3 Lifesaving Lessons For Runners From Stephen King

Tim Ebl

How to avoid jogging into one of his horror books

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I was running down a country dirt road, 5 miles from my rural home. Head down, earbuds in, and dance music cranked. I was lost in thought.

When I run out here, I only see one or two vehicles in an hour. Sometimes, I run the whole 8 miles and don’t meet a single living soul. It makes you complacent and stupid when you don’t have to watch out for cars.

I moved over into the center a bit. There were two packed areas where tires made the gravel smooth, and it was easier to run there. The edges by the ditch were loose and crumbly, hard going.

I started up a little hill. The road curved a bit to the right, with trees on either side. Poor visibility.

A Dodge truck carrying a big round hay bale came around the corner and right over that hill toward me. I was in the center of the road, where no one should ever be.

When he swerved and managed to swish past, he almost hit me. I saw the look of surprise and panic on his face as he overcompensated and almost hit the ditch. With a wobble, the truck straightened and kept going, at a much slower speed.

I picked my heart up off the gravel, checked to make sure I didn’t have brown stuff running out of my shorts and started jogging again.

As I ran, I was thinking about Stephen King’s meeting with fate on the edge of a road in 1999 in Maine, and what lessons he might have for runners.

Are you safe when you run?

You might be in danger when you go out on a simple run around the block, or on a nearby trail. Whether you live in a rural area like I do, or the big city, there are hazards to running besides injuries and chaffing. It pays to think about it.

Most female runners who read this are well aware. “Duh,” they are saying to me right now. They live with more fear than I can understand. Most of their apprehension is because women get targeted. They know that there are very real risks.

Guys don’t consider all the hazards when we strap on our shoes. We are blind because of our privilege.

Stephen King can teach us a few things about safety, even though he isn’t known for his running tips. Here’s what we can learn from his life and his books that we can apply to running.

Maybe thinking about it will keep you from featuring in your own horror story.

1. Motorized vehicles are out to get you

If you are a Stephen King fan, you might know that he was run down and seriously injured by a van in Lovell, Maine.

He’s lucky to have survived.

It was June 1999. Mr. King was out for a walk on the edge of a road. This was routine for him. He liked his alone time.

When he got nailed, he flew 14 feet away from the pavement.

This accident happened because the driver was distracted by his dog trying to get at some meat in a cooler in the back seat. It’s the kind of chance event no one sees coming.

“I got hit by a van while taking a walk. As I lay unconscious in the hospital, the docs debated amputating my right leg and decided it could stay, on a trial basis. I got better. Every day of the 20 years since has been a gift.” — Stephen King

The lesson:

Try to stay aware of your surroundings. Don’t have your earbuds in and the music cranked. Hearing a vehicle coming can save your life.

Assume that drivers and vehicles don’t see you. Be proactive. Watch approaching bicyclists and cars. Get eye contact with the driver when you can.

If you know that there are a lot of blind spots and cars or trucks won’t be able to see you, why take the risk? Pick a different place to run. Don’t tempt fate.

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2. Bad people exist

Stephen King is a great storyteller. He seems to understand what makes people tick. He knows people aren’t always friendly, safe, and harmless. Just read any of his work!

There are nasty individuals out there, and they could mess you up. The world isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. It also has clowns.

When we run down a path through trees, or along the edge of a road, not all of us realize we could become a target just because we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes we should.

Guys, don’t be surprised if women are suspicious of you when they are out running. As Stephen King could tell you, they have every right to assume you’re a serial-killing trash bag of a human being.

Humans aren’t the only dangers to watch for. Ever had a large black dog leap straight at you while you were out running? I have. The dog wasn’t barking or wagging its tail, and I thought it was going to bite.

“The world was full of monsters, and they were all allowed to bite the innocent and the unwary”
― Stephen King, Cujo

I braced myself for pain, one arm stuck out in front of me. At the last moment, its owner yelled like he wanted to kill his dog. It aborted its attack, turned, and slunk away.

I never found out for sure, but it really seemed like I was going to get teeth embedded in me.

The lesson:

Run with a buddy if you can. Safety in numbers.

If you see something suspicious, trust your instincts and go into avoidance mode. Cross the street or change your direction of travel if possible.

Guys, avoid being a creeper and making women on the trail uncomfortable. When in doubt, avoid eye contact and just keep on going. But be on the lookout for bad situations where you could step up and prevent any sort of harassment by any other person.

Think about carrying items like dog pepper spray, a whistle, or an alarm. You might need these against a dog or wild animal as well as humans.

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3. If running is your thing, then do it no matter what

Stephen King’s books are filled with characters who keep going even though it might be a safer, saner thing to quit. They did what had to be done.

A group of children fought an evil, unstoppable supernatural clown in It, even though they had less than zero chances of winning.

The Gunslinger and his companions kept trekking toward the Dark Tower no matter what came their way.

“There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.” — Stephen King

If his characters were runners, they would get out there and run. They would do their best to prepare. But they wouldn’t let fear stop them from doing what they love.

That’s why I still run on my country road. If I don’t, then I need to get in a car and drive to some “safe” location miles from my house. That would mean only running a couple of times a month. I need to take the risk, or I will have to jog in place on my front step.

I’ll leave you with one last quote. Take this one with a grain of salt.

“FEAR stands for f**k everything and run.” — Stephen King, Doctor Sleep

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I'm an author, yoga enthusiast, and meditation instructor. I spend a lot of time outdoors with activities like running, hiking and camping. My writing is all about the humorous side of life and personal growth, habits ,mindfulness, and outdoor adventures.

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