Anyone who has been running long enough has been chased (or at least barked or growled at) by various dogs and occasionally other household pets that they’ve encountered on their route. I’ve run past the same dogs so many times that I know most of their names from hearing their owners telling them to stop barking at me, and some of them don’t even bother to bark anymore because they’ve gotten so used to me running past their house every day that seeing me has just become another part of their normal routine….
So this particular story doesn’t involve dogs….. And thinking back about it now makes me laugh because it really is a hilarious story, but when it happened, it was actually kinda scary and it should serve as a warning to other runners that these animals should be avoided at all costs. I’m talking about Canada Geese.
Like most people I’m sure, I have several different routes that I can run on and I usually decide between them based on how long I’m planning on running, what kind of scenery I’m in the mood for, and where I haven’t run in a while, etc… One of my favorite places to run is on the Old Plank Road