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Of Running and Road Signs

Context changes things. For example, someone offering you a jelly doughnut can mean something very different when you’re in a bedroom instead of a bakery (or not, I don’t presume to know how your sex life works). Likewise, even though we often find ourselves on them, roads aren’t made for runners, and neither are most of the road signs. But because I’m a self obsessed fuck I often choose to interpret street signs as though they were for me whether I’m motorized or not.

Just last month I mentioned a speed limit sign along the steepest part of the Mount Evans Ascent that makes me laugh every year (or whatever passes for a laugh at that level of exhaustion and oxygen deprivation), admonishing everyone to keep it under 20 miles per hour, just as 20 yards per hour is starting to look like respectable pacing. And last October during the Mine to Mine Challenge I made a big deal out of spotting a “No Passing” sign while engaged in close fight for a finish line with another racer, and the weird little hysterical moment of relief it gave me, since I was currently a step or two ahead. The rules of the road said I was in front for good now… Right?

The most embarrassing moment of this probably came way back in my first race on closed off city streets. We were coming up on a traffic light, and as it flicked from green to yellow I had a brief moment of panic. There was no way I could get through there before it turned red. How much time was this stop going to cost me? How many people would catch up from behind? And what if it wasn’t just one? God I usually hit red lights one after another… And just as I started to slow down the realization of where I was and what I was doing clicked into place. I sheepishly sped back up and tried to pretend that all the blood rushing oxygen to my legs instead of my head wasn’t causing severe and debilitating brain trauma.

Next time you’re out road running take a look at the signs around you and see how many of their meanings change when you keep taking them literally, even though your feet are pushing pavement instead of gas pedals.

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