Friday, March 20, 2015

Well-Intentioned Advice...and Ultrarunning

People just can't help themselves--they want to be helpful and concerned, sincerely believing that they have some good advice for you.

"You," of course, being an Ultrarunner.

I was reminded of that this morning when I went out for a snowy run here on the final official day of winter, not a trail run, but just a flat 5-mile road loop from the house on my beloved Harshman Road.  My mother-in-law is staying with us for a few days, being newly mobile--sadly--due to the death of her husband and the loss of her last cat.

All the MIL stereotypes do not apply in her case; she's a kind, sensible and likable woman whom I am privileged to know.  But today as I was heading out the door came the words from behind: "Don't slip!"

I said "Thanks" and went on my way.  And I didn't even slip, not once.

But that reminded me of what surely was one of the most egregious examples of such unnecessary advice, which came when I was running on the Appalachian Trail nearby.  Keep in mind that over the years I have run hundreds if not thousands of AT miles, and this day I had run some 10 miles south from Caledonia State Park in southern PA to the vicinity of Old Forge.  I was running swiftly along the 2 mile downhill on the stretch below Chimney Rocks when I encountered a group of hikers struggling uphill.  Their leader was in the front, a young man, with perhaps a dozen or so teenagers strung out behind.  They may have come from Abraxis or Vision Quest, which are local residential facilities for troubled youth located just off the AT in the village of South Mountain.

(As an aside, in my day, the kids would have been called juvenile delinquents and the place where they were sent was called reform school.  But I am dating myself, and please know that I am quite pleased anytime I see kids on the trail.)

At any rate, as I sailed by heading downhill, the leader said to me, "Be careful, lots of loose rocks on the trail."

I said the requisite "Thanks" and after they passed, just shook my head and smiled.  He did mean well.

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