Running Shoes

I just ordered a new pair of running shoes for the first time in about 4 years. Exciting news, right? Not really, but it did get me thinking about why its been so long. You see, when Amy and I moved to Maine from Minneapolis we were both pretty avid runners. I’ve run a couple of marathons and Amy has run four. We’ve both done a lot of other races ranging from 5k up to half marathons.

My sweet rides – Mizuno Wave Creation 15

Putting aside the ridiculously cold winters, Minneapolis is a great city for runners. Spread across the whole city are numerous pedestrian trails. Right south of downtown there is a collection of lakes, surrounded and linked by trails that provides nearly infinite, convenient routes for runs from a couple of miles to double digit lengths. Water fountains are staggered along most of the trails along with the even more important bathrooms.

If you’ve ever run distance, you know what I mean when I talk about the importance of convenient bathrooms. Right?

So, Minneapolis was great for running. Prior to moving to Bangor, Maine we thought our new home would be even better. We thought there would be good places to run; we’d been told of some “great trails.” We assumed that being in a small city the traffic would be more manageable for pedestrians. We assumed small town people would be a little more friendly and gracious.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Turns out there are very few places in our city for a runner who wants to get out of traffic. The trails we were told about are short and populated with bath salts users. We do have one decent place to run, the City Forest, but that is actually quite a ways away from our home, outside of town. Not in the City. This doesn’t really work for me since we only have one car and Amy usually has it for work. That leaves running on city streets or sidewalks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been hit at intersections in this city by people who refuse to stop at stop signs; who drift through crosswalks. Pedestrians in this town are invisible.*

Pedestrians in this town are also not safe from dog owners. I’ve been nipped at and barked at and nearly tangled in four hundred foot long retractable leashes repeatedly while dog owners make placating sounds like “Don’t worry…he’s friendly!” This rather than just control their animals. Which brings us to, if not “the straw”, then one of the straws that broke the camel’s back, i.e. brought my running career to an end a few years back.

Meme courtesy of www.quickmeme.com

Meme courtesy of www.quickmeme.com

A Runner, a Family with Small Children, & a Rottweiler

I was running down the sidewalk in our neighborhood. Up ahead I spotted a group walking toward me composed of a father about my age, a girl of 11 or 12, and a boy of about 8. The girl, who probably weighed 60 pounds soaking wet, was walking a Rottweiler. My guess is that the Rotti weighed 90 pounds soaking dry. As I approached them, the family stopped and spread out, with the father going left, the girl and Rotti going right, and the little boy standing dead center in the path.

This is when I started to get nervous. See, I have quite a bit of experience with dogs; my friends call me The Dog Whisperer despite my lack of Mexican heritage. I knew in this case that

  1. Rottis can be highly protective
  2. The dog had seen me running towards his family probably putting him in guard mode
  3. Splitting the family the way they did would force me to go between the dog and family members, making the dog even more defensive
  4. The girl showed no ability to control the dog
  5. The dad did not look concerned at all, i.e. clueless about the situation he had created

I slowed from a run to a walk and carefully navigated between the dad and the little boy, putting as much distance between me and the dog as possible. That is when the dog lunged and snapped at me, nearly pulling the girl off her feet. I turned and stopped to face down the dog. The dog backed off and I turned to the father and said “You need to control your animal” and then walked/jogged away.

This is when things went off the rails.

Some People Shouldn’t Have Dogs… or Kids

In response to my comment, rather than apologize for my near mauling, the father lost it. He started walking after me yelling that I had no right to run on the sidewalk; that the sidewalks were for walking only.

I couldn’t believe it. I turned around and went back to him. I pointed out that there is almost no situation in which his dog biting me on a public sidewalk would be defensible. That his dog attacking me could lead to not only my injury, but the destruction of his dog. That his children might be impacted by seeing a violent altercation and by the resulting death of their loved pet. Further, that he should be careful about defining sidewalks as a “no running zone” since his children probably run on them daily.

This more or less shut him up. However, at this point I was done with my run that day. Over the next few weeks and months my running gradually came to a stop. The danger and annoyance factor just wasn’t worth it.

