ODE TO THE TRAFFIC LIGHT…

When it comes to pounding pavement, we runners would ideally like to motor without any deviations from our flight plan.

I AM a traffic light.

I AM a traffic light.

We want to run from A to B with as few detours and interruptions as possible.

Avoiding obstacles in the road, weaving to miss potholes, leaping big curbs and dodging puddles all can take their toll (both physically and mentally) as the miles roll on.

When fatigue starts to mount, any kind of disruption can potentially damage your “running calm.”

I remember one time getting pissed off at mile 18 of a long run because I had to side step a large pinecone. My anger was justified… that little bastard was clearly evil and had placed himself in my path on purpose.

And for those of who run on streets (be it big city or small town), we all have to deal with the mother of all interruptions… the traffic light.

How many times have you been running along “in the zone” only to have it shattered by reaching an intersection where the light is crimson and not clover (that’d be red not green) and you have no choice but to put on the brakes?

Evil evil pinecone.

Evil evil pinecone.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Yup, for too long a moment you go from being a runner to being a “waiter” as you stand motionless, giving passing traffic the stink eye.

Of course some runners use the red light as an opportunity to work on some much needed jogging in place. If you do, more power to you. But be prepared for some eye rolling from a percentage of your running brethren and sistren (“sistren” probably isn’t a word, but it sounds cute so I’m going with it).

I have my own personal relationship with the red traffic light. I like to think of it as an intelligent being, kind of like the HAL 9000 if it were hanging over an intersection.

“I’m sorry Scott. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

See, I recently moved and now do some of my maintenance runs along a stretch that parallels the metro bus line (they have a running/bike path). The problem is my route takes me through several intersections crossing main thoroughfares and the red lights are long.

Really long.

Like stupid long.

As a result, catching the green light has become much more important to me.

Yet, I get the sense that the red lights have been having fun with me. I think they are communicating with each other and working together to purposely frustrate the living hell out of me.

I believe they can sense my mood and mess with me accordingly.

If I see a green light as I approach an intersection and am feeling good, you can bet that it’ll turn yellow (the traffic light tease) and then go all crimson-y just as I reach it the intersection.

Yet if I’m hurting and could seriously use a minute or two of “non-moving” time, you can sure as hell bet that the traffic signal will stay forever green.

To make matters worse, these intersections also have countdown timers on their walk signals, which can really screw with your noggin.

The final countdown.

The final countdown.

As I get near the intersection, suddenly that happy “white walker” will instantly transform into an orange “stop it right now” hand accompanied by a countdown to that damned red light.

It’s like the traffic signal is going, “I bet you can’t reach and cross the street in 20 seconds. I dare you. I double dare you. I triple dog dare you.”

So, I have to decide if I turn on the afterburners (my macho way of saying “pick up the pace”) and risk tiring myself out, or do I just slow down and watch the traffic signal laugh as the numbers decrease and signify my inevitable defeat.

And as added “bite me,” the light will at times change to red when there are just a handful of cars present. Which means I get to wait on an empty street as the signal dares me to play a real-life game of Frogger.

Yup, the traffic light is clearly a malevolent god.

Run and I may smite you.

Run and I may smite you. Or I may not.

However, sometimes the mighty dangling deity will throw its lowly subject a bone. There have been times when the light has magically changed green or red (for no reason) at a time that is actually beneficial to me.

Some people might state that the crimson-amber-clover idol is showing that it is indeed fair. Personally, I just think it’s letting me know who is boss.

Message received red light. Message received.

You know, I think I’ll go back and kick that stupid pinecone.

Run the red at your own risk… and Run on!

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Posted on September 8, 2015, in General. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times the traffic gods have mocked this lowly runner with ights that go from green to amber to red, red, and red again before allowing the green to grace me with its appearance. How is a girl to train if red lights, rabid squirrels, freefalling pinecones, and sidewalks that look like Portugese Bend in the South Bay insist on blowing her runningly happy place?

    • The traffic gods do test their subjects mightily, don’t they. Perhaps it’s to deem whether or not we’re worthy of their divine gifts (a PR or extra cookie at the finish line) or if instead we should be cursed horribly (a rumbling stomach or chafed butt crack). Thanks for writing and good luck with them rabid squirrels.

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