When I was in college, I had a few recurring nightmares about being in a terrible multi-car pile-up on the freeway (696 in Michigan, to be precise), and every few years, since I was little, I’ve had a terrifying nightmare involving falling off something high up (oddly, this doesn’t translate to a fear of heights in real life). Earlier this evening, though, I had a vision of my own impending death.
It was death by running.
I had this vision while lying face-down on the sidewalk, a few seconds after taking what was surely a tremendous, glorious fall. I was running down Dehougne Street, not far from my house (don’t ask how to pronounce it, as I have no idea, but my best guess is “Dee-Hone”), and I tripped on the sidewalk, where a tree root had pushed up one concrete slab a little bit higher than the one next to it. The height difference was not enough to be seen in advance, but it was enough – an inch or two, possibly – to catch the toe of my shoe, and down I went.
I don’t fall gracefully. There are people who can trip, and then start spinning their arms this way and that, like some whirling dervish, and end up recovering, and continue on their way, without any skin-to-concrete contact. Not me. If something messes with my center of gravity, like a sidewalk slab that’s slightly higher than its neighbors, than I go down like a pile of bricks. I lack the instinct to try to recover out of a tripping scenario, and most of the time, I lack the instinct to even somehow brace or prepare myself for the fall, by doing sensible things like turning my face away as to avoid contact.
That’s exactly what happened towards the end of 2009. I was at my gym, and wanted to use a treadmill, but they were all in use, so I decided to walk around the neighborhood instead. Most of the walk was incident-free, but in the last few minutes, when I was a few hundred yards from the parking lot, a similarly-slightly-raised sidewalk slab tripped me up, literally, and BAM! I fell flat on my face. On my face. I scraped up my knees and arms, permanently scratched my glasses, and nearly bit through my lip with my own tooth (which really bummed me out, because it took forever to heal, and, because the inside of my lip was swollen, it looked, on the outside, like I had some nasty herpes sore).
Ever since then, I’ve made an effort to keep an eye out for deadly sidewalk imperfections, but I obviously wasn’t on top of my game tonight. Luckily, though, I had my contacts in, so there were no glasses to damage, and when the moment was over, I realized that I might actually be getting better at this whole falling thing, because my face was hovering a solid two inches above the concrete, held there, because I had managed to catch myself on my hands. I was in a perfect position to hoist myself up and start doing push-ups, except for that my hands stung like hell.
I stayed in that position, staring at the sidewalk a few inches in front of me, for 10 or 15 seconds. First, to catch my breath. Second, to listen for the footsteps or calls of a concerned good samaritan who had witnessed my accident, but there were none, as I was alone on that stretch of Dehougne, or perhaps there were bystanders who were fighting the urge to break out into hysterics, as I’m convinced that if ever a security camera were to capture one of my falls, I’d be a $10,000 winner on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Third, because I had a vision of my own death.
If I recall correctly, the order of my post-fall thoughts was this: “Holy crap. I think I’m okay” followed by “I’m gonna die some day by tripping over a god-damn sidewalk” followed by “I’m gonna die because one day when I’m out running, I’m gonna get startled by a dog that I can’t see because it’s behind a fence, but is barking at me nonetheless, and the dog’s abrupt barking will cause me to jump ever so slightly, and I won’t notice the sidewalk rise up in front of me, and I’ll trip on it, and I’ll land squarely on a pile of rusty spikes left behind by a construction crew, or maybe impale myself on a 4-pronged gardening fork left out by someone who thinks they have a green thumb, and I’ll bleed out on the sidewalk, and the last thing I’ll hear is Christina Aquilera on my iPod singing ‘Show Me How You Burlesque’.“
It’d be a crappy way to die, huh? Not much better than being a victim of Sharktopus.
Luckily for me, though, my fall happened towards the end of my run. I had run for 38 minutes before the sidewalk rose up and attacked me. Here’s my route:
The fall happened maybe 100 feet from the E dot on that map, but screw it, I’ll counting the whole block as part of my run.
Prior to the fall, it had been a pretty good run. I waited until after sunset to head out, so it was a little cooler, and I was feeling much better than my run last week, which pretty much sucked. And in those 38 minutes of running, I went 3.5 miles. Add in about 6 minutes of walking to warm up, 8 minutes of walking to cool down post-fall, and a few minutes to collect myself and curse under my breath immediately post-fall, and I was on the streets for just under an hour. Time to update the chart!
- 9/21/10: Distance: 3.1 miles. Time: 41 minutes. MPH: 4.53
- 9/27/10: Distance: 3.3 miles. Time: 45 minutes. MPH: 4.4
- 10/5/10: Distance: 3.2 miles. Time: 40 minutes. MPH: 4.8
- 10/12/10: Distance: 3.8 miles. Forgot to note time and MPH
- 10/16/10: Distance: 2.9 miles. Forgot to note time and MPH
- 11/1/10: Distance: 3.1 miles. Time: 36 minutes. MPH: 5.16
- 11/6/10: Distance: 5.1 miles. Time: 60 minutes. MPH: 5.1
- 11/14/10: Distance: 3.9 miles. Time: 45 minutes. MPH: 5.2
- 11/28/10: Distance: 4.2 miles. Time: 46 minutes. MPH: 5.47
- 1/4/11: Distance: 3.0 miles. Time: 34 minutes. MPH: 5.3
- 1/24/11: Distance: 4.4 miles. Time: 45 minutes. MPH: 5.86
- 2/1/11: Distance: 1.9 miles. Time: 20 minutes. MPH: 5.7
- 2/9/11: Distance: 3.5 miles. Time: 38 minutes. MPH: 5.52
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I really am fine. My hands and knees stung like crazy for about 10 minutes, but I’m pretty much unscathed, except for a small scrape on the side of my left hand:
That ain’t nothin’ a little Neosporin and a band-aid won’t take care of. I lucked out.
Tomorrow, I’m heading, for the first time, to a pool in Los Angeles to swim laps! So be sure to check back here soon for that update – I’m pretty sure I’ll be safe in the pool, unless, of course, there’s a Sharktopus.
OH – and tomorrow I’m announcing my first-ever Keep It Up, David GIVEAWAY! You’ll have the chance to win something!
Keep it up, David!