enough as a child, so now he’s on a vendetta to cause bodily harm to anyone wearing sneakers. I don’t know for sure, but what I do know is that this individual almost killed me.
I wish I was exaggerating.
Tuesday was an dreary, rainy day with a damp, unmistakable autumn chill in the air … aka the perfect running weather. I was so amped to put on my “fall” running gear that I made Clayton snap a picture of me in my tights and wicking jacket before I left. In hindsight, my outfit probably screamed “lost scuba diver” more than “serious cold weather runner”, but I didn’t care. I was going to be warm and dry, and that was all that mattered.
I kept my 4.5 mile run on a hilly stretch of road that ran alongside our old neighborhood. It’s one of my favorite running routes because it’s almost a perfect 1.5 miles in length and it offers a gnarly little hill that gives my thighs quite the burn. I also favor this road because the majority of the area is wide open and perfect for spotting oncoming traffic.
I was about 2.5 miles into my run, feeling amazing and enjoying the misty rain on my face, when I noticed a gray Pontiac Grand Am about 100 yards away. I was able to spot the car immediately because I was on the flattest section of my route and had excellent visibility for at least a quarter mile.
Now, when I run on a public road, I run on the white lines on either side of the lane. If the shoulder of the road expands, I’ll step farther to my left to give even more distance between myself and cars. And 99.9% of motorists are very accommodating to runners and will go well out of their way to give us plenty of room. I will typically give a little wave of appreciation as they pass, more or less a gesture to say “Thanks for sharing the road.”
Clearly this Pontiac was not in a “sharing” kind of mood because they didn’t move a single fraction of an inch to avoid hitting me. In fact, the car veered as close to the line as it could without actually placing a tire on it. There were no cars coming in the opposite direction to keep them pulled so tightly to the white line, so I think it’s safe to assume they wanted me dead (or to just scare the living hell out of me). As they approached, I could feel panic rising in my chest. The car was now only 10 feet away and there was nowhere for me to go. To my left was a sloping ditch covered in a thick layer of bramble and weeds. The surface was so slick that I would lose my footing and fall for sure, but it was either that or become road kill. When it became abundantly clear that the car had zero intentions of slowing down or swerving out the way, I did a weird Super Bowl Shuffle maneuver to propel myself into the ditch.
If I had not moved, I would have been completely leveled by a speeding car.
The car never slowed down, nor did the driver tap on the breaks to look back and see if I was okay. It sped off on its merry way, the driver probably priding himself on winning an extremely one-sided game of Chicken.
Sufficient to say, I lost my cool. Without even stopping to pause my Garmin (I know, I can hear the collective gasp from all of my runner friends), I turned towards the car and began screaming at ear piercing decibels. I knew there was absolutely no way they could hear me, but I was so angry and so freakin’ scared, I had to shout all of my feelings out so I didn’t start crying. Knowing they’d never hear my words and would only see me as a shape fading into the distance, I did the only thing I knew I could do—I totally flipped them off.
Giving the middle finger is disgusting and completely despicable, but I feel like almost kidding someone is a rather justifiable reason to be flipped the bird. In a very weak moment of wanting to retaliate with something equally ugly of my own, waving my pasty middle finger in the air seemed like my only offense against a car that was driving away from me.
I came home, feeling shaken and on edge, to find a parcel of mail waiting for me on the kitchen table.
I’ve been summoned for jury duty.