Out There: The Bird Is The Word

Sometimes the trail really isn't wide enough for two people. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Not all runners are warm and fuzzy, as our writer recently found out.

It was bound to happen eventually: I got my first bird while running. And not the feathered kind, either.

It happened on a narrow trail near my house, a great stretch of singletrack lined with cacti and gnarly rocks. In addition to providing a technical challenge, it’s a great place to meet nice people — mostly ultrarunners, who are some of the nicest folks in our endurance community.

Except for one guy.

As I weaved through the early-morning calm of the desert path, I came upon a fellow runner in a pair of beige shorts and a pair of headphones, plodding along at his comfortable pace.

“On your left!” I chirped as I got closer, hoping to squeeze past him on the trail.

“Hello?” I sang. He continued running, oblivious to someone at his heels.

“HEY!” I yelled. Still nothing. I tapped him on the back. He looked over his shoulder, surprised, and removed an earbud from his ear.

“Hi, can I pass?” I smiled.

He returned the smile. And then he flipped me off.

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I stopped in my tracks, stunned by the gesture. Oh, NO he di-in’t!

Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for a well-timed middle finger now and then, but only when the recipient deserves it. And though I’ve deserved the one-finger salute on more than one occasion, I was quite certain this was not one of those times.

On the trail, I stammered for a bit, trying to figure out what I did wrong. Surely I wasn’t the first person who ever tried to pass him. Was it something I said? Did I emit an offensive body odor? Was my neon pink shirt too jarring for this beige lover?

No, I ascertained. This guy, simply, was a Grade-A Jerkface.

In hindsight, I’ve dreamed up a lot of things I could have said or done. Perhaps he was a new runner, and I could have educated him on the finer nuances of “not acting like a [jerk].” Maybe I could have stayed right on his heels, “accidentally” nipping him until his ankles bled. I ought to have ripped the headphones from his ears and forced him to listen to my asthmatic panting for the next seven miles. Better yet, I could have taken him down and mounted his head on the wall next to my treadmill, like a moose.

But I didn’t do any of those things. Instead, I simply turned around and found another route. I know, this shocked me, too. I felt this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach … a foreign emotion. I believe my high-school guidance counselor once called it “maturity.” Thankfully, like gas, it passed quickly.

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I believe that there is such a thing as karma, and this guy will get what’s coming to him.

So, headphone dude, if you’re reading this: May your singletrack be filled with horse poop, and may your iPod repeat the same Justin Bieber song for all eternity. Also: Right back atcha, buddy. You deserve it.

For the rest of us, a lesson: Don’t be that guy.

Happy Trails!


About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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