There’s a first time for everything…

Girl running in the forest.

I was chased by a lawn mower yesterday. Now, it’s not all that uncommon for me to be chased by something while running. I’ve been pursued by dogs, deer, opossum, Canadian geese, and, of course, the ever-present highschool kids who think it’s hilarious to drive along side a runner yelling “Run, Forrest! Run!”

Over the years, I’ve developed some tactics to ward off any animal or human that chases me. When being chased by a dog, the most common occurrence, you must first assess the size of the dog. Is it a small dog with a Napoleon complex but very sharp teeth? If so, stop in your tracks, use a very low voice, and yell at the dog to “go home!” If the dog is larger in nature but looks fairly friendly (i.e. not a dog with a spiked collar answering to the name of Killer), once again stop and tell the dog to go home. Most likely, the dog just wanted to be pals and run alongside you but then you’re dealing with the issue of bringing the dog home again and then facing your new running buddy’s owner.

Now when dealing with deer, it’s fairly uncommon to be “chased” but believe me, it does happen. Unbeknownst to many people, those seemingly benign creatures have a bit of a temper. I’ve found that once you get over your initial fright, it’s best to simply walk away slowly (maintaining eye contact so to be sure that Bambi isn’t following you).

As for Canadian geese, their temper is worse then deer and if you accidentally happen to run by one of their nests, then you’re basically SOL- you’re going to go home with a bite mark or two. Because they don’t speak our language, there’s no use in yelling at them; I’ve found it makes them more agitated and there’s nothing scarier than an irate goose charging you. It’s best to go the other way- immediately- and at full speed. Those geese are fast on their (webbed) feet.

But what’s a runner to do when being chased by a lawn mower- and not a push mower- a full size tractor with a full-grown man at the helm?

Here’s what happened….

An older gentleman resides on one of the streets I run on daily, and he exists solely to harass me – really. More often than not, I ignore him but occasionally I retaliate with a comment or gesture. Yesterday’s run was no different from any other except for some exceptional heat. Oh the heat! We’ve been having cooler temps in my area so I was blindsided when I stepped out my front door into a veritable sauna (okay, it was only 85 degrees but it was huuuumid!). Just 1 mile into my run I was sweating up a storm. By mile 3 my eyes were on fire from salty sweat drippings, and by mile 5 I was searching for a garden hose. So by mile 9, when I passed the gentleman’s house, I was in no mood to be hassled.

My worrying was for naught as he appeared too busying mowing to offer commentary on my running form. That’s when it happened, the chase began. I saw him come after me out as I passed his drive. I kept going but that tractor was quick! I gave him the universal what the hell are you doing? sign but he didn’t even flinch and kept gunning for me- not slowing down one bit. That’s when I bit it. All of the sudden I had sidestepped off the road and into a shallow ditch. As I slowly got up, brushed myself off, and collected my dignity, I realized that the old man had finished his yard and was headed to the garage without a backwards glance as if to say “are you okay?” And that’s when it hit me. He hadn’t been chasing me. He didn’t even know I was there. I had imagined the whole event on account of dehydration (and slight heat stroke)! Because of dehydration, I suffered from both a slow pace and a lapse in judgment; both of which made it seem as if I was losing the race with a small garden tractor! And the side step into the ditch? Well, that’s just what you get when you’re exhausted because you neither hydrated nor fueled properly when going out for a long run in the middle of heat wave. I should have known better.

To save you this kind of embarrassment and potential for injury as a result of ditch-diving, here’s my advice to you:

This spring and summer when heading out for a jaunt during a heat wave, be sure to drink up (water and sports drinks) and fuel up as necessary. Skip these vital steps before and during your run, and your neighbor’s new puppy just might start giving you a hard time, not to mention the little girl and her kitten that you pass on your daily run.