I have brilliant moments of coordination where I manage to balance precariously on a razor’s edge without falling, catch falling objects out of mid air with the reflexes of a cat. And then there was Thursday morning…
There was something in the air, or water, or coffee… Something. Whatever it was, it was painful. And not just for me. For some it was tragic.
We chose a route that we have seldom done in the past 6 months due to the trail getting washed out. A relatively dead flat route called, attractively (however accurately), the Mulch Pile. It’s really a pretty run that takes you on the MKT to a spur trail that winds down a creek valley behind the MU football and basketball stadiums. I have run this part of the trail at least AS much if not MORE than any other trail as it is close to my work and makes for easy access in after work runs or the occasional lunch run.
The first part of this run was completely uneventful. The usual warm up mile, the line stretching out as the faster runners moved out, etc. I settled in on a pace just below 8 minutes. I was comfortable, even though it was cold, and really enjoying the run. We got past the main part of the trail that had been washed out and I was pleased to see it was fixed and in good shape. The trail meets a road for about a quarter of a mile and goes over a low water bridge. It was on the other side of this that things got really ugly for seemingly everyone but me. Just on the uphill side of the low water bridge, the creek, during a flood, had deposited a huge berm of sand and rocks. For some reason, the city (or University) decided to make it a FEATURE rather than a hazard, and left it. Thank the running gods I was in a pack going up the hill and just happened to see a runner in front of me do sort of a panic leap (you know, like he was jumping over a snake?). Still not able to see why, I jumped anyway. I landed perfectly on top of the 2 foot high pile like I had done it a million times. I NEVER saw it. It was too dark. About 5 strides past it I heard the unmistakeable sound of a runner behind me hitting the ground. Luckily it was quickly followed by a few choice words, a chuckle and a muffled “I’m OK!”. Unfortunately, the next runner to go down (actually by the time I got there she already had) was not “OK”.
The trail meets up with the road at the end of a parking lot. There are several big telephone pole width posts planted in the ground with a big cable stretched loosely between them. Stay to the right and you have a clear path. But for some reason, one of our group went straight. She caught the low hanging cable about mid shin and crashed hard. She was very unlucky to hit the cable, but extremely lucky to be running with our group, which includes doctors, nurses and the like. By the time I got there she was being attended to by several people. I didn’t stop because I knew she was in better hands and I would just get in the way. I went out to my turn around with the image of her on the ground and in obvious pain stuck in my mind. As I came back by, the group helping her had grown and someone had called 911 so the ambulance was in the process of navigating the various barriers to get to her. There were also two police cars coming to help. Unfortunately, one of them got stuck on the very same berm that claimed our earlier runner. So I and a couple of other runners from our group lifted it off.
By this time I just wanted to get back. My groove had been ruined and I was feeling awful for our fallen friend. I would later find out that she had broken her upper arm and kneecap, requiring surgery for both.
Back on the trail, I was now running alone and completely distracted. The trail is very dark in the section I was running. I had just passed another runner when, for no real reason, I hit a bumpy part of the trail, kicked a lump of dirt an went down in a heap. This was getting ridiculous. I stood up, checked that all systems were functioning and hobbled off with nothing more than a boo boo on my knee and a charlie horse on my shin that took a while to work out so I could run straight again. I finished up my run, scurried to my car as fast as I could, shut the door and locked it. I wasn’t having any more of that. From now on, that run will be forever known to me as the “Bad Juju Run”. A run to be done VERY cautiously and with more attention than normal being paid to the trail. I’m too old to fall down. I don’t bounce anymore. I shatter.