Monday, February 27, 2012

An Avoidable Tragedy

*** Extracted from my February 27th dailymile post ***

Today, a tragedy of unthinkable proportions happened in my neighborhood. It happened this morning and has been on my mind all day -- an 11-year old boy was hit by a train on his way to school. He died. There's not person in my community that doesn't grieve tonight.

After the shock and immediate sadness, the next question our minds naturally ask is, "How? How could this young man not have seen or heard this fast-moving, but very loud train?"

The answer is why I think this is a post suitable for dailymile...

The boy did not hear the train because he was wearing headphones.

This tragedy, presumably, would have been prevented if he was not wearing headphones. Many of us, as runners, run with earbuds or headphones. When we do, our ability to aurally detect potential hazards is greatly reduced and we need to rely solely on our vision. Even though I, too, often run with earbuds, tonight I was acutely aware that I run across residential streets with little knowledge that an automobile may be coming up BEHIND me. Sure, I give forward glances and look left and right, but I'm taking a risk by not knowing what's going on ALL AROUND me. Plus, when we get "in the zone" we are probably even less likely to be 100% cognizant of oncoming hazards.

I thought the same thing as I crossed the very same railroad tracks that the tragedy occurred on. I gave a left and right glance as I normally would, and then I asked myself, "Was that really an adequate glance?" My silent response was, "No, Mike. You could be more certain."

The next time you lace 'em up and head out for a run, if you're going to plug your ears with little speakers, try to pay extra attention to the awareness you have of your surroundings. Are you as alert as you should be? How certain were you when you crossed the street that there wasn't a car coming up behind you? Did you glance appropriately left and right as you crossed the street or tracks?

Maybe you'll ascertain that you are, and have been doing, a fine job, but if you find yourself, like me, knowing you could do a little better, then maybe today's tragedy won't be entirely in vain.

And if you're a parent, I don't need to tell you any more. You'll take some action without any further prodding from me.

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