I do really love running in the country. Maybe because this summer was surprisingly nice and dry and about 90% of my runs treated me to beautiful sun shining on amber waves of grain, or wonderful brooding shadows across the Grampian mountains, or at the very least, super cute and curious cows, coos, bunnies, and ponies. But it would be a lie to say it was all sunshine and rainbows. And as much as I love the countryside…. the thought of running south from Lincoln Park along the lakefront path back towards are our home in Chicago- seeing the Hancock, and the Drake, and knowing our little high-rise is nestled in there, in front of the Bloomies building…well, it brings joy to my heart and a tear to my eye. The point? I guess that I adapt pretty damn well to love wherever life takes me. Except San Diego…I don’t know if I just didn’t give it a chance…but I get no warm and fuzzies thinking about there.
Country running does have it perils and pitfalls. I thought I’d enlighten you to the somewhat funny and perhaps unexpected problems I encounter.
The biggest issues of country running can be put into one category:
I know, I’m an animal lover. How could furry little beebeeies be the issue? Well, they are in a couple different scenarios based on the animal.
- They lunge at me and I think I’m going to literally lose a hand or worse
- They are off lead trotting along with a massive stick and take out my shins
- They are on lead with an owner not paying attention and I am forced to hurdle them so I don’t trip
- They are either on or off lead and are complete spazes and while trying to get past them I accidentally step on them or kick them which makes me feel terrible
- They are so effing cute I have to stop running immediately and pet them.
- I’m running along a narrow path, maybe my headphones are in or maybe I’m just in the zone, I go round a bend and run directly, and I mean directly into your horse. This actually happened.
- As a mindful equestrian, I need to slow down or stop, remove headphones and have at the very least a limited discussion on passing, or move off to the side to let them pass.
- Horse shit. Enough said.
There is only one negative experience I’ve had with a deer running but I honestly almost died because of a heart attack. Seriously, he’s my hear rate monitor. Guess where I encountered the deer?
I’m running alone, in an unfrequented area of trail/path. My headphones are in, I admit. I am on the left side of the narrow path. I see bushes moving (LIKE A LOT OF MOVEMENT) on the right side parallel with me and stop and turn toward the bush (to look my murderer head on obviously) and a stag comes flying out of the bushes. I clearly frightened him while he was sleeping or something. I jump back as his little stick legs hit the pavement and due to it having just rained, the pavement is slick and his legs sprawl out and he’s sliding across, thrashing about until he’s dumped on the other side into grass where he gracefully finds his footing and leaps through the wood to escape me. I cannot emphasize enough, that had I been on the right side (thus closer to those antlers) I would most likely been impaled, or f*cked up on some level most definitely. Luckily I was on the left, which gave me a little extra space and thus time to jump away. I immediately called E because my heart was just racing, he didn’t answer but called me back a mile later…where I answer his call to talk. You can see that’s when my heart rate returns to a normal level.
Although…I guess it could have been worse: Runner Hit by Flying Deer
Okay, moving off of four leggers. The next on the list of perils is…
Being Scared Sh*tless
I know in the probability of me getting abducted or killed on a run is MUCH greater in Chicago…but I just felt safer running there. There were streetlights, and lots of people, and a decent amount of cops….
- When the sun goes down, it’s dark in the country. Real dark. Even with a head torch…it’s dark. Therefore, I can’t be running more than 20 mins post sunset time. And sometimes, it’s even too dark in the woods to run if it’s a grey day. No joke. I get freaked out.
- It doesn’t help now I’m really into unsolved murder podcasts…not helping the situation, I know.
- The lack of people I see on a run…it makes me super jumpy. I nearly pee my pants or have a heart attack (see deer heart rate pic) every time an animal runs out, or I get the sense someone’s behind me, or a bird flies out of a tree, or a cyclist sneaks up on me….it’s traumatic!
- The people I do so, can be a little unnerving. Again, I’m sure I was way likelier encountering weirdos with weapons in Chicago…but then again, I always had my posse of homeless friends within earshot I like to think and the possibility of carrying mace. I think I only did like 3x but still. Anyway, sometimes I’m virtually alone other than a troop of young boys that look like they’re up to no good. In football kit on a bench, drinking out of 2 liters of Strongbow, giving me the side eye. Scares me. Then there’s the incident that happened on my Sunday run. I’m about 5 miles out (11 miles into my run) and the path is sparsely populated due to crappy weather and being 5 miles out from the big central park. A guy on a bicycle rides past me going the opposite way and gives me a strange look. 20 seconds later I hear his brakes squeal and I turn around to see he had slid to a stop (it was wet and there were a lot of leaves). I take my headphones out of my ear to be more aware and pick up the pace. I make it around a corner and up ahead I see a man walking his dog and feel pretty relieved. The cyclist (who wasn’t in like workout/spandex cycling attire) had changed directions to be going the same way as me and shortly passes me. Up ahead I see him pull off to the right on a ramp to exit the path. As I get to the ramp, I look and he is heading up and off the bath. But I’m pretty alone again and freaked out so pick up the pace. In about 4 minutes I finally see someone else and feel a little better…and about a minute after that the cyclist passes me again. It was creepy.
Bugs (and spiders)
When I trained in the winter I didn’t realize what a big problem bugs would be in training during the sprint/summer.
- Running through spider webs sucks. You can’t get em off. You think spiders are in your hair. It’s really unsettling.
- Little bugs that get stuck in your eyes. It hurts. They’re hard to get out. And I’m temporarily blinded. This has happened at least 3 times in this training cycle.
- Big bugs that go down your throat. And then I’m left hacking either trying to get them out or go all the way down. Either way, it’s not pleasant and it happens all the GD time.
Ridden off the Road/Path/Trail
- I’ve written about the lack of driver’s consideration/vehicle right of way previously (find it here). But going further, running on super narrow, sometimes one-lane country roads with no gutter…it sucks! I do NOT wear headphones in these situations because I seriously would die. I also can’t do these runs without sunlight, and preferably, mid-day before people are commuting back to work. It’s really unnerving. More unnerving is when it’s about a lane and a half width, and I hear the car coming up behind me, and I am literally running on the edge where the road meets the grass/drop down to the ditch, and the driver decides to HONK AT ME. WTF IS THAT BUDDY?! I can’t get over any more, I know you’re there, and there is room for you to scootch over and pass without any problems. And even on 2 lane roads I find drivers are just unwilling to really move over despite the fact there is no one in sight coming towards them in the other lane.
- Now, there’s the issue of horses on trails getting right of way (see above).
- There are cyclists that go whizzing past me, heaven forbid they give an extra inch.
- I had some airing of running grievances (i.e. #sorrynotsorry) last week here…. and I won’t harp on it. But I’ll just restate it in case you missed it.
No water fountains! Gahhhh. The night before every long run I drive (or make E drive me) dropping water bottles in strategic spots for me to pick up along my run the next day. Hoping I don’t forget where they are, are covered in dog pee, or misplaced. I know it’s only Scotland….but I can still get quite parched…dangerously parched you could say.