Whether you are a beginning runner or a seasoned veteran, I'm willing to bet that, at one time or another, a beer-bellied driver, a young punk, an elderly gentleman, or a sweet old lady has, rather unkindly told you to "Get off the road!"
Well, the next time they do, don't flash them an obscene gesture. Don't challenge them. If fact, don't allow yourself to become upset.
Rather, consider their verbal abuse as sound advice.
Following are a dozen reasons why, at least sometimes, we should get off the roads.
1. Longevity-Paved streets are very unkind to our legs. Persistent pounding on blacktop surfaces stresses our feet, knees, hips, and lower back. Concrete surfaces are even worse. Get off the streets a couple of days a week and you'll stay healthy longer. It's that simple.
2. iPods-We love 'em, but they do take away a valuable weapon that helps to keep us safe on city streets and country roads: our ears. Now, running through nature AND listening to our favorite music is sweet stimulation for several senses.
3. Rest-Sometimes, trails force us to run slower, and that can be a good thing. If you're training intensely for an important race, a workout on a trail will allow you to run slower, giving you the rest you need for the big race.
4. Peace-All of us realize that there are more distracted drivers on the road today. We've read about tragic accidents involving runners and distracted drivers. On days when you don't want to think too much about the dangers of running in traffic, find the nearest trail.
5. Roots-Yeah, that's what our ancestors did. They didn't have $100 shoes or GPS watches, but they communed with nature by running through the woods. Get back to your roots an do what they did. Heck, there weren't too many fat cavemen or women!
6. Become a wolfpack-Call your friends and make your next trail run a group run. Surprise the cyclists coming toward you with a show of runner force. Running with your friends on a trail together is a lot of fun.
7. Ratchet it up-Find the nearest trail race. Running a trail race breaks up the intensity of road racing. It can be fun as well as challenging.
8. See the country-My oldest daughter, Kelly, attended the University of South Carolina. After a visit or two to Columbia, I discovered Sesquicentennial State Park, a maze of hard-packed, sandy trails. There was plenty of shade, and the running was magnificent.
9. Shade-Speaking of shade, on hot summer days, trails usually provide large amounts of shade, and are often 10 degrees cooler than hot, sunny city streets. Wherever you go across this great country, a secluded trail can be found if you do a little research.
10. Beaches-Ideal off-road venues. No shade here, but there's often a pleasant ocean breeze, and no hills.
11. Mountains-Rocks, thorns, a snake or two. Nothing more challenging than a mountain trail.
12. Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter-If you really want to experience the beauty of the four seasons, take the beer-bellied guy's advice and get off the road once in a while. There are few better ways to truly appreciate nature's true beauty.
The next time you are told by grandma in the Delta 88 to "Get off the road," tell her, "Thanks. I should do that!"