Over time, I’ve had my share of wipeouts on the road, one or two of them fairly dramatic, most affecting my dignity more than my body parts. It’s easy to feel like an idiot when you come crashing to the ground for no apparent reason. “What was I thinking? Why didn’t I see that tree root? I should have been able to catch myself.”
Wipeouts are sudden, take us by surprise, cannot be predicted or anticipated and are humbling. I think it’s fair to say that wipeouts are universal. We all suffer them, whether or not we choose to hit the road running. We can say to ourselves, “I’m going to watch it. That’s never going to happen to me again.” We can say it, think it, resolve not be so careless and unaware, but good luck. There are no guarantees. It will probably happen again.
My most interesting crash and burn occurred at the eleven-mile-mark at the Duke City Half Marathon in Albuquerque, New Mexico a few years ago. Most of the course was on a dirt path beside a river, a surface that was kind to my recovering Achilles tendon. But the last couple of miles were on pavement and my theory is that the added impact of the hard surface was a big factor in my fall, splat, face down causing a gash in my right elbow. I was limping a little, nursing that tendon and probably not picking up my feet the way I should have been. Oh yes, there were lots of spectators who showed their concern, then watched me get up and resume running.
I was way too close to the finish line to quit. There was a good bit of blood dripping from my elbow, but there was no pain right then, least not at the wound site. At the finish line, (I still managed to win my age group.) they cleaned me up at the medical tent and my friend took me off to get stitches and an antibiotic. I healed up fast. Elbow scars are insignificant.
I have tripped over tree roots running alone in the Maine woods where the ground is soft. I was glad there was no one to see me fall flat.
Running along Mountain Avenue in downtown Fort Collins one day, I was admiring myself in a plate glass window and actually saw the beginning of my descent onto the pavement. That one hurt, but I jumped up immediately and continued to run, hoping against hope that no one had seen my performance.
One year I experienced a series of four or five falls, nearly all of them in trail run areas where the ground is rough. I was beginning to wonder if this was a permanent condition, but for whatever reason, I moved beyond that phase.
I don’t hesitate to go out for a run when the roads are icy or snow-covered, but I proceed with care. I’ve learned the hard way to take turns slowly and to avoid getting the least bit off balance causing me to swerve. That, I’ve discovered, is when a slip or fall is most likely.
Avoiding wipeouts is impossible. We might as well savor those that make good stories.