The Ol' Bloviator has been running for thirty-five years. (Here, "running" refers to the literal act of physically dragging one's body over several miles of the earth's surface and not to the figurative flight from reality, responsibility, and reason that has engaged the tormented O.B. ever since he was knee-high to the proverbial duck.) He actually began running in an effort to hold down his weight, and by golly, he has. The scale currently shows our hero's displacement at about sixty pounds lower than it was when he was handed a diploma an unceremoniously shown the door of his high school back in 1965.
For roughly ten years of his running career, the O.B. actually participated in road races of various lengths. Built neither for comfort or speed, he tended to show up better in longer races, such as half and full marathons, where durability and a willingness to tolerate all manner of physical suffering counted for more than one's capacity for acceleration over the first 100 meters. In the course of training for and actually completing marathons, the O.B. has gotten at least a couple of sub-zero twenty milers (from his Iowa period) under his belt as well as a great many monsoonal runs of equal length. Once upon a time, when trained to his absolute prime, the O.B. managed to complete a marathon along the shores of Lake Superior in just a few seconds under three hours. Though they represented the only even marginally noteworthy athletic achievement of his life, these were not exactly world class numbers, to be sure. Yet if the O.B represented no great threat to break the sound barrier, he at managed to log thousands of miles of training and racing without inflicting major musculo-skeletal mayhem on himself. He has encountered numerous threats to his physical well being in all these years on the road, of course, including a couple of plugs excised from his rear end by unsupervised canines who clearly saw something they didn't like in the way he moved himself from point A to point B. There were also near-misses with lightning, rednecks in pick-up trucks, coeds in Beamers, and Hell's Angels wannabes. A couple of incidents actually required the O.B. to execute some desperate dodging maneuvers or fling himself into the ditch, etc. However, for all these years of pounding the pavement in all kinds of places under all kinds of conditions, there had never been a direct fender-meets-flesh-with-predictable-results encounter. Until this past Monday morning that is, when the driver of a standing vehicle suddenly decided to make it a moving vehicle just as the O.B. and one of his running buddies concluded that the operator of said motorcar had espied us and made a conscious decision to allow us to pass unmolested in our folly . (This is a cardinal rule for runners who plan to survive the potentially mean streets of any city. Try to make eye contact with a driver who is about to have you in his or her sights and if you can't or have any doubts whatsoever about the driver's intent, slam on your own brakes so hard that your sneakers smoke.)
In this case, since the vehicle in question had stayed put despite having both a clean shot at turning into the main thoroughfare and an unobstructed view of our approach, we determined that we might proceed with caution in front of the car. Just as we reached the point of no return, however, to our great dismay, the driver suddenly opted to get a move on. My running partner was about a stride ahead of me ( Yeah,I know, "Who ain't?") but positioned about midway back, and he threw out his arms to sort of bounce off the vehicle even as he was starting to yell like all getout. At that point, I thought--and damned sure hoped--the driver would stop because, try as I did so desperately, I knew there was no way that I could. Yet, like a homicidal maniac on a grisly mission of death, she plowed right ahead, turning ever toward me as she ran squarely over my right ankle. I actually didn't have time to interpret the ensuing "CRUNCH!!" because the combination of my own momentum and her acceleration toward me produced a most unfortunate collision with her left front fender , which, with my ankle still pinned under her tire, propelled the rest of me almost horizontally in the direction whence I came and left me lying flat on my back on the pavement, where, luckily, the major force of impact was absorbed by the relatively non-critical zone that is the back of my head. Veteran runners will understand immediately that even in that period of seemingly decelerated motion that always accompanies such traumatic events, on my way down, I was less worried about my brain getting its first direct exposure to daylight (or at least dawn) than about the chilling prospect that I might be forbidden to run the next morning.
No one willing to make such a disclosure would ever dare dispute the old contention that "the Good Lord looks after fools and children." Assuming that no indication of the category where I belong is necessary, let's just say that the fact that my running companions include two world-class physicians certainly affirms the general contention that somebody or something was definitely looking out for me that day. Having somebody there with the credentials to run polite interference with very well-intentioned good Samaritans (of whom a gratifying number actually materialized) until the meat wagon made it to the scene was very important. The crew of said wagon were likewise surely God-sent, and I sensed I was in good hands from there on out, as I, in fact, I most assuredly was.
The most disturbing occurence at the scene by far was the behavior of the driver who had knocked me cranium over keister in the first place. After apologizing and offering to drive me to the hospital--an offer that my physician buddies said I must decline because I needed services only an ambulance crew could provide--she headed off for parts unknown before the local constabulary had made it to the scene. This is my first and hopefully my last experience with this sort of thing, but I always thought hit-and-run drivers generally hit and, well, ran, without fooling with the niceties of an apology and the proffer of a ride to the hospital. Whether this is a new M.O. for hit'n runners remains to be seen, but according to the guardians of the law, stopping long enough to show your mama raised you to be polite even if she didn't teach you how to drive worth a damn counts for naught. Leaving the scene of an accident, especially where injuries have been sustained, is an offense not mitigated by a show of good manners.
Meanwhile, after a couple of stiff shots of Dilaudid in the ER, I didn't particularly care that my ankle had been fractured in three places and that my convalescence in a cast and off the streets was likely to be a six-week process. When the Dilaudid euphoria began to fade, the Percocet kept the throbbing from my swollen leg at least partially at bay, but nothing took up the slack in making the prospect of six weeks of sedentary confinement seem any less bleak. There has been much discussion and debate over the last three decades or so about the nature or even the existence of the proverbial "runner's high." I'm not talking about the huge endorphin rush that I know for a fact follows a crisp twenty-miler. I'm more concerned about the much less dramatic but still addictive feeling of reaffirmation and confidence that I always take away my daily run. It may well be all downhill from there, but at least I'll know that I registered at least one solid accomplishment that day.
In addition to this subtle little emotional buzz, I have to admit that I'll also miss the camaraderie that binds me to the fellow obessives who convene each weekday morning at 6:30 a.m. and Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. for yet another session of merciless jibes, shameless gossip, out-and-out lies, oft-recycled anecdotes, and utterly juvenile attempts at humor which, by the way, begins either at the start or end or somewhere in the middle of a brisk run.
All of the guys had checked on me within a couple of hours of my admission to the emergency room on Monday, but one of them made it a point to remind me that, technically, I hadn't actually completed the morning run. In another couple of days, there will be emails and phone calls suggesting that the word is out that I've really started "porking-up" since I "quit" running. I wouldn't have it any other way, of course. People are often eager to attribute an individual's troubles to "running with the wrong crowd." In this case, although I didn't really need additional affirmation, my recent misfortune simply reminded me that I've definitely been running with the right one.
P.S. It's always frightening when someone else is relating your experience to a broad audience with only second-hand information at their disposal. Please note, however, the confidence exuded by those who are energetically interpreting it third hand.