Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm Running. Please, Just Leave Me Alone. - Or, Why I Tweak People.

So I'm a woman. A smallish woman, in fact. And an oldish woman, depending on how old you are. I don't run very fast, nor do I run very slow. I do run. I do not jog. And I try not to get in the way of others as they go about their business. Let me do my thing and I'll let you do your thing. I'm someone who holds doors for people behind me, and I like it when people say "thank you". I always say "you're welcome". I am also not the type to turn a blind eye to something I find egregious or just plain rude. This tendency (or personality defect) leads to conflict.

As a college philosophy instructor I subscribe to a fairly common definition of "Liberty": Each is free to exercise a liberty to the extent that all others may also exercise that same liberty. So basically, you can do what you want as long as you're not messing with the liberty of someone else. This is a fairly liberal view (argued for by the likes of John Stuart Mill and John Locke - and the founding fathers of the US). It allows for a lot. But, there are certain behaviors that it clearly rules out.

How does this apply to running? Well, I spend a good deal of my life running around the Boulder area - on roads, sidewalks, trails - and I see many many others recreating, commuting to work or school, doing errands, etc. each and every day. All those hours spent running allow for a lot of thinking (perhaps too much) and a lot of observation. So here's my question: Why won't people just leave others alone? I do not get in the way of others. I try to share, fairly, the space we have. On trails I move over when others approach. On the road I obey traffic/pedestrian laws.

A couple days ago I had an experience that is not an uncommon one. I'm running alone on a trail early in the morning. It's a beautiful day and many people are out and about walking their dogs, running, and just enjoying some fresh air on a warm January day. I come up behind a woman walking her pug. She stands looking at me in the middle of a single track trail. She does not move. Her dog steps out of the grass and steps right in front of my landing foot. I stop suddenly to avoid stepping on him. The woman laughs. No "excuse me", no "sorry", just laughs. Okay. I run on. The dog decides that what I'm doing looks like fun, so he proceeds to chase me and start nipping at my achilles tendon. I stop, concerned that the little beast will get tangled up in my feet and we'll both be face down in the dirt. I turn back to the woman and ask her to call her dog. She says, "Just go on". I say, "Excuse me, but your dog is required to be under voice control". She says, "He is. He's coming back. He's small, you're big. Just go on". I challenge her definition of "voice control" at which point she begins emitting a series of high pitched screeches (BTW, I am a dog lover and owner/guardian. My 14 year old Aussie/Samoyed mix still runs with me on occasion and ran 50 mi a week with me for the first 10 years of her life). Okay, she's totally nuts, I say to myself as she launches into a screaming tirade punctuated by screeches. I run on, shaking my head in disbelief and disgust. A quarter mile down the trail I can still hear her screeching.

The next day I am waiting at a train crossing for a train to pass. On the other side waits a large group of cyclist. The train passes and I run. the cyclists are spread out across the entire street and sidewalk, so I weave my way through them (I am doing a pace run, and want to get back on pace). One of the cyclists says "bite me" as I pass on the sidewalk. What? Excuse me?

I am not trying to be the "trail/road/sidewalk courtesy police", but every time I assert my right to some equal space on this planet it seems to piss people off. Am I just supposed to stand and wait for others to allow me to pass? Well, I won't do it. Please share, and please be nice. Treat others as you would wish to be treated.


  1. Holy crow! I don't want to run in Boulder.. I'll stick to my runs in Canada, we may have more bugs, hell.. we have more snow ;0).. but nobody is THAT rude.. wow.. that lady with the dog was TOTALLY off her rocker.. if you HAD stepped on her dog you bet she'd be the first to file a suit.. and the bikers? wow.. rude.. sorry about your luck.. I'd totally ignore you if you ran near by; although I'd smile and wave... that's about it.. ;0)

  2. Well, I think the 'dog lady' might have been a little nuts - and cyclists around here are often coping attitudes - but there are plenty of friendly, courteous people in Boulder. That said, when someone does something not-so-nice I tend to call them on it, and that often gets them bent out of shape. Oh well. That's not gonna stop me ;)


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