Defensive Running

Today I joined peo­ple from all over the world in going out for a run in ded­i­ca­tion to Meg Men­zies, the woman in Hanover Coun­ty, VA who was tradg­i­cal­ly struck and killed by a drunk dri­ver on Mon­day while out for a morn­ing run with her hus­band. My heart­felt sym­phathies to her hus­band, three chil­dren, her fam­i­ly, and all her friends.

As I went out on my run, I start­ed think­ing about some of the ways run­ners can try be more defen­sive in avoid­ing traf­fic inci­dents. Some­times, cau­tion is just not enough. By all accounts, Men­zies was an expe­ri­enced run­ner and doing every­thing ‘right’ in order to try to min­i­mize her chances of being in an acci­dent. Cer­tain­ly, encour­ang­ing every­one to have the decen­cy to not dri­ve while intox­i­cat­ed and to not text while dri­ving helps us all. But there are some defen­sive steps run­ners can take to be safer. Most of these are pret­ty obvi­ous, but if you’re new to run­ning or have just always done your own thing (as I did for years), then maybe you might get some­thing out of these.

  • When pos­si­ble, keep to the side­walks. I know a lot of run­ners who com­plain that con­crete gives them worse pain (often shin splints) than run­ning on more flex­i­ble asphalt. How­ev­er, I strong­ly believe that dis­com­fort from run­ning on con­crete can be large­ly off­set by prop­er­ly fit shoes and adopt­ing good form run­ning tech­niques.

    If you must run on the road, be sure to keep aware of the traf­fic. Sounds sim­ple, but it’s easy to get lost in a song or a con­ver­sa­tion and not hear a car until it’s too late.

    Inci­den­tal­ly, dur­ing my run ear­li­er today, I had to go off the side­walk an onto the road (in the direc­tion of traf­fic, even) as there was a small flock of turkey vul­tures devour­ing a opos­sum in my way and I deemed it best to not try to hur­dle them. How­ev­er, after about 50 yards and as I heard a car approach­ing from behind, I jumped back in the grass.

  • I’ve been part of run­ning clubs in the past, but the large major­i­ty of my runs are alone. How­ev­er, run­ning in groups has its own kind of safe­ty. The more ears and eyes, the more like­ly to notice a car.

    Just try to avoid run­ning down a road two- or three- (or, in the case of Grove Avenue in Rich­mond, VA, up to four-) abreast. Leav­ing a run­ner out in the mid­dle of a lane leaves them —as well as a vehi­cle— no where to go.

  • As I run by myself a lot and as I’ve start­ed run­ning with a smart­phone, I tend to lis­ten to music or audio­books while on a run. How­ev­er, it’s impor­tant to not lis­ten to music too loud­ly or use head­phones that restrict your abil­i­ty to hear your envi­ron­ment. Con­sid­er lis­ten­ing to audio­books or pod­casts instead of loud music, as these tend to present less of a wall of sound and you can often make out sounds around you much eas­i­er.

  • Con­sid­er get­ting a Roa­d­ID or at least keep­ing your dri­ver’s license with you while you run. In the event of an acci­dent, you want peo­ple to know who you are and who to con­tact some­one on your behalf if nec­es­sary.

    I men­tioned run­ning with my smart­phone, on which I use a GPS app to track my runs. How­ev­er, that GPS can also be used to help locate me and make sure I’m safe. My wife can user our shared iTunes account and a Find My iPhone app to make sure I’m still up & mov­ing at any time. In oth­er words, it’s like I’m LoJacked on my runs (and that’s a good thing).

  • Be aware of your own self, as well. As you run, you get tired and/or get into the zone. Both can tend to put blind­ers on you, restrict­ing your aware­ness to the path imme­di­ate­ly ahead of you. This is also where hav­ing oth­ers can be of help, but it’s still impor­tant to acknowl­edge that just because you’re deep into the zen of your run, the world around you has­n’t real­ly stopped.

  • Last­ly, but sure most impor­tant­ly, please obey all laws and reg­u­la­tions regard­ing traf­fic and pedes­tri­ans. As frus­trat­ing as wait­ing on a light to change can be, traf­fic laws are there to keep you safe. Let’s face it, run­ning out in a urban area isn’t the best place to set a PR. Save that for a race, where the course is closed to traf­fic and you can real­ly focus on your run and only your run.

    If it helps you, a lot of cur­rent run­ning apps have an auto pause fea­ture which paus­es record­ing if you stand (rel­a­tive­ly) still for more than 30 sec­onds or so. I use this fea­ture on the Nike Plus app on my iPhone and it alle­vi­ates that sense of urgency I might oth­er­wise feel to dash out in between cars at a red light.

If you want to read even more about stay­ing safe while run­ning, Run­ner’s World has a great long-form arti­cle titled Col­li­sion Course.

And, please, whether your out for a run, on your bike, or behind the wheel, please be safe and aware.

Star Ratings

After doing the Jaw­grind pod­cast with some friends for the past cou­ple of years, I’ve real­ized just how much a five star rat­ing sys­tem can vary among dif­fer­ent peo­ple — and even myself at dif­fer­ent times. As I’ve been rat­ing enter­tain­ment (and even goods, as in the case of Ama­zon) for years, I’ve always had some­thing of a descrip­tions for set­ting star rat­ings. I think it might be worth putting those down, for my own sake, as well as any­one who might be inter­est­ed in read­ing them.

