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Running Rule #1/Cycling Rule #1

March 2012

I was just reading some Triathlon Training Tips when I came up on this gem:

Training Rule #6: Alternate the direction you run around the track.

Always running in the same direction on the track can lead to muscle imbalances. Run clockwise one day and counter-clockwise the next. Similarly, since most roadways slope down from the center line, always running on the left hand side of the road can lead to muscle imbalances, too“.

Whoever wrote that should sell stupid somewhere else.  There is one nearly universal, unbreakable rule to running (other than don’t wear running shorts that are so high cut that your boys… Well, let’s just say no high cut running shorts without duct tape):  Run opposing traffic – in the US that would mean you’re on the left side of the road.  There is no playing with this rule, there is no justification worthy of running on the wrong side of the road.  It’s this simple:  If you see red, you’re dead.  More runners are struck running with traffic than against by an order of magnitude.  The “red” is meant to signify tail lights on a car, or when a car passes you, if you see the tail lights prepare to meet your maker.  Just to clear something up real quick, my doctor – genius that he is – once recommended that I run my course in reverse, while staying on the left side of the road by the way, to avoid always running on the same side of the crown…  Folks, you can’t win ’em all and even doctors make mistakes…  If you’re on the left, running against traffic, on a crown, your left leg will always be the lower one – no matter which way you run the route.  Yes, he was exceptionally embarrassed when I pointed this out – it was one of those moments you wish you could undo.

If you’re worried about running on a crowned road, run on a sidewalk (it should naturally slope toward the road, or opposite the crown) and in many States/Towns it is law that you must use the sidewalk if available, but do not EVER run with traffic to avoid a crown, because that would make you stupid.

I can only think of three instances where it would be wise to think about deviation:  1.  When running uphill on a dirt road:  Cars tend to drive too fast for conditions on dirt roads – if someone comes over the crest and sees you and over reacts, that situation will get messy in a hurry.  2.  When you’re on a dirt road and coming up on a 2 way stop sign and you’ll be making a right hand turn – it can be wise to switch sides of the road just before you get to the intersection – if a stupid kid decides to make the turn too fast (in an attempt to fishtail the car) which happens A LOT, you could get mashed.  Just be careful to check over your shoulder before crossing the road.  3.  Running up a blind left hand curve with no shoulder to your immediate left.  I actually have one of these on my Saturday run, fortunately they’re very rare.  It’s a sweeping, uphill, left curve with a guard rail.  If you surprise a driver coming over the crest, there’s nowhere for you to go.  In this case, I run on the right (with traffic) but 5-10 feet to the right of the shoulder – in people’s front yards, but only in the dead of summer when the foliage obscures the view around the corner.

By the way, if you run on the gravel shoulder, that’s usually level.

Of course, while we’re offending people, let us look cycling’s rule #1 as well – and this one is even more stringent:  Ride on the road, with traffic.  If you’re in the US that would mean you’re on the right side of the road (riding in the same direction as the cars).  This rule is simple – there are no excuses to break it.  If you think you have an excuse, feel free to share it in the comments section but I can promise you that you are two things:  Obnoxious and wrong.  This also goes for riding on the side walk.  Side “WALKs” are meant for pedestrians, or W-A-L-K-E-R-S.  For those of you who are trying to think of a witty, indignant response to put in the comments, please also include a description of what it feels like to be both self righteously indignant and utterly wrong – at the exact same time – I’m more interested in that than an excuse.

Actually, I can think of ONE time where it’s ok to ride on the side walk but you must meet THREE criteria for this to be acceptable:

1.  You must have been born before 1955.

2.  You must be on a leisure bike.

3.  You must be traveling at a speed no greater than a jogger (6 mph).

For example, if you’re 51, on a road bike and traveling at 6 mph – you’d better be heading up a freaking mountain number one – but you don’t meet the criteria.  You’re a man for God’s sake!  Put on your big boy pull-up, get on the road where you belong and pedal that thing!  Or better yet, you’re a woman…  What happened to all of that I am woman, “hear me roar” hoo-hah?  Let’s hear it dammit!

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