Running Outside: Lesson #4

After the humbling experience of falling over my own feet in public, I realized very quickly how difficult the situation would have been if I had broken my leg. Nobody knew I was going for a run at that moment in time. I wasn’t very near a road for help to easily reach me, nor did I know how to exactly describe my location. I didn’t know anyone who could pick me up, and didn’t have a taxi or driving app like Uber on my phone.  I needed to make sure that, god forbid another accident happen while I’m out on my own, that I’m prepared and know what I need to do. I also needed to remind myself to pay close attention to what is around me.

This is just a compilation or sort of check list of items I realized, fixed, or wanted to keep in mind for future runs.

  1. I have downloaded Uber to my phone and added a taxi service’s number to my contacts. In the event that I’m running and a local friend isn’t available, I may need an alternative way to get home, or if necessary, an emergency clinic.
  2. Be familiar with road names and landmarks throughout my route. The day of my fall, I couldn’t have said the name of the road I’d been on last. That was unacceptable if I needed emergency help. Likewise, today on my route I took a wrong turn. I made sure that I continued running a route I was familiar with, and simply made up distance by looping near home.
  3. Ensure someone knows exactly when and where I’ve gone out for a run, and when I’ve returned. This is a pretty cut and dry one: if you’re late to get back in touch with them, they’ll know to check on you. In a worst case scenario, they may be the first to know something’s awry which could be the difference between life or death.
  4. I always bring my ID, debit card and petty cash on a run. You never know when you may need to pay a cab, buy a water if you’re feeling nauseous far from home, etc.
  5. Run during daylight. If running late, make sure to run a safe, well lit, familiar route (and don’t forget reflective gear!).
  6. Be aware of those around you. Cross the street to avoid someone, within reason/judgement, if it’s safer.
  7. Listen to your surroundings. Do not listen to music so loud that you can’t hear what’s going on around you! You can’t easily hear a car coming down an alley over blasting a workout playlist.

I know most of the above I was taught or told while growing up, but it’s never a bad idea to remind yourself the basics from time to time.

I’ve often wondered if I should invest in jogger’s pepper spray to carry with me; I think I’ll only invest in a bottle if I’m going to run in rural areas or when it’s dark outside. I read the book Onward! which detailed a woman’s blog throughout her marathon training, in which she took safety very seriously. She was so serious that she hired protection, went to self defense classes, etc. I’m not sure I want or need to invest that much time and money into personal defense, but when it comes to your safety, is there such a thing as too much?

Falling Down

The other day, on a simple 3-mile training day for my half marathon training plan, I tripped over my own feet and fell. I hurt myself physically, but felt the effects more significantly to my ego and motivation.

Before

I got ready for my run per usual, headed out to the street, stretched, and ran. I ran across the bridge and down to the bike path along the water, per usual. “Man, the weather is gorgeous. I should take a picture along the water to post to Facebook.” Here is where my eyes began to water terribly, the sun reflecting off the water irritating them. “Ugh, I really should’ve worn my visor today.” Rubbing my eyes with my sweaty hands made things worse from the salt on my skin. “Wow, I might need to start walking so I can calm my eyes.” Nevertheless, I continued running, rounding a corner along the path, struggling to keep my eyes open enough to see.

During all of this, I had my headphones in, music blaring. “I really like this song…”

During

Due to my distractions, it really isn’t a surprise that I stumbled and fell. It was a dramatic, delayed stumble – the kind where it takes several long strides, and you feel like time has slowed to a crawl. “This fall is absurd,” I remember thinking to myself. Then, it’s fast-forwarded; the pavement slams into your jaw, and the next thing you know you’re holding your throbbing leg whilst on your back in the rocky dirt beside the path.

The best I can put together is I was too close to the edge of the cement bike path, where there’s a good foot drop off. While I did try to catch myself with my hands, my right hand missed the path and hit air. My face followed, the right side of my chin slamming into the pavement, and I rolled off the path onto my back. I fell to my knees so violently on the pavement that I swore my right leg was broken. I had no feeling below the knee, and the most I could do for several minutes was hug my right leg to my chest, trying to muster the kahunas to feel for a break. I checked my chin and mouth first to make sure none of my teeth had been knocked loose (they hadn’t). I also eventually determined I hadn’t broken my leg either, thankfully.

After

Several people walked past me without saying a word while I laid on my back in the dirt. I was angry at the time, wondering how the men who couldn’t have missed my dramatic fall had the lack of manners than to at least ask if I was ok. Truthfully, I’m not sure I would have done differently if someone wasn’t actively calling for help. It’s an interesting contrast to the demeanor of people I passed running in the Florida Keys.

