Running into Danger

I received an email through the website this week from a Brooklyn high schooler interested in promoting running safety:

Dear RunDaddio,

I’m currently studying at Brooklyn Academy High School. In my health class we were asked to raise awareness of running safety in the area. I found your website while searching online about the topic. So what I’m doing is asking running websites in the area to make sure to inform people about running safety. I found this really nice running safety tips that you can share on your website to keep people informed: –it’s a list of safety tips, running benefits, resources. This could be really helpful information for beginners. Please do share it on the RunDaddio website to raise awareness. Safety should be our number one priority. Keep up the great work and happy running!

I replied that we are always happy to share good runner resources here at and this seems a solid one for newbies and a good refresher for more experienced runners. I also wanted to find out a little more about her mission. Are you a runner yourself? I asked.

I’m just starting out, I discovered that running keeps me relaxed and at peace. However, there are dangers in running outdoors which is why I want to share safety tips to runners. Also, it’s a school project 😉

She’s right. There are dangers to running outdoors. If only she knew how ironic her timing was, seeing as this week was one of the more danger-filled ones in my running life. On Monday morning, I was doing a slow jog across McCarren Park, on my way to the Polish bakery for a loaf of fresh sandwich bread. In the center of the park, the usual half-dozen dog owners were out on the softball field, letting their animals tear around off-leash, chasing balls and each other, having a grand old time. I’ve never understood why the cops permitted this in crowded little McCarren Park, across the street from the fenced dog run. It’s always seemed like a recipe for disaster.

I was at the southwest corner of the park, about to make the turn onto Bedford Avenue, thinking warm thoughts for all the NYC marathoners who had powered through Mile 11 on Bedford just the morning before. Suddenly, I was blindsided from the right and slammed to the asphalt. My legs were swept underneath me as I crashed down on my right side. An off-leash 70-pound golden retriever had executed a perfect lower-leg tackle from behind, and now stood barking over me. As I struggled to my feet, a weasel -faced dog owner stood watching with his little pooch on a leash, making no effort to help me out.

A golden retriever, for god’s sake. One of the cheeriest, gentlest breeds around. I love retrievers and when my shepherd-chow mix revealed herself as an incurable biter and we had to send her to the farm (a real farm), I regretted I didn’t own one.

But not this one. The big dog’s owner came running over from fifty yards away, grabbing her barking dog by the collar, and apologizing profusely. I was in shock, screaming at the woman, the dog, the jerk who wasn’t helping. “I can’t believe this!” I kept shouting, in various profane variations. “What can I do to make this right?” the woman said. “How about not letting your dog run off leash?” I asked. “What can I do to make this right?” she asked again.

Eventually I turned my back on her and hobbled off, past the unhelpful dogwalker. “It was a freak accident,” was all he said as I walked past, in a tone that suggested I’d been partly at fault, and I was more disgusted with him than the retriever’s owner. I eventually found a stoop a block or two away on Bedford where I could sit and examine the damage. The slide across the asphalt had chewed a hole in one of my shoes, my ankle throbbed, I had skinned a hand and a knee. And I was beginning to feel the hurt where I’d hit the ground on my right side.

I was also feeling growing anger–with the idiot who’d suggested it was a freak accident, to whom I wished I’d said that a brick falling off the face of a hundred-year-old-building in a windstorm was a freak accident; letting a dog run off leash and having him attack a pedestrian is negligence not an accident at all.

But I was also feeling frustrated with my interaction with the retriever’s owner. Before I knew it I was heading back into the park to find her. I didn’t, probably for the better. What was I going to say or do?

It is my second dog-related fall in the last couple years. The first one was pretty bad, too. I have made the mistake both times of not getting the contact info of the dog owner. Because both times I have learned that it takes hours, even days, for me to realize the extent of my injuries. And if something major had been discovered after we had gone our separate ways, I would have no recourse.

It’s a week later now and the tear in my shoe and the still-painful bruise on my rib are the main remnants of the encounter. I still managed to log about thirty miles this week, though they weren’t the most comfortable. I’ve gone back to the park a few mornings at the same time the encounter occurred to see if she was out, and if her dog was off leash again. If so, then I think I’ll have a lot more to say to her. If not, I’ll probably consider that a victory for park runners and walkers and leave it at that.