Over the summer, I started running. Something inside me may have snapped in May when I decided it was the perfect day to lace up my faded Nikes and begin to propel myself at an unnatural speed down the cracked and uneven sidewalk of my neighbourhood.
Perhaps I was trying to atone for some personal crime I committed. Perhaps I wanted to feel what it was like to be on the precipice of death, gasping for air — my brain starved for oxygen while lactic acid builds up in my aching calves. Or maybe I just wanted to counter all the beer I was consuming over the summer.
Whatever the catalyst was, I decided I was going to become a runner. At least for the season.
Hopping on a treadmill at the gym like some kind of rodent on a wheel has never been appealing. There is something unsettling about running in place on a path that leads to nowhere. It’s an all too familiar representation of my academic and personal life.
Running outside, however, was not any better. My usual routine would end after several blocks. I would stop, bent over in agony cursing every cigarette I had ever consumed in my past. Every muscle in my body would announce their once dormant presence, my knees would knock together and my toes would get caught on the edges of curbs.
But something clicked this summer. I was able to find a space in my brain that would allow me to push past the pain and drop into it. A six-kilometre run would become my normal after work routine. The 40 minutes spent in my brain was welcomed, and I could push myself further each time I started pounding the pavement again.
It was then that I noticed a peculiar pattern when I began a frequent routine through residential route. I became invisible.
Cars either didn’t seem to notice me or they didn’t regard me as a pedestrian. They would fail to stop at marked crosswalks in school zones, cut me off turning at intersections that had walk lights, back out of driveways while I was in their path and nearly careen into me while turning into alleyways.
It wasn’t just motorized vehicles — even a guy on his bike nearly ran me over as he was looking for cars at an intersection. When I announced my presence with a breathless ‘hey,’ it was as if a ghost had materialized from the empty space in front of him and he nearly fell from his bicycle.
It’s daylight. I am highly visible. Yet my regular runs are more like an obstacle course where one moment of inattention would lead to a horrible demise.
Is it entitled driver aggression like what is experienced by cyclists in town? Is it a miscalculation of motorists who don’t grasp that the velocity of a runner differs from that of a casual pedestrian? Is it a case of the brain not registering my movement and speed? Have I actually become invisible like the girl in that first season episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Whether it’s psychological, neurological or supernatural, I have to say that nearly getting taken out by a Saskatoon motorist really spices up the monotony of an evening run.
If you’re a runner or a motorist — or both — it’s in everyone’s interest to pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t trust that you can make that turn before that person gets midway through the intersection, and don’t assume that the person behind the wheel will stop when you have the right of way.
It’s a car-eat-pedestrian world out there.
Erin Matthews/ Opinions Editor
Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor