Saturday, June 22, 2013

Share The Trails

While running on a single track trail this morning a cyclist approached from behind. He was travelling at a good pace and he gave no warning as he zoomed by on my left side nearly clipping me. Truth be known, his disregard for my safety got me angry.  It also got me thinking... thinking about how much it would hurt to be hit from behind by a rogue cyclist! Thinking about the degree of fear we feel as we are passed without warning is directly proportional to the speed and clearance of the person passing us.  

Near the end of the run, my negativity cleared and I realized that to slag cyclists would be toxic and not fair.  Many cyclists practice good trail etiquette by slowing down and ringing a bell before they pass a pedestrian.  After all, I have three bikes and I enjoy cycling, but my passion is running, so it is from this perspective from which I speak.  

I've been running and cycling on city trails for much of my life and I've learned a thing or two. I've made many errors in judgement, both as a runner and as a cyclist. I've had several near misses, and I am ashamed of some of my actions, but I have learned from my mistakes, and I believe I now practice good trail etiquette. Indulge me as I share my vision of trail etiquette. These are my working assumptions; whether or not they are valid is for you to determine.  

Working Assumptions of Good Trail Etiquette
  • We all have the right to use trails.
  • We are respectful of one another.
  • We yield to those more vulnerable.
  • We give warning as we pass. 
  • We are mindful of our speed.
  • We run, walk, and cycle on the right and pass on the left.
  • We don't clog the trail by riding, running, or walking in a pack
  • We understand that if we use headphones we are hyper-aware of our surroundings.
  • We slow down, we ring a bell, and we give a 1 metre berth when passing on a bicycle.
  • We say "pass left" while - as a runner- we pass walkers or slower runners.
And for the visual learners among us, here's a flow chart of what I think  trail etiquette should look like. It's based entirely on speed vs vulnerability.  Simply, the faster you travel (typically bicycles) the greater the risk there is for a collision. I know many will disagree and that's entirely your right, however, if you don't agree with my vision of trail etiquette, what is yours?

Cyclists yield to all below.

Runners yield to all below.
Walkers yield to all below.
People in wheelchairs have right of way over all the above.
We all look out for children and give them a wide berth.
Equally, we all look out for the elderly and give them a smile and a nod as we pass slowly.
Get out there and enjoy the trails!  Be safe.  Run on the right, pass on the left.

It's a good day to be alive. 


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Who is Sylvia Ruegger and why we should care?

I know what I did to get that time. Don’t take it away. Don’t take it away.
Sylvia Ruegger

Sylvia Ruegger, Los Angeles Olympic Games 1984, Marathon Event

In other countries Sylvia Ruegger would be an iconic figure, but here in Canada she's virtually an unknown.  That's a pity.  We really should care more for our iconic figures. Who is Sylvia Ruegger and why should we care?  

Ruegger is a retired Olympic runner who holds the Canadian women's fastest marathon record with a time of 2:28:36 set in 1985 in Houston, Texas. Twenty-eight years later her record is still intact although Lannie Marchant and Krista DuChene are nipping at her heals. In 1984 Ruegger at age 23 (the second youngest runner) placed 8th out of a field of 50 women in the first ever Women's Olympic Marathon held in Los Angeles with a time of 2:29:09 (which coincidently is still faster than Lannie and Krista by about 2 minutes).  Her record is our record and this should make us proud. 

Are we proud? Do we care?

We should care because there is a good chance that Ruegger will be stripped of this record because some believe it was testosterone enhanced. Testosterone enhanced? What the heck.... is there a pee test for that? What does that even mean?

The International Track and Field committee say she had an advantage by running on a course with men. Incredibly (I can't make this stuff up) the International Track and Field Committee believe that by running with men she benefited by having male pacers. This new ruling also applies to Paula Radcliffe (at 2:15:25 Paula is the fastest women's marathoner on the planet) and all other women that have competed on a course with men. The current practice is to have women start 45 minutes before men.

In Sylvia's words:
Go after the dopers. There’s assisted, right. We did it clean. We did it on hard work and sacrifice. If one of those guys wants to come and look at all my journals of what I did, the price I paid to run that time, it was not because there was a guy running in the race, it was because I ran 200 kilometres a week and gave up everything else 
I ran 26.2 miles in 2:28 and I hurt doing it. And I didn’t do it because I was ‘helped’ by anyone. Like c’mon. There was no guy around me. Take a look at the footage. Even if there are guys around you, you still have to take every step on your own. You have to pull on that personal resolve, that mental strength, that fortitude, all of those hours you put in training.”

Ted's Run for Literacy race committee received an email from Sylvia the other day in which she explained how her mother helped her train early mornings before the sun rose. Sylvia grew up in the country where there were no street lights.  Her mother believed in her daughter and recognized the deep passion she had for running. She patiently drove the family car behind Sylvia, lighting the way for her daughter, lovingly pointing her in the right direction, as she trained those lonely 200 kilometres a week for a record that's on the brink of becoming obsolete.  

Sylvia is currently the National Director for Start 2 Finish, Running & Reading Clubs. Here at Start 2 Finish she works as hard -perhaps harder- as she did in 1985 on that 'testosterone enhanced' course, helping to break the cycle of childhood poverty through nurturing the minds, bodies, and social health of countless Canadian children. Ted's Run For Literacy is a proud supporter of Sylvia and Start 2 Finish.  Come run Ted's Run for Literacy on October 20.  Run for Ted.  Run for Sylvia. Run to break the cycle of childhood poverty. You can register here.

So friends, that's Sylvia's story in a nutshell.  I hope you care. I hope she makes you proud. I hope you will share her story with your family this evening over dinner, or on your next run with a friend.  Tell the story, honour the person. 

It's a good day to be alive.


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