After I decided I really had no choice than to walk home (no friends nearby to come help me, and not close enough to a road for a taxi or Uber to reach me…) I managed to eventually stand up. My right knee still felt like I had seriously injured it, despite not being able to feel a break. I brushed off dirt, and began my shameful 1-mile hobble home. Surprisingly, my right leg felt looser by the end of my walk, although several days in and my knees still feel very weak (though in less pain).

bruise

In the end, I escaped my fall with two severely skinned knees, a deeply bruised right knee, a sprained hand, and bruised/scraped chin (the inside my mouth was bleeding from my teeth as well). I’m not sure when I should run again. I’m taking it a day at a time to see how stable my knees feel, but I’m anxious to get back to my training plan. I nearly cried out of frustration once the adrenaline rush wore off and I realized I was out of commission for a while, just as I was really getting excited about running regularly. I keep reminding myself that it’s only matter of getting back up again.

Words of Discouragement

For some reason when I’m running with headphones, people I pass try to talk to me despite my inability to hear them clearly. I hate to be rude and miss what they’ve said, so I generally take out an earbud and ask, “Pardon?” It’s already slightly annoying that this even happens (that’s a blog post for another day), but when they repeat themselves and it turns out to be an off-putting comment – why? Why is it that people feel the need to be “funny” by saying discouraging or contrary things to another person? If someone’s busting their ass doing something that takes effort, hard work, and/or motivation, is joking about their activity really the best way to proceed?

“That looks like too much work!”

“Slow down! You’re making us look bad!”

“I wish I could run! I’m jealous!”

I know it is, on some level, with the best intentions and I certainly don’t take it personally. I’ve just never run into this sort of behavior outside of a women’s locker room (“I’m so fat!”). I truly didn’t know how to respond. Should I politely defend what I’m doing? Should I try to make them feel better about not doing what I’m doing? Do I laugh it off? I’ve done the latter thus far. However, what I was thinking while I casually laughed was more along the lines of…

  1. It obviously isn’t too much work. I’m not an athlete, and don’t look the part. I’m short, chubby, and slow. It doesn’t matter so long as I hit the pavement. Why would you think insulting someone’s hobby or goal progress as “too much work” is a compliment? All you’re accomplishing is making yourself sound lazy, and making me feel like I shouldn’t bother. It is work, but it certainly isn’t too much.
  2. No, you’re making you look bad. I’m not judging you for not hitting the pavement. It isn’t for everyone. You can be healthy and happy in many other facets of your life. But telling me that I’m making you look bad, whether jokingly or not, is meant to make me guilty for your laziness. I’m not going to apologize, even jokingly, for my workout.
  3. This isn’t really even funny. I do sympathize and would be happy to talk about this another time. However, hearing this only seems to make me feel sorry for your injury or feel guilty for my activity. As I continue on dripping with sweat, red-faced and just trying to finish my run, I’ll feel like a jerk for not having asked what was wrong and offering an “I wish you a fast recovery!”. I don’t need your problem dropped on me in the middle of my run.

RunKeeper

If you insist on interrupting someone during their run, especially if they pull out their headphones to hear what you have to say, please give quick words of encouragement. Here are a few suggestions of things I’d love to hear during my run:

“Keep it up!”

“You look great!”

“How far are you going?”

“You got this!”

“Almost there!”

Above all, I’d much prefer an unobtrusive smile, wave, or thumbs up!

Running Outside: Lesson #3

I’m visiting my family in the Florida Keys and I was half dreading/half looking forward to running here due to the weather and adapting to something different for a couple of weeks. Luckily since it’s winter, the heat and humidity are under control! So that leaves us with what I took away from this run…

