Rambling Roads: Late Winter Plights

By George A. Hancock

February is an interesting running month. Winter rages in numerous geographic locales. Yet spring signs are evident. One nice spring sign occurs on February 11. This is the volunteer date for Major League Baseball players to report to training camps. February 21 is the mandatory reporting date for all other MLB players. An excellent sign.

Another great February sign is found examining the daylight calculator. Runners outside running every day are aware of daylight growth. Our sunrise on February 1 out here in Greater Johnstown happens at 7:24 a.m. Sunset that day is at 5:51 p.m. This means our daylight is ten hours and eight minutes long.

However, once we reach February’s last day the daylight length is dramatic. Our Leap Day sunrise is at 6:49 a.m. Sunset on February 29 happens at 6:06 p.m. There are eleven hours and sixteen daylight minutes. And Daylight Saving Time begins in early March. Daylight is clearly on our side now.

The increasing daylight hours helps runners avoid late winter plights. Some folks call these plights potholes. But these days these critters are more than mere road holes. Potholes, road cracks, fissures, subsidence, erosion, and crumbling dominate road surfaces in many regions.

The freeze-thaw cycle in many areas creates road issues. This current winter season was bad for road- surface problems. The warmer late December temperatures following below-normal temperatures and rainy weather produced these issues. 

The roller-coaster weather patterns from warm temps to below-freezing temps are great for running but horrible for roads. Water seeps into these road cracks and freezes, creating more fissures, potholes, and even road subsidence.

I’m running on roads that were milled, base repaired, and macadam placed down just several years ago. Yet, major road cracks, even holes, are evident now due to weather patterns. Other roads never repaired are in worse shape.

Of course, increased traffic flow on some streets adds to this issue. Many local municipalities lack sufficient funds to perform full road repairs. Proper road resurfacing is expensive. Consequently, the worst sections are merely patched. Road patches are fine. However, these are a temporary fix.

My morning runs are revealing. I run every day dressed in a High Vis reflective vest while carrying a rechargeable light. My light illuminates my running path. Bare roads are shocking.

This year the road damage is incredible. The road-surface damage is extensive. Runners toiling along these roads without a light source are risking serious injury. Anyone running in the dark needs to take precautionary measures. A light source is mandatory.

Some runners use headlamps. I never tried this item. But, I’m told by head-lamp users that the light is great. Motorists are alerted to the runner’s presence plus the surrounding road is illuminated.

I prefer a hand-held light because one can wave/flash the light at approaching motorists. This works. Motorists will slow and move over.

Spotting road issues is the primary reason for my road light. Stepping into a pothole, a road fissure, or tripping on broken macadam carries nasty consequences. A runner can easily tweak or break something in these potholes. Spotting road issues before a mishap is huge.

My road light also detects fallen roadside tree branches. I’ve run into many tree branches before my light. I just never saw them in the dark. Also, a road light helps determine alternate routes when trees fall blocking roads. These days fallen trees are common.

 My road light has also detected fallen furniture. People moving frequently transport their possessions on overloaded carts, wagons, or maybe even wheel barrows. I’ve run around a few end tables, dressers, and outdoor furniture pieces.

Running through neighborhoods on windy days finds me dodging garbage cans, more outdoor furniture, and numerous other household items. My handy road light reveals these items.

My light also prevents running into messy roadkill parts. Why drag blood and gore home? Run away from or around these gruesome road sights. 

Road lights are not expensive. These lights are not heavy either. Road lights are available from numerous retailers. The rechargeable light investment is sound. I highly recommend using a light source.

March and more colorful spring days are near. Maybe, just maybe, our winter season is behind us.

Time, the calendar is on our side now. Run smart, run safe!

Categories: Features

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