Country Running Survival Guide

20 Sep

Trempealeau County, Wisconsin, USA. Deep dairyland. With its lush, rolling hills through field and forest, it is a running paradise. It is also the home[stead] of my wife’s family. Along my route this weekend I passed Thoma Rd (dad-in-law) and Franson Rd (mom-in-law). By the way my wife points at parcels of land that her family farmed, you’d be hard pressed to find soil that they haven’t tilled.

We visited last weekend to wrap up our week of camping. We stayed at “Grandma Green’s” (her real name of Irene mispronounced somewhere along the line by a grandchild) in Whitehall, a town of 1,500 people. The Kwik Trip cafe is the life of downtown. The food is good. The people are friendly. It’s storybook heartland, USA.

Of course I had to run it. Then I had to write it. Then you had to read it. You won’t want to miss the survival tips I’ve assembled near the end of the post. The life you save may just be your own…

A History of Aggression and How I Found Inner Peace

I must conquer this land. I only pick fights I know I can win. Wait that’s not true at all. I tend to throw myself at grand challenges wherever I go. When it comes to running challenges I’m like a drunken man hurling insults till he gets himself a fist-fight. If you go around looking for a fight in this manner you’re liable to find one.

I found one. The hilly route enroute to my wife’s family’s homestead farm was ready to put an end to my shenanigans. It almost did. 25 miles round trip. Plenty of hills. Plenty of dogs. Surprising amount of heat and wind near for the last 10 miles. I tried to draft off a group of cyclists that passed me, but they were too far away before my sluggish mind could register that I’d just seen another human that wasn’t on a tractor.

My Humble Running Goals

Here’s my short list of things I’d like to achieve with my running life on earth.
1. Qualify for the Boston Marathon (maybe even run in it)
2. Run a 100 mile race
3. Run a sub 5 minute mile
4. Win “The Running of the Beef”

I want that last one so bad I can taste it.

Running of the Beef

Best. Race. Name. Ever.

The t-shirts are much coveted. My closet used to be full of them. Sadly it’s been years since our trips to Whitehall coincided with “Beef and Dairy Days” and my ten year old shirts have run ragged with wear. One year right out of high school I took second place. I’m no longer a spring chicken, but one day I will return and I will hoist the “golden heifer” as the fastest man in Trempealeau County. Okay, there’s no heifer, but there should be. Maybe I’ll bring one. “Dad, where’d the plastic cow from my Ertl farm set go?” (Me, holding golden spray paint can behind back) “Um, I don’t know, but I’ll bet it turns up after this weekend.” (I plan to return it after I’ve had my moment of glory… note to self: BUY KIDS AN ERTL FARM SET)

So this land and I have some history. Really I feel like we’re just getting acquainted. I learn the land on my feet. However long that takes.

A Very Specific and Marginally Helpful Country Running Survival Guide

1. Blaze Orange Running Shorts

It was the opening of deer hunting season when I went for my 25 mile stroll in the country. When I was a kid my parents wouldn’t let me play outside during deer hunting season. If I did go out I had to wear blaze orange, a color that will burn you retinas from 100 yards away. My short shorts with accompanying pasty thighs will burn them at 25, so blaze orange seems like the way to go to increase my reach. I feel like my shorts with their 2″ inseam aren’t attention grabbing enough anyway. Blaze orange running shorts: country inspired, city fabulous.

2. Wave to EVERYONE

People in the country are nicer than city folk. Don’t be fooled by their beat-up pick-up truck. In the city people that drive those trucks are usually jerks. These people aren’t true country, or they are but they hate that they have to live in a city and turn mean. In the country they haven’t perfect the “sidewalk steely stare” as they walk by pretending you don’t exist. Practice waving and even, dare I say it SMILING, at people where it’s easier in the country and then bring that back to your home. We need it back.

3. Dealing with Dogs

I used to like dogs. I still do generally. In fact, no, I really like dogs. I don’t like people that let their dogs run free IF they have a propensity to chase people snarling and snapping. Are you kidding me?? They are the type of people that say their dogs wouldn’t hurt a fly. Tell that to your doberman that’s showing me his pearly whites.

Still it doesn’t do well to get mad about it as us runners will always have to deal with the perennial problem of dogs that don’t even pay taxes and think they own the 1/4 mile stretch of road in front of their house. In the country even less people contain their dogs. This is one of the faults I still hold against country folks. Here’s what I’ve come up with to handle the problem:

Build a “Dog-Pod”!!

Here’s what you’ll need:
-a kids play, pop-up tent (preferably a Lightning McQueen instead of Barbie, but I think a Dora version would be an acceptable substitute)
-pocket knife (because real men don’t use scissors)
-about 10 yards of kevlar (bulletproof fabric)
-duct tape (only because I don’t know how to sew)
-OPTIONAL: shirukens (AKA throwing stars)

So next time you encounter a snarling shitzu, don’t run away shrieking for mommy. Whip out your collapsible dog-pod and go to war! Scramble inside. Grab your pepperspray. Fire pepperspray out of windows at the beast. Once incapacitated, use the ham-hock to lure the dog into the tent. Close the door and duct tape it shut. Leave note on the tent that say, “Dear dog owner. Please accept this free kennel as my gift to you. Use it with my compliments, or feel free to build your own. Love, Every Runner Everywhere.” Run away at an easy, blissful pace, knowing that you’ve made the world a better place.

On longer runs I like to carry two or three dog-pods, just in case. Besides, it’s always good to have a few ham-hocks handy on any run. You never know.*

Oh, you noticed I didn’t tell you how to construct your dog-pod? Real men don’t read directions anyway.

4. Leave Your iPod Behind!

This is God’s country and he may just have something to say…

That’s about it. I may have additional advice on this topic as I traverse the dairy roads in my wife’s ancestral homesteads in the future. Stay safe!

*In case of a mass break-out at a dog-breeder farm or pound, throw the ham-hocks as far as you can. Call for back-up (wife or mother) and wait in the dog-pod until the SWAT vehicle arrives (your minivan).

8 Responses to “Country Running Survival Guide”

  1. Tim C September 24, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    Went for a 2hr run along the Alaskian coast yesterday, it was awsome! Didn’t need a survival guide, no bears, moose or wolfs.

    • Brandon September 24, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

      Yeah, my “dog-pod” will not work on predators of that size. :-) Alaskan coastline eh? That sounds phenominal!

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