My blog post on interactions with the general public whilst out running (http://www.marathonman2014.com/a-running-commentary/) attracted lots of comments on Twitter, with people sending details on the everyday obstacles that are faced by runners. A lot of them seemed to revolve around animals, so I thought I’d take a more in-depth look at the relationship between the animal world and running; specifically, I name the three most dangerous animals for the runner.
I’m afraid the dog posed by far and away the greatest animal threat. Sometimes this was the runner’s own dog – ‘got tripped up & leash burn from a Yorkshire terrier on my second outing after huge abdo surgery last year’ – but usually it was someone else’s. There were several people who reported being chased by dogs, whilst others had encountered aggressive dogs while out walking in country lanes. I can certainly sympathise with all those who have found themselves being chased by dogs, as it was a big problem for me when running in Asia. Every house or ploy of land has its guard dog, and those dogs tend to be well fed, well treated and, er, poorly trained . . . so they won’t hesitate to pursue you down the street if they think that you have, or may at some point in the future may present, a threat to their owner. Their healthy diets mean they invariably have the energy to pursue for quite some time. Sometimes the dogs from adjacent houses would join up in a pack, and that’s when it really gets scary – there’s nothing better for knocking an extra minute or two off your pb than being chased by a pack of dogs for a few blocks.
Swans are a surprise entry at two, after someone reported ‘I am being attacked by a swan on a regular basis’. Again, this is one where I have some sympathy. One of my routes in England takes me past a small pond in a very rural setting, and I usually follow a tow path that skirts the edge of the water. At one stage about a year ago, the resident female swan had a young swan with her in the pond, and was extremely protective over her offspring. This protection extended to leaving confines of the pond and standing on the tow path, ready to take on runners, walkers or anyone else who dared approach the water. Having heard stories about swans breaking people’s limbs when encounters go wrong, I decided that it was best to avoid confrontation, and changed my route for a couple of weeks until the young swan had fledged, and the mother settled down.
Not a big problem in the UK, but one person (from North America, I assume) did report that they ‘ran into a skunk. Felt like I ran sub 4min mile all the way home’. That does sound unfortunate. No more information was provided, but the assumption has to be that the encounter was a surprise to both parties, and the skunk turned to its natural defences to repel the attacker.
And of course, if you have an animal attack story to top those, I’d love to hear about it . . . .