  1. Heat and humidity can be your friend. The weather for a run is like a healthy diet: everything in moderation. This time of year, Florida actually has mild temperatures (well, mild for this part of the world) and humidity; it was about 72F for my run with less than 90% humidity and a strong breeze. In California, the cold, dry air was actually making my mouth and throat super dry and almost irritated, but I didn’t even think about that once today. I never felt parched.
  2. Running into the wind sucks. In my urban Los Angeles area with loads of streets for different directions and buildings to block the way, it’s quite easy to avoid running directly into the wind. Here, I have few choices; the road goes one way and I had to run it both directions to rack up my miles. Half of my run was directly into a strong breeze, and it felt like one of those dreams where you’re trying to run and run and run but you’re just getting dragged down by a mysterious force.
  3. Getting out the door isn’t easier – or harder! I packed running gear with optimism, but little commitment. I thought if I had a chance over the weekend, weather permitting, I’d maybe hit the pavement. However, I figured I might get into vacation mode and opt to relax instead; I didn’t want to build up a commitment to run just to disappoint myself. To my surprise and luck, the stress of a LONG travel day and keeping busy helping around the house was the motivation I needed to escape on the pavement! I just had to throw on my sneakers and walk out the door. It felt no different than back home.
  4. Headphones and music can help. One of the things I love about running outside is not needing music. The sights and sounds of the outdoors, albeit a bustling city or a quaint neighborhood on the ocean, is really immersive and enjoyable – not to mention safer! However, there is no shame in using headphones anyway. I found myself getting rather bored today since I had to rerun the same residential streets (that I’m already very familiar with.) By the end of the first mile, I regretted not having music to help push me through the rest of my run. Next time!

Airline Letdowns

I have not had much luck with major airlines this past year. I’ve run into some small but manageable situations in the past (lost luggage, missing a flight due to weather delays, etc) but nothing as extreme, disruptive, or upsetting as I have in this past year. Let’s visit why I wish I had the power of teleportation!

Delta, June 2014

In June 2014 my mother was losing her battle to breast cancer. I had very limited time to purchase a flight and make it out to see her before she was gone. I managed to get tickets two days in advance to make it from Los Angeles to Key West. Come the day of my flight, I woke up to my alarm and checked my phone only to find a cancellation notification. My first flight in LA had been cancelled due to mechanical problems, there were no flights I could catch that would make the connection in Atlanta to fly into Key West, and there were no alternative routes for me unless I risked flying standby. I wasn’t going to risk spending the night in an airport to arrive in Florida so late.

Delta wound up rebooking me for the next day. I had a fairly upsetting exchange on Twitter with Delta which did result in a $100 credit, but nothing could buy back the 24 hours lost with my mom.

Then, to really seal the deal, when I got back home to California one of my two checked bags was missing. (It was eventually recovered and delivered to me.)


 

Delta, January 2015

My father had rotator cuff surgery on Tuesday which means he’s unable to use his arm for several weeks. I was flying in to drive him home after surgery. Delta has the most convenient flight times for my schedule from Los Angeles to Key West, so I prefer to go with them where possible. I went through the purchasing process, and after paying and receiving my flight information, I noticed I had no seat assignment for one flight. All of the coach seats were occupied. How did I just by a ticket for a full flight?

I called their customer service line and had a depressingly scripted and unhelpful conversation.

Me: Why did you take my money when there were no available seats on the plane?
Delta: You could have viewed the seating chart prior to submitting payment. There are seats available on the plane, but you have to pay to upgrade to receive a seat assignment.
Me: If I don’t pay to upgrade and show up for my flight, what happens then?
Delta: You’ll be given your seat assignment at that time. You will be upgraded for free if an upgraded seat is available and no coach seats are available.
Me: And if there are no seats available at all?
Delta: I’m sure there will be a seat available! Overselling is a common airline practice.
Me: You only sold me a chance to get on a flight when my receipt says I bought a ticket.
Delta: We do have a cancellation policy if you’d like to receive a refund.

Let me clarify – I do understand airlines oversell, and have been on flights where they’ve had to ask folks to take vouchers to opt to rebook on another flight. Hell, I’ve even tried to take advantage of those offers. However, I have never encountered this kind of blatant overselling and callous offering to cancel. Needless to say, I took up his offer.


 

American Airlines, January 2015

I went with American Airlines to avoid Delta per the above. Long story short, while my first flight went off without a hitch, my connection flight from Miami to Key West was arbitrarily canceled. Not only was it canceled, but I was notified on my phone at boarding time that it had been canceled. The gate agent had no idea it had been canceled; I had been notified before she was. She took my ticket from me, talked in Spanish to the person beside her, typed and typed and typed… then handed me back another ticket. She didn’t tell me what happened to my original flight, she didn’t explain anything about my new flight, and she asked the next person what they needed, dismissing me. I was utterly appalled at this total lack of customer service.

I was now unable to pick up my father who was only just coming out of surgery. Not only that, but my layover was now so long, I could have driven to pick him up faster than waiting for my new flight. After making calls for other arrangements for myself and my dad (only after stress-induced crying in public, mind you),  I tweeted American Airlines to then have to ask for an apology. Ugh.

I’m ready to invest in teleportation, please!