Running Is a Contact Sport · 20 September 2014

I never would have believed it before, but running is a contact sport.

I am sure that those who run competitively would say that running is full of contact. Runners jostle each other for position in the beginning of races. And wherever there are crowds in a race, there is sure to be contact. But I usually run alone and never need to worry about jostling or contact with other runners. Inadvertent or otherwise. So I was surprised to discover that running really is a contact sport.

The most obvious contact in running, even for a lone runner, is where the rubber meets the road. Literally. Feet hit the pavement over and over and over. And Newton’s third law (of physics), ensures that the pavement pounds our feet with the same amount of force. There is contact every step of a run. The ground takes a beating from the feet and the feet take a beating from the ground. Surely all that ground pounding qualifies running as a contact sport.

But if that is not enough, there are times when the ground does more than just pound the feet. In fact, I have discovered that the ground does not just want to give the same amount of beating that the feet give to it. The ground wants to win.

While I was away from home running a loop (just over a mile for those who are counting), I found out just how devious the ground could be.

There was a joint in the sidewalk that had one edge up a little higher than the other. I noticed it each time around the loop and reminded myself four times (still counting?) to make sure I stepped high enough over it. The little hazard was at the top of a long shallow uphill stretch, but I still thought I was prepared for it on the last (fifth) lap.

As I approached, I must have been distracted.

Actually, I think the ground was tired of getting pounded by my feet. It wanted to win the pounding battle. Either that or somebody’s back was sore from me stepping on all those cracks. At any rate, the crack lifted one side up and tripped me. I had thoughts of being younger and seeing one person sticking a foot out in front of another person who was walking or running. I went down just like those unsuspecting victims did. I am sure I was not graceful. I know I did not do a quick judo roll, jump up, and continue running. I just went down. Hard. Arse over teakettle as the saying goes.

All this happened while a man in a white diesel truck was pulling out of the cul-de-sac I just passed. He must have seen it all and slowed as I lay on the ground. He stopped as I was getting up. He had concern in his eyes, but I assured him with a look and a little wave that I was okay. He gave a nod to make sure I was really okay, then took off with that signature diesel roar. Then, I pushed off again to finish my run.

When I finished, there was not a soul to cheer the battered and bloodied running warrior. And well there should not have been, for I had been vanquished. I had been beaten to a pulp by the ground. It had reached up and tripped me. It had made me bleed instead of just pounding my feet. It had won.

I may never be a runner jostled to and fro by competitors trying to gain position. I may not make contact with other runners. Ever. But the ground has convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that running is indeed a contact sport.

[Note: I went back the next day and checked out the sidewalk hazard. The one side of the sidewalk was no more than an eighth of an inch higher than the other. Which means that the sidewalk really reached up high to trip me.]

© 2014 Michael T. Miyoshi

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