If you’re a regular on our blog, you are well aware that a runner vs. nature post means that we will be offering helpful tips about how runners can best interact with some form of wildlife or force of nature. Sometimes our interactions are precarious and other times they are awe-inspiring, but they are always memorable because we as humans are intrinsically partnered with the world around us.
For this particular post, I’ve decided to draw inspiration and advice about Mother Nature from Mother Nature. My source? The mountain goat. This valiant, stately mammal can accomplish things on the face of a mountain that humans could only dream of doing. Scaling up, and descending down, steep and rocky terrain, surviving with ease at staggering altitudes, and leaping up to 12 feet in a single bound are abilities that would make our lives much simpler (and way more fun!). But alas, we are not the mountain goat. Our response? We humbly acknowledge our limitations, and press on into the challenges it presents. The mountain goat has adapted and thrived in its natural habitat. While humans have also learned how to survive the dangers of mountain running, it has been a long road of discovery. Follow us as we take a look at the majestic mountain and (hopefully) find something useful to take with you on your next run.
Run Training, Running Sport
Photo: A Mama's Corner of the World
As many of you hopefully know by now, our culture seems to be infatuated with obscenely large portions of food. Supersized meals, lattes the size of a human head, and the looming tryptophan coma that most Americans will experience later this month are all evidence of this pervasive lifestyle. Over-indulgence in food is a topic that has received a large amount of media attention in the last decade, most of which is fairly depressing.
But take heart. There is a silver lining, which happens to be the fact that we are not the worst offenders. That’s right, humans take second place in this twisted battle, to none other than our tiny nemeses – TICKS!
Just like your household kitty, right? Photo: Larry Grayam
You’re running (duh!). And that automatically puts you on a mountain lion’s hit list. Not because these big cats love human snacks, or that they are innately vicious creatures, but rather because they have a mad instinct to chase. Most road runners won’t come across this natural hazard (and I say most because sometimes wild animals end up wandering outside of their natural habitat), but trail runners should be keenly aware that the danger is real. Let’s break it down.
The bad news: You are the intruder. You are running in their territory. This makes you automatically attractive to these predators because they don’t differentiate you from an animal that they normally stalk as prey. And since you’re running, you have already started off on a bad foot.
The good news: Mountain lions tend to go out of their way to avoid human contact. They won’t seek you out for the thrill of attacking a human, they would much rather find a deer for dinner.
Why do our pollinators have to hurt?! (image: Bee removal source)
I’m not sure who struck first, but I have a contentious relationship with bees. Generally, we try to avoid each other, but sometimes things get ugly. I suppose we have some overlapping interests: sweet things, summer, and parks. I’m not sure where everything got out of hand, but I’m prepared to call a truce.
Apparently bees are dying at alarming rates and that I should be concerned. I do like to eat many things that require bees’ pollination, but why must they pull a kamikaze on me once or twice a year? I suppose a few bee stings is a small price to pay given my yearly nectarine intake. Since I’m not allergic, my angst may be a touch over-dramatic. Still, I’d prefer to avoid the hours of pain followed by days of itching that the stings induce. Apparently, there are 10 things that I (we) can do to avoid this fate:
- Don’t wear perfume or cologne. I find it very hard to imagine that I could ever be accused of smelling like a flower on a run.
- Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing, especially floral prints. The running apparel trends of late are not helping me avoid bright clothing and this doesn’t look to change soon. Fortunately my closet is lacking floral prints though.
- Be careful what you eat outdoors, sugary foods attract bees and wasps. My short easy runs are pretty safe but those gels and electrolyte drinks may be making my long runs and track workouts dangerous, especially when I spill all over myself.
- Don’t run barefoot. My feet are safe here, sorry Born to Run fans.
- Try not to wear loose-fitting clothes (bees may accidentally end up mixed in the fabric). There’s not a lot of bee-trapping fabric in my life.
- Stay Still. That one may be a problem while running.
- Keep your car windows rolled up. I am a proponent for air conditioning but if my car was parked in the sun and I just finished a run… the windows are down while the AC catches up.
- Cover your trash. My aforementioned fondness for post-run air conditioning makes this mostly a non-issue when running from home. But, for the record, the trash is covered.
- Don’t hang out in the flower garden. Well, technically none of my current runs specifically include flower gardens, but I would certainly be kidding myself to think that my typical routes are devoid of flowering plants. Citrus trees and California Poppies are two prolific potential points of conflict.
- Call a professional to have unwanted bees, wasps, or hornets removed. Probably does not apply to the whole of Montana De Oro State Park.
With only 4 out of 10 of these recommendations accomplished, it looks like I have some work to do if I am ever going to fully mitigate my bee-sting risk. Considering a reported 1/3 of our food and 8 to 12 billion dollars worth of economic value depend bees, I should probably work to change my habits rather than wish ill upon bees (with one notable exception, Africanized bees are definitely worthy of our disdain.)
If you or people in your group are allergic or unsure, following the advice from this list a long with having an EpiPen available in emergency is important whenever participating in outdoor activities. Hopefully soon, bees will no longer be in the news for their decline and we can all enjoy the summer without conflict.
Maybe bees aren't so bad after all. (image: clipart)
Perhaps one of the more exciting forms of fauna a runner can come across while on the trails is the mighty bear. In our hometown of San Luis Obispo, California, we have our share of bear sightings, including one that recently terrorized the student population of our nearby university for several days. (Incidentally, this university happens to be close to one of the larger trail networks in SLO, so this is relevant).
Though a bear sighting is sure to startle many runners, we can take solace in knowing that most bears have little to no interest in attacking humans. Opting instead to feed off of berries or fish if you’re near a stream or find a quick snack in a nearby trash bin or automobile, most bears are simply looking for a bite to eat. That said, bears can be dangerous, and it’s important to exercise caution to make your bear encounter more bearable (sorry). Read more…
Here on the Central Coast of California, the warmer days are upon us as the seasons turn towards summer. While this is a great thing for us runners who prefer a little heat, it also means that we will be sharing our trails with a few slithery friends. Read more…