We are blessed in Cambridge with a pretty great trail system. It runs along the Grand and Speed Rivers which meet north of the city, and provides a nice little piece of parkland in a relatively urban landscape. There’s a surprising and constantly shifting variety of things for a runner to see along the way. For example, this weekend I ran past a raucous, roaring group of South Asian Canadians who had set up a cricket match in the middle of one of the baseball diamonds as a couple of guys fried up samosas and other street snacks nearby. At the extreme other end of the spectrum, there’s a guy around here who has a car which is an exact replica of the General Lee, and he likes to drive it at 10mph around and around the park sometimes. Which seems kind of weird for Canada, but I guess the Dukes were a cultural touchstone even up here. (Note: the owner resembles neither Bo nor Luke, but would fit right in with the Robertsons on Duck Dynasty. Not that I ever watch that show).
I once had to stop dead in my tracks when I came around a bend and an obstinate deer was standing astride the trail. It didn’t even spook, just gave me a haughty look as if to say “I’m a miracle of nature, and you’re a ridiculous looking sweaty hairless ape in in a neon tank-top”, and flipped its tail at me as it sauntered away. Whatever. Stuck up prick. What’s worse, it was a doe, and my brain sang “Doe, a deer, a female deer” at me for the rest of the run.
Then there was the time I came across a clown in full regalia walking towards me on the trail. Seriously. He was sauntering along, mellowly smoking a cigarette. He didn’t seem to have a machete or a chainsaw, so I tipped him an uneasy wave, and, no word of a lie, he HONKED HIS NOSE AT ME. (I spontaneously decided to do a bit of speedwork for the next couple of miles). I did feel better when I noted that there was a carnival setting up in Riverside Park along my route and that it seemingly wasn’t some random Pennywise clone wandering the forest.
There’s all kinds of nature and other crap along the route as well, and the usual coterie of runners, and of course it’s always fun to give the biker-style two-fingers-down bro wave as I pass the dudes, and puff my chest out, speed up, and do my best impression of Ridiculously Photogenic Guy for the ladies. (Y’all do this shit too. Come on, admit it.)
So, the trail system is great, except for the brief period in spring when it floods because of the river overflowing. What’s not great is getting there.
See, Cambridge has grown from 85,000 people when we moved here in 1996 to 135,000 people. Which means the roads around here have turned into snarled traffic nightmares a lot of the time, since the infrastructure hasn’t kept pace. What’s worse, approximately 1/3 or so of Cambridge drivers are seemingly either assholes, drunk, on Quaaludes, or some combination thereof. Seriously – our region has some of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen, and I’ve driven in some very hairy places around the world.
Which is a problem, because I have to run on said roads to get to the trails. And it can raise the hackles a little bit, so to speak.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But, why don’t you just drive to the trails?” Well, aren’t you just the contrarian. Frankly, it always seemed like a dirty cheat to me to drive somewhere in order to go running, when I could just run there and save the little bunny rabbits by keeping my polluting auto ensconced in the garage. And also, there’s the big puddle of sweat that invariably forms on the leather upholstery of my modestly priced chariot on the way home. Really, who wants that? It’s gross.
Thus, I end up running the gauntlet, if you’ll pardon the extremely poor play on words. Usually it’s fine. But I have almost been hit by cars on five separate occasions in the last year. It’s funny how it tends to usually be some skinny cretin in an Ed Hardy t-shirt driving a clapped out Honda Civic with a straight pipe that you can hear two counties away. But at least once it was an octogenarian grandma who missed me but proceeded to knock down a poor kid on a bike who was crossing the other way. My reaction to these rather unwanted incursions into my route varies; usually it just involves a shouted “watch it!” and a derisive shake of the head, but I’ve been known to react rather more, um, forcefully.
With the guy who shouted “Goddamn jogger!” at me, for example.
Just a note to you drivers who may read this and get pissed off at a runner one day for some reason – try calling the individual in question a jogger. Often, it will make them lose their shit. I believe my response was to call the guy a “fucking asshat”. I don’t usually like to do that, especially since escalating the situation is never good, and I might be at a disadvantage in a fight if the guy’s bigger than me and I’ve just run 12K. Although, at least in Canada people don’t carry 9mm handguns in their glove boxes which makes mouthing off slightly safer. In this case, and probably luckily for me, the dude wasn’t looking for a dustup and simply screeched his tires and drove away. Not one of my finer moments, to be sure.
I felt bad about unleashing the finger on the octogenarian grandma as well, after some reflection. But that’s another story.
Anyway, if you’re driving, please look both ways before turning a corner. Thus endeth the public service announcement for today.