The (Childfree) Point

So, what does this have to do with being childfree? Well, one thing that comes up pretty frequently in the childfree vs. parent “wars” is the notion that the childfree have no right to comment on parenting. I personally think that this example illustrates exactly why, at least sometimes, we do get to comment on parenting (and dog ownership).

  • We don’t need to be dog owners to know that you must train and control all dogs, especially large, strong, protective, and potentially aggressive breeds
  • We don’t need to be dog owners or parents to know that putting an 11 year old girl on the end of a leash she can’t control is unacceptable
  • We don’t need to be parents to know that you should teach your kids to apologize when you are responsible for almost injuring someone; You do not teach them to yell at or blame the victim

There it is. Wish me luck on my new return to running. If you don’t hear from me again google “man hit by car bit by dog”.

* This is true only if you are trying to follow the rules of the road as a pedestrian. If you are trying to jaywalk, drivers in this state will stop traffic anywhere to let pedestrians cross illegally! So, to recap, try to cross legally, get runover. Try to cross illegally, drivers will help you by stopping, getting out of their car, and carrying you across the road. They may even offer to buy you a beer.

5 Responses to Running Shoes

  1. Jessica April 29, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

    I currently live in Minnesota in a very runner- and bike-friendly city. My husband is originally from Minneapolis, and I can attest to how awesome the paths are for bikers and runners. (I love all the green space that happens in towns in Minnesota.) When you mentioned that cars almost ran you over in Maine, I thought, “Huh, that’s funny. I would’ve thought Maine would be more like Vermont in its driving sense.” Then I read your footnote and had to read it to my husband. Yep, Maine’s sense of pedestrians is more like Vermont than Minnesota by a LOT! (In Minnesota, we stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. In Vermont, whenever we’ve stayed there for long periods, we became used to people stopping for people just walking on the sidewalk, because they glanced toward the road and maybe, just maybe, they want to cross, so we might as well stop all traffic juuuuust in case they want to cross right here in the middle of the road.)

  2. catwomanm April 11, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    Hope things get better as you find more running paths. Minneapolis is a great city for anything active. More people need to follow driving rules and yield to pedestrians.

  3. Loopster April 10, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    Yeah its not just Bangor. The whole state is not runner friendly. Even Portland and Augusta suck. Most of us who have lived there have indoor tread mills. I was in Augusta and told the same thing about the trails. The Kennebec Rail Trail is a glorified sidewalk and probably as good as you’re going to get in the area for running.

    Unfortunately people have no idea how to train a dog and usually do exactly the opposite of what the dog needs. Leashes create aggression and tension. So do gates and fences. This is why a dog behind a fence becomes very aggressive barking and going generally insane. Unfortunately a dog past the age of 2 will be beyond any real training.

  4. grayeyegirl April 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    I wish you luck, new found friends forever. My husband and I have been married for 17 years, happily child-free; unhappily in a culture that thinks it’s okay to let screaming/misbehaving children run rampant in expensive and adult oriented restaurants.

    We have a rule with our dog, a lazy greyhound who loves nothing more than to lie down and get belly rubs. When someone is approaching we move out of the way as a unit, stop walking, and pull the dog in tight to us. She’s not at all protective (see lazy above), but she’s super friendly and would love nothing more than to stick her snout in the crotch-region of her newest best friends; which I am sure that if this were to happen to a runner would be quite surprising and I would, indeed, need a good yelling at.

    We also have a rule that we tell children who see PUPPY! to not come pet her. She’s lazy but she doesn’t like babies. Little kids sure, but we never can tell. I’m not about to lose my dog because a parent can’t control their kid from running up to our dog. It never occurs to the parents to say, “Hey, don’t pet that dog!” When we see a kid who wants to pet our dog we stop walking, hold the dog tight to our sides and let the dog decide if she wants to be petted. But as soon as things get rough – even against the grain petting – we stop and immediately move on.

    So yeah, this culture of since I’m not a parent I can’t comment is bull. I will comment if it means that your child’s behavior or your lack of parenting skills means it might hurt me or mine. To be honest, the total lack of parenting that is out there now is probably reason #1 we don’t have kids. I talked to parents of kids who are really well behaved and they say that their kids feel horrible pressure to misbehave. Well behaved children are a minority these days.

    #end rant#

    • Lance April 9, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

      Amen & thanks!

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