  • ★★★★★ – This is a work I feel I could watch, read, or lis­ten to at any almost any time. It holds cul­tur­al sig­nif­i­cance (to me) and I feel may help you to bet­ter under­stand me as a per­son1.
  • ★★★★☆ – This was an excel­lent piece of work. Though it might have had some flaws, I would enjoy revis­it­ing it again in the future. I would rec­om­mend this to most any­one, par­tic­u­lar­ly if this seems in line with their inter­est.
  • ★★★☆☆ – This as a sol­id piece. I would rec­om­mend it with some reser­va­tions, but I might not have much cause to revis­it in the future.
  • ★★☆☆☆ – This piece suf­fered from severe flaws. Though I may have enjoyed parts of it, I almost cer­tain­ly would­n’t rec­om­mend it to any­one nor would I want to revis­it it.
  • ★☆☆☆☆ – This piece had very few, if any, redeem­ing qual­i­ties. I may not have even fin­ished it2. I would active­ly encour­age oth­ers to avoid this. Know­ing that some­one did enjoy it might make me ques­tion their taste or, at least, ques­tion if I real­ly under­stand them.

So, if you search for about a minute, you’d sure­ly find some­thing I’ve rat­ed that does­n’t seen to fit into this scale. I don’t claim to apply any rig­or to this at all (as I indi­cat­ed by the need to doc­u­ment them here).

Jaw­grind rat­ings, for exam­ple, are done in the vac­u­um that is Star Trek: The Orig­i­nal Series (for me, at least; I can’t speak for oth­ers on the show). I’m not say­ing a five-star rat­ing I gave to an episode of that show would com­pare to a five-star rat­ing of a nov­el, film, or album3. Those episodes are rat­ing on a micro­cosm ver­sion of this scale, and should only be com­pared to them­selves. Had I tried to use this uni­ver­sal scale on those episodes, I would­n’t have had the gran­u­lar­i­ty to use­ful­ly describe each one 4.

I do try to apply this scale to books on Goodreads, films or shows on Net­flix, or albums in iTunes5. In the case of Net­flix or iTunes (and Ama­zon, even), this has a pos­i­tive feed­back of help­ing rec­om­men­da­tions (though Net­flix seems to have giv­en up actu­al­ly try­ing to rec­om­mend any­thing despite that whole mil­lion-dol­lar prize thing). Even there, I’m sure I’m not as con­sis­tent as I’d like to be.

  1. I can­not, though, say I uni­ver­sal­ly rec­om­mend my five star rat­ings, though. Why? Because some­thing so well loved by some­one may require some very spe­cif­ic tastes. That lev­el of enjoy­ment isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly going to be felt by all, but this is why I indi­cate you might under­stand me bet­ter as a result. []
  2. Though, out of fair­ness, I try to nev­er rate some­thing I did­n’t com­plete (or, in the case of foods, at least thor­ough­ly try). I don’t see how some­one can give a valu­able rat­ing to some­thing they nev­er fin­ished watch­ing or read­ing, for exam­ple. []
  3. How­ev­er, I’ve con­sid­ered that a over­all series rat­ing (or at least by sea­son) would would be use­ful in this scale, though. []
  4. They’d pret­ty much all be 2 or 3, to be frankly hon­est about it. []
  5. If you did­n’t already know this, you can rate entire albums inde­pen­dent­ly of songs in iTunes, which can be very help­ful in con­struct­ing genre favorite playlists (genre + album with 3+ rat­ing). []

India Declared Polio-free

After three years with­out a sin­gle report­ed case of polio, India was declared free of polio. It’s been so long since polio was a epi­dem­ic in the Unit­ed States &emdash;which goes a long to way to explain­ing our cur­rent anti-vac­ci­na­tion and anti-sci­ence culture&emdash; that is hard to grasp how mon­u­men­tal this news is for so many peo­ple. The BBC reports that there are only three coun­tries left where polio is endem­ic: Pak­istan, Afghanistan and Nige­ria. Wired recent­ly had an excel­lent long-form piece on the effort to erad­i­cate polio from the plan­et.

Starting Out 2014 Right

My goals from year-to-year don’t change that much. How­ev­er, that’s not entire­ly a bad thing. Some have set goal lines but most of them are open end­ed. Strive-to-do-more-of-this or less-of-that sort of things.

How­ev­er, this year, I’ve decid­ed to nar­row some of my goals to the dai­ly lev­el. More accu­rate­ly, at the end of each day I hope to answer the fol­low­ing ques­tions to myself:

Today, what did I…

  • …eat?
  • …do for exer­cise?
  • …work on?
  • …cre­ate?
  • …learn?
  • …read?
  • …help my chil­dren do?
  • …do to let my fam­i­ly know I love them?

I won’t have a (good) answer for each ques­tion every day and that’s ok. Some days, the answer may be the same thing for more than one ques­tion (actu­al­ly those may be the best answers). But hope­ful­ly, I’ll have a pos­i­tive answer for most ques­tions on most days.