Monday, January 23, 2012

The Ninja

Ok, so every running blog from a Northeast/Midwest resident was dominated by news of the first real snow of the winter.  That messed with my running plans too, but not nearly so much as child care issues.  I actually set up my treadmill in our garage so I could have run, albeit in perhaps the single most boring location in America, my garage with nothing to look at except my car, firewood and garage door, and no TV or anything.  So I couldn't run this weekend, which was no great loss; a break is OK sometimes.

Onto things, that actually did happen this week, I had a great run outdoors on Thursday.,  Perfect temperature, nice pace and just a general pleasing run.  The new Gel Kayano 18 get a big thumbs up from me.  They eliminated the asymmetrical lacing, which I think aggravated the stress fracture I had several years ago.  As I finished up though, I was passed by a silent ninja, runner.  I call him The Ninja for two reasons.  First, he was very quiet and very fast.  I didn't hear him until he was past me.  And, I noticed he was prominently forefront striking, very deliberately.  He was also a ninja because he was dressed in head to toe black clothing.  On a dark night.

It is really dark up where I live.  The area is the basis for Washington Irving's the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and while it is nothing like that, it can be dark quiet, and I daresay spooky with the trees and leaves, quiet and a rustling wind.  Back to my Ninja. In all this quietude, he was actually running on a busy street, but he literally was invisible. I was almost unsure he had passed me, and I couldn't pick him out until he ran under a streetlight and then I saw him again.  I almost wanted to sprint up to catch  him and tell him to put something reflective on -- his pants, a headband, something.

No matter how safe we think we are out there, if we only stay on sidewalks, trails, etc., there will be people who don't see you.  I saw a very interesting show on National Geographic channel about the way the brain processes information, and very often people literally do not see something because they do not expect to see it.  Many motorcycle accidents are caused by this phenomenon.  The first three minutes of this video are fascinating:

(Spoiler alert: I didn't see the trick, and in fact doubted that it was correct; I actually replayed it on my DVR to make sure it really happened.)  I was fooled by several other illusions and in the show.  It is really amazing and taught me things about perception and concentration.  I shared the show with my daughter to discourage her from studying with music on.  Anyway.

At any rate, I was thinking of that show with The Ninja runner -- he was very, very difficult to see, and for someone not expecting a runner to suddenly run across the street, he would be invisible.  Not hard to see; just invisible. Given how fast he was moving and his obviously practiced running form, I only hope that he was running later than normal and didn't realize how invisible he really was.  Made me actually think about all the reflective stuff I have (which was zero) and what I ought to wear in the dark -- reflective hat, shorts, etc.  I know Brooks makes a reflective line for dark running, and after seeing The Ninja, I went out and bought a reflective running shirt.  (My wife just rolled her eyes, like I needed some excuse to buy more running gear.)  The hat with blinking light might be a bit much.  But made me certainly take notice

A video to demonstrate what I am talking about:

At any rate, stay safe, and if you have any tricks for visibility at night, let me know!


  1. It is always a good idea to be seen to be safe!

  2. The Ninja is going to be crushed by a car if he keeps it up. Glad you looked at it as an example of what NOT to wear esp in the winter nights. Thanks for sharing the footage. Take care.

  3. I have to confess that I often run in dark clothes when it's dark. Maybe because it's early morning when I run (as opposed to early evening or night), and I'm somehow more afraid of wack jobs than cars and want to be stealthy like your ninja. Probably not best practice, I know, but I feel really exposed when I'm wearing a head-lamp or a bright reflective vest at that hour.

    Thanks for following my blog! Where in TX did you grow up? I lived in Houston for 7 years counting college.

  4. Fascinating. I didn't see the penguin, but I'll blame the small youtube window .) Counted 23 in the circles, not sure if that's correct. Yes, car drivers will always say "I did't see him" when they hit a motorcycle. Flouro gear is the way to go. Or don't run on roads at all!

  5. Hey, you're back! : )

    I'm not a nighttime runner, bascially because I'm so clumsy, I'm afraid I'll trip and fall. But I've seen some jackets with funky reflective patterns.

    Do you live in Tarrytown?? My aunt lives there, so we visit often, you can see her house from the Tappan Zee.

  6. Oh, goodness. This could be me, only I'm not fast. It's not intentional, more a function of the running gear I have, 98% of which is black or dark-colored. I tell myself it'll be OK because I when I run at night I'll see the car's headlights, but I know it's not very smart. My husband did give me a shirt with reflective accents for Christmas, so I may mend my ways a little bit. :)


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