The reason most people do not jog when there’s no light

I was out for my normal run 2 nights ago. My routine is to do a quick jog after dark at some point, nothing fancy, just the 2.5 mile loop around my “block.” The moon is just now starting to wax, and after about 10:00, it’s still just about pitch black during this lunar phase. There are no street lights where I live so if there’s no moon, there’s no light. The first half of my loop is next to a “busy” road where there’s a nice path; it’s relatively safe even with all the DWI enthusiasts out here, and the only pain in the ass is that when my eyes are used to absolute darkness, car hi-beams are more or less like the searing light of a thousand suns, and depending on how soon after dark I’m out, I’m flat out blinded every 10-200 seconds.

Even that’s usually not a problem, I’ll just slow down for a couple seconds and stumble around until the giant glowing orbs in front of my bleary eyes burn off and I can see again for a little while. So Tuesday night I was out later than usual and there was almost no traffic, pretty welcome. The halfway point is a main street I have to cross, there were no cars coming so I just kept truckin’ right along. The far side of the street is blocked off by a wooden fence with a narrow opening at the crosswalk, and I was aimed toward it and puffing along just fine.

Out of nowhere, this car comes barrelling over the hill with Xenon hi-beams BLAZING (they’re those super bright blue-white lights on pimped out Hondas and expensive SUVs), and I’m very much blinded. It doesn’t bother stopping at the 4-way stop that I’m going across, so it’s in and out of sight in just a couple of seconds. Not a big impact on my run, except that it had blinded me right as I was getting to the wooden fence. I consider myself essentially infallible in most areas of my life, despite near-constant proof to the contrary. In this case I figured that I was still running straight (naturally!) and aiming for the narrow opening, so I just kept chugging along without even slowing down. Back in reality, I’d actually turned about 20 degrees to my left to avert my tender peepers from those military-grade tools of road-lighting terror, and as a result, I ran into the wooden fence at my full available speed.

Since I wasn’t expecting the fence to be where it was, I hadn’t braced at all, and the low wooden fence caught me mid-stomach and just above my right knee. I was going fast enough that it didn’t stop me. My grotesquely large cranium was still carrying plenty of forward momentum, and as Newton once observed, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. So my impressive noggin-inertia flipped me over the fence, and I found myself with my feet basically straight up in the air and my head pointing down, probably a lot like one of those ragdoll body-doubles Benny Hill always used to use when he was falling out of a window or being pulled away by a huge dog. I couldn’t swear as to exactly how straight my orientation actually was because my bleary eyes could see nothing but giant blob-shaped Xenon cornea burns, but it felt like I was pretty much 180 degress from my orientation just milliseconds earlier. I lashed out with my hands and was fortunate enough to grab one of the lower boards in the fence, and completed the move with a neat landing, feet together.

It felt like someone had hit me in the gut with a low speed baseball bat, but if anyone had been filming me, it must have seemed like some kind of Jackie Chan ninja move and probably would have appeared more or less intentional by the second half of the maneuver. I hadn’t even grunted from the impact. (I imagine people are a lot more likely to grunt if they have the opportunity to anticipate an impact.) I suppose I was much more relaxed than I would have been if I’d been planning it, and as a result I was almost unscathed.

My neck was kind of crushed from the initial impact and the fence had taken a little wind out of me, but outside of a little fence-shaped scrape and minor bruise on my knee I really wasn’t much worse for the wear. I froze for about 5 seconds to take a breath and see if anything really hurt – it didn’t – so I took off and ran the rest of the way home unaffected except for the knot in my neck. (That went away about 20 minutes later.) The rest of the run is on my dirt road, so there was almost no risk of any further fiery pain-beams from oncoming traffic.

Now, 2 days later, there’s nothing but a little bruise left and the remnants of the fence-shaped knee scrape. It could have been worse. I love running at night because there’s absolutely nobody else out, and I try to take advantage of any opportunity to not be around other people. But as I’ve known for years, there are sound reasons that most people choose to run when there’s at least a little light out. I just hope nobody digs a cesspool next to the path or makes a wall of spiked fire hydrants across it or something, someone’s going to get hurt.

My life is a Monte Python sketch. I wonder what’s next?