By George A. Hancock
Okay, what do car mirrors have to do with running? Hmm, perhaps this column needs to be retitled to Vehicle Mirrors. That phrase more aptly describes the content of November’s column.
I can’t believe this road experience is only noticed or felt by me. My thought is simple. Vehicles—both cars and trucks—seem to now sport bigger and wider mirrors. The odds are great that a runner gets hit by or even runs into these larger vehicle mirrors.
Full disclosure time. I run along the roadside. I avoid running on sidewalks where possible. 97% of my running time is okay. However, that other 3% finds me running along streets and roads with parked vehicles. I also run many miles in the morning dark. This means an occasional mirror encounter.
Thankfully, there are no injuries or damage reports. These mirror encounters are misjudgments on my part. Or, the new mirror generation on vehicles is bigger and wider. The mirrors I’ve run into were never fully seen. I do run with a good rechargeable road light, too. That light beam is generally cast down observing the road surface.
I run against the traffic flow. So, vehicle mirrors I run by have the glass side facing me. This surface is generally dark and not reflective. These days those mirrors are wider and bigger. This point accounts for those other mirror encounters.
I’m seeing more broken mirrors dangling from vehicles on my daily runs. My thought here is these bigger, wider mirrors were hit by other vehicles. There is only so much room on a two-lane roadway. A wider mirror eventually is hit by someone especially on a busier street.
Occasionally, I see the aftermath of what no doubt happened after a large tractor trailer “squeezed” through two lines of parked vehicles. Unhappy residents talking to the local police about vehicle paint-scratch damage is never a pleasant morning sight. There never are witnesses or video support. The vehicle owner generally foots the repair bill. I can honestly report my daily running has never damaged a vehicle.
I was only hit, touched, bumped, or whatever once while running. Truthfully, the contact was more of a glancing blow. It was a dark morning before my road light days. I was wearing a reflective vest. The vehicle was a smaller truck but with wider mirrors. I was running facing traffic on a two-lane street with decent streetlights.
My guess is the truck driver misjudged or never saw me. The truck mirror grazed my shoulder as the truck drove by. This was more of a nudge than hit. There were no bruises, blood, etc. The nudge never broke my stride, although I did wonder if I dented that mirror. That driver never stopped.
A more visible problem occurs while driving on these two-lane roads. These vehicles with the wide mirrors take up more than their share of the road room. Driving past them is tricky. The safest driving mode is slowing or stopping until that vehicle passes. However, those wider mirrors are not fully visible under various weather situations.
In my Greater Johnstown region many roadside utility poles are located near the road. Sometimes too close to the road. These poles attract vehicles. I imagine the poles also attract wide mirrors. I’ve never witnessed that encounter either running or driving.
Of course, trail runners never experience this issue. Wide mirrors are the exclusive handicap for road runners. Running alert helps avoid the issue. Running in the morning or evening dark demands a light source.
Running during dark hours while flashing your light at approaching motorists eases or maybe eliminates the sting of wide mirror mishaps. Just another fun item to consider as we continue our late autumn running adventure.
Happy Thanksgiving all! Stay safe. Run smart.