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Death by Running

I've always thought that if I died before I was an old lady, it would be because of running.

We could get in to all the safety precautions runners should take -- runner ID, pepper spray, cell phone, money, etc. etc. -- but I intend for this to be a light hearted post about how paranoid and afraid I am.

So let me share my rational and irrational fears of Death by Running.

1) Mountain Lion

My parents live in the sticks of Napa, so I spent a lot of my years age 16-22 (summers at home) and occasionally even today, running up a narrow, winding, deserted road that is surrounded by barren fields and vegetation.

When I was 14 or so, there were a couple scares in our city of mountain lion sightings. 

So naturally, every time I hear a rustle in the bushes, my heart skips 4 beats and my adrenaline kicks into high gear, as I expect to look up and find myself greeted with this uninviting glare:

Oh runner, how I wish you were fatter
The rustle is, of course, usually a squirrel, or a candy wrapper, or a bizarre sound in my ipod music.

To this day, even while running in more isolated neighborhoods in Oakland, I fear the mountain lion. 

oh and I also fear "The Nothing" from The Neverending Story.

Nightmares for Life
I wonder if running with pepper spray works for mountain lions?  I'm guessing it probably just makes me taste less delicious.

2) Snake

Kind of the same story, except perhaps this one is a more legit fear, since I've actually seen snakes several times while running.

While running up that isolated Napa road mentioned above, I would be running happily:

"hum dee dum dee dum, look at that twig up ahead that I shall easily prance over, hum dee dum dee AAAAAHHH the twig is a SNAKE!"

Twig Impersonator

And then I would jump to the other side of the road like you have never seen.

I also read an article -- I think in Runners World -- about a woman who was bit by a Rattle Snake while running, and was 3 miles from civilization, and the last thing you are supposed to do when poison is pulsing through your blood is run, which makes the blood flow faster.

I think she survived.

3) Careless Driver

If I reaaalllly had to sit and think and estimate how many times I've almost been hit by a car in an intersection where I have the right of way due to a walk signal or a cross-walk, I would say...

712 times.  That I've almost been hit by a car while running.

In this pic, I am yonder in a bright pink shirt running the Western Pacific Half.  On a dirt path.  TRUE STORY: that green truck managed to almost hit me.  ("Almost" is a slight exaggeration.  It had about 7 seconds to spare)
This is clearly a part of all runners lives.  We have to be uber aware of cars, becuase they are NOT uber aware of us. 

And I understand it --all cars have blindspots.  But when it comes to visible runners, bikers, pedestrians, I try to be a very generous driver.

I ALWAYS look in both directions when turning right onto a different street.  Right-turning drivers are the #1 runner threat, as they usually only look to the left for oncoming traffic, rather than in both directions for pedestrians/runners.

I have learned not to curse at the cars that almost kill me, because of a couple of occasions during which I realized that I might then be killed by gun instead of car (remember, I LIVE IN OAKLAND).  But occasionally I do mutter "jerk". 

And since I'm wearing headphones, mutter probably = yell.

4) Getting Lost....Forever

This is primarily a vacation fear.  I regularly get a little lost when running in new cities (ahem, Christmas morning in Fremont with cutie-pie-panini's family), but my fab sense of direction always gets me home.

Never Ending Story, and now the Labyrinth?!  Could this post GET ANY COOLER!?!  I've got to try and squeeze in a "Newsies" reference.

The real concern is getting lost, and then having no food or water to fuel you for the accidental extra length to traverse home.

Solution: I always run with $5 or a credit card.  Please don't tell the muggers or pan handlers this.


5) Heart Failure :(

I don't have anything fun to say about this, so I'll move through it real quickly.

Runners, and all athletes, sometimes just collapse while running no matter how strong their heart is.  Heart defects are often untraceable until something tragic happens.

My dad (a doctor) has hinted to me that he thinks running marathons is unhealthy for the toll it takes on your heart.  I think he has probably seen a few un-revivable marathoners in the ER in his day.

6)  Evil Kidnapper

Creepsters looove solo running girls.

I've generously been shown approximately three different penises while on a run.  Stranger.  Danger. 

I have had 3029 cars pull up to me and ask me for directions.  So far, none of them have pulled open their van door and pushed me inside.


I have ended up in the wrong Oakland neighborhood on occasion.  The neighborhoods that have about 3 homicides per week.

And I ran in San Francisco's Tenderloin several times a week for 3 years (thanks to law school).

I literally saw a variation of this scene daily.
People are scary, runners are vulnerable because they are alone, without a car, often without a phone.  I'm just hoping to stay lucky.

7) Skin Cancer

I douse myself in sunscreen while running during the weekends (weekday runs are over before the sun is a threat).

But with sunscreen, you miss spots, you sweat some off, you realize most sunscreens don't block both UVA and UVB rays...

So gross.  And so looks like Emily Blunt.

I'm definitely beginning to see the results of long summer soccer practices/games from my youth now that I am in my twenties. 

Freckle Party

Every time I show a doc/dermatologist my freckle worries, they are not concerned.  I don't really get moles, just flat freckles.  So for now I will continue to buy $1987 bottles of sunscreen (read: sunscreen is not cheap)

8) Sucking in Air Pollution

I was mostly concerned about this when I ran in Los Angeles for the 5 years that I lived there.

yummy
I don't actually think this will kill me, nor will it kill any runner who lives in a poorer air quality city. 

I would guess it just gives you temporary asthma like symptoms.  Maybe it gives you lung disease, I dunno.  I'm sick of typing right now, so air pollution, you're get short-shifted.  see ya.

9) Humiliation.

Death by humiliation.  Google Images for "runner who pooped himself".  I refuse to put this picture on my blog and be associated with the vomiting that will incur.

This shall remain image-less.

which of these dangers most concerns you?  Do you ever suspect you know how you're gonna go?