Monday, September 7, 2009

The running encyclopedia ...

On Saturday, while out for a long walk, a car pulled up to the Professor while she was on Mountain Road. The person in the passenger's seat asked if she could help with directions. The Professor said, "Sure, where are you trying to go?"

"Six Flags," the passenger replied, straight-faced. "Can you tell me how to get to Six Flags?"

Bewildered by the query (since Six Flags is: 1. not in Connecticut and 2. Absolutely nowhere near Mountain Road in West Hartford - 30 miles and a 45 minute drive at the minimum), the Professor immediately grew suspicious, as if these people were trying to catch her off-guard before they tossed a pillowcase over her head and crunched her into the trunk. She gave them an "are you serious?" look, then said they should begin by finding Massachusetts via 91 north.

When she got home and told me the story, it reminded me of a similar situation that I was in a few years back, when we were still living in Boston. It was the morning of the Boston Marathon. I was out for a run before heading into work, when a car pulled up next to me and a woman in her mid-thirties and her husband asked: "How do I get to the staring line of the marathon?" This was asked in a nonchalant way, like they were driving along and thought, "Look, there's a runner, we must be close!" Perhaps they thought I must have been heading there myself. Never in their minds, I'm sure, did it occur to them that, since a marathon is 26.2 miles long, the starting line wasn't going to be anywhere near the corner of the city we were occupying. Yet, I tried to help them. I gave them my best description of the marathon route (at least, the best I could remember) and told them to head toward Hopkinton. I even warned them that by the time they got there, the marathon would be fully underway, that their best bet was to drive up to Boston College and camp out on Heartbreak Hill.

It's funny to hear the things people say to you while you're running. More often than not, you're either a human GPS or a target for insults. I don't mind the GPS questions, as long as it doesn't slow me down all that much. I do mind the insults, though even those can be so odd that they're memorable. An example: Right after I moved here, I, along with a few other runners that were on the same road, were barraged by the drunken rants of a teenager in a passing car (the fact that it was around ten o'clock in the morning is an entirely other issue). I wasn't able to hear what was said to the other runners, but to me he said, "I'd teabag that." Huh? I didn't know whether to laugh or lunge at him. It confused me and made me wonder why people bothered? What pleasure comes from shouting out a window? At a runner, of all people!

But every once in a while there's the person who counters the 17-year-old boys. They're the positive reinforcement, the stranger that, for whatever reason, wants to keep you going when you're pounding the pavement. Those are the people you want to run past every day. The ones that say, "good job" or "keep it up." The ones who say these things because they're nice, because they want to say them. They're a rare breed. Sadly, for every shout of encouragement, there's at least a few invitations to lewd sexual acts involving testicles.

So, runners (and walkers) out there, do you have any funny or odd encounters with strangers that you'd like to share? If so, leave a message in the comments below.


Judo For Make Love said...

One of the local drunks onced asked me if I could spare a ciggarette as I was jogging past.

Anonymous said...


For a VERY strange encounter, check out a new West Hartford Community TV show at