Animals add challenge to morning run

By Norman Knight

Last week Moninda Marube, a professional runner from Kenya who currently lives in Maine, went out at 5 a.m. for an 18-mile run when he confronted two black bears.

As Marube told the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal, “I saw them crossing the road. When they spotted me, they stopped and I stopped. I had to make a quick decision: either to climb up this tree or run back or run to the lake (because) I was not going to fight them.”

He turned and ran to a house he had passed earlier. With the bears in hot pursuit, he made it (barely) to the house’s deck and closed the door just as they were bearing down upon him. Whew.

I was thinking about this story as Becky and I went out for a morning run a couple of days ago. I was reminded of the old joke that observes: you don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to be able to outrun your partner. (Ha, ha. Just kidding, Dear Wife.) In addition, the story got me thinking about the dangers we face as we run down the country roads where we live.

One of the biggest dangers is not paying attention to the walnuts. Especially in the fall months, stepping on a rogue walnut in the early morning dim light might result in a tumble and injury that could mean an extended break in your running regime. For dedicated runners, such a forced time off can be hard to bear. Accidental spills have happened to both of us and we still bear the scars.

Another major peril when running is of the human variety. Sometimes there are a lot of vehicles on these narrow roads and sometimes they go fast. It’s a good idea to make sure they see you and you see them. This is why you should always run facing traffic so you can anticipate that monster truck bearing down on you.

Although two years ago a couple of black bears wandered into northern Indiana from Michigan, the last confirmed sighting in the state of a wild Hoosier bear was in 1871. For this reason, Becky and I aren’t too worried about running into Ursus americanus.

Other animals, however have given us pause (paws?) over the years. Mostly, they are running away when we see them. I can understand that. Considering the encroachments to their habitats that have been established over the centuries, we humans must be hard to bear.

On our runs it is common to spot deer. They can been seen in farm fields, groves of trees and in yards near houses. I’m not sure they would actually run into us, but a small group of deer have crossed the road as close as 20 feet in front of us.

One early morning a big, reddish coyote — not a skinny, scraggly one — loped across the bottom of the road near the creek. In the first few moments I thought it was a dog, but a closer inspection didn’t bear out that theory.

Of course, domestic dogs also are an issue when we run. We know the places on our various routes where dogs might be encountered, and we bear that in mind as we go.

Mostly they just want to see what is going on in their doggie domain, but sometimes they come out barking and loaded for bear. As we are not professional runners from Kenya, we don’t try to outrun them.

Perhaps the creatures that present, if not danger, at least the most trouble for us, are the insects. They are unbearable during the hot summertime. But we want to run, so we shrug, spray on insect repellent, lace up our shoes and head out. We tolerate the annoying swarms as best we can. What are you gonna do? We just grin and bear it.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to