Not my friend, indeed.

I was pulled over today.

You might think to yourself, “Damn, Don, that stinks. But what does it have to do with running?”

I was pulled over while running. Lights blipped, officer calling out to me. I immediately assumed the best, because I come from a family that generally respects and supports police officers, and let’s face it, I’m a middle class law-abiding white guy. Nothing to fear. So I assumed that the officer was pulling over to make sure I was alright, to offer me a ride if it was too cold for me to run home in the light falling snow. I assumed he was my friend.

“Yes, officer?”
“You need to move over more.”
“You need to move over more, onto the side of the road. Especially with the snow like this.”
“But… the snow…”, I gesture helplessly at the treacherous and completely ungroomed shoulder of the road.
“I’d rather you get your feet wet than you cause an incident and get killed.”
“Yes sir.”
“Be more careful.”
“Yes sir.”

By this time I was boiling with rage. I am respectful, even deferential, in my dealings with police, because I respect the work they do, the constant abuse they take, and the stress of their job. But I was on the verge of losing my cool. I ran off, finished my 3 mile run, and walked a long cooldown.

I cannot believe it. I cannot believe that an officer of the law saw me in the road, had the reaction of the typical inconsiderate motorist, and thought to himself, “Wait, I’m a cop, I can tell this guy to get out of the road,” and reached for his lights.

Sure, maybe he thought he was doing me a favor, making me aware of the danger of running on a snowy evening. However, it sure didn’t sound like it. It sounded like he thought I was a prissy dry-footed iconoclast who was endangering a bunch of cars because of my audacity to run in the road. It sounded like he thought I was worried about getting my feet wet, not about falling and hurting myself, turning an ankle and falling into the road. Not about getting hit by the cars who, apparently just like him, have no concern for how close they are to me, except that if they get farther, it might cause an “incident.”

I have been shaking with a feeling of being betrayed, pretty much since. I’m one part mad, one part betrayed, and one part disappointed that I didn’t say something to him, something to defend my own use of the road, the amount of work I was doing to keep myself visible and safe, and to convey that the cause of any incident would certainly not be my soft fleshy self on the side of the road, running at under 6mph, but more likely the folks driving on snowy roads at above the speed limit. Luckily, they were protected from the inconvenience (and, I presume, paperwork) of killing me by the fine people of the Belleville Police Department.


6 responses to “Not my friend, indeed.

  1. I’ve been following along from Google Reader for some time, but this post caused me to follow the link to comment. Not surprisingly, I had to weigh in on this one.

    I would send this post, or one like it, to the local paper. I’ve never heard of an incident that better illustrated the desire for a livable, runable, and family-friendly community on one hand, and local police working directly against those values on the other.

    And to think you’re paying his salary! Betrayed, indeed.


  2. Don,
    I echo Brian’s sentiments.
    For all the years and miles that I have run – many of them in winter on rural roads with no sidewalks, I have never been “stopped” and warned…..

    The purp was obviously NOT a runner himself.

    In NYC, every cruiser has the CPR logo in tall letters on both sides: Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect. 99.9% of the time, these officers handle matters with CPR in mind, including the time I was pulled over for cell phone use. (It was a $130 ticket, not a $0 warning, but the Officer finessed me into THANKING him for the ticket!)

    I agree with Brian –
    A quick, short, and to-the-point editorial might shame towns people to do a better job with their snow shovels, and maybe wake up the road crew to do a better job of plowing at the same time.

    Whatever you do – KEEP RUNNING!


    PS –
    Question…. Do you run with or against traffic? This has been a debate for as long as runners have had to take to the roads….
    I run against, keeping a careful eyeball on oncoming drivers.

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence, Paul! I was thinking the same thing; I felt neither served nor protected.

      I run against traffic, because with warning I can react, and with cars come from behind I feel too unnerved to run my best. In addition, I figure my headlight is visible from the front, and that I have the best shot at not getting crushed by someone making a right hand turn (left hand turns having to yield to traffic mean less worries, but right hand turns can sometimes be completely untelegraphed!)

  3. Donald….un-stinkin believable! In all the years (25+year and counting) or running…through every conceivable weather, including last weeks blizzard, have I EVER been stopped by a police officer who told be to basically get out of the road. WTF, man? How about commending you for braving the elements, doing something healthy for yourself, wearing highly visible apparel instead of sitting in a cruiser, drinking hot coffee and eating god knows what, watching the pounds pack on….doesnt he have something better to do with your tax dollars?

    I will get off my soap box now and I will be the one to commend you on getting out there in the snow, banging out difficult miles….only the tough do that , the rest, well….they are on the treadmill! Proud of you…keep it up!

    XO, Sherry

    • Thanks Sherry! I know the soapbox feeling; I grumbled at Steph for like 30 minutes on getting home, and she just let me reel out the reasons it made me mad. Felt cathartic at least.

      Worst thing about all this is that I was already planning a post on getting home, because that 3 mile run was my fastest 3 miles ever; I ran it at a 10:20 pace!

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