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Sunrise Surprise

Sunrise Surprise
B Company, 1-158th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion
Conroe, Texas

It was 3 a.m. on a Friday — time to roll out of bed to get our weekly long run started. We were into week seven of our marathon training. Each week, we’d complete one long run to push our endurance just a little bit further. Today, we were tackling 13 miles. Long runs were usually on Saturdays, but this week we decided to push it up a day because it was my drill weekend. And because my wife had to be at work before 8 a.m., we decided to get up and just get it over with instead of skipping training or doing it individually.

Our run route was through our neighborhood, down some dark thru-roads, around the local university campus and back down some major streets in town. Everything started uneventfully, just a normal humid morning with an outside temperature of about 85 F. However, as we continued, things got a bit hairy. Only about 60 percent of the streets we were using had enough room to run on. The other 40 percent had us running along a major highway as close to the outer white line as we could on the narrow shoulder. If we left the highway, we risked injuring an ankle or knee if we stepped in a hole we couldn’t see.

We wore clothes that would help increase our contrast and visibility against the night sky, and most of the streets we were running on were lit with streetlights. But as it turns out, streetlights don’t exactly make you visible to weary and sleepy drivers who are ready to get home and get to sleep. At this time of morning, and our proximity to the campus, I knew our risk of encountering a drunk driver was also significantly increased. Thankfully, we didn’t notice any drivers who seemed to be driving erratically. However, a few people were late to react when they finally saw us along the road from behind. (Studies have shown that tired drivers behind the wheel react the same as a person that has just finished several alcoholic drinks.)

Also, there were some just plain weird people out there that must enjoy antagonizing people on the streets. I noticed one vehicle that would pass us and then turn around just to drive by us again. This made us extremely uncomfortable. I practiced memorizing the license plates of cars that would drive by, just in case, saying them over and over in my head. Then the pain of running would kick in and I would quickly forget the plate number. Ugh! Thankfully, throughout the campus there were emergency telephones that dial directly to the police or emergency services department. This gave us a small feeling of security.

The last dangerous thing I remember was the high beams of oncoming cars blinding us to the point that we had to look away. Not being able to see a car as it drove by made me uneasy. I wouldn’t have enough time to react should it make a sudden move toward us. All these factors combined gave us a running experience I don’t think we’ll repeat. Now we just adjust other things in our schedule to fit in our running.

Some of the things we could have done better would include increasing our visibility. The Army’s policy to wear a reflective belt during hours of darkness would have been smart addition to our clothing. It would have increased the distance at which drivers could have noticed us. Since then, I’ve seen different options, such as lights you can clip onto your clothes, to make runners more visible in the dark. The next time my wife and I run in the dark, you can bet that we will be wearing them.

  • 1 March 2014
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 13185
  • Comments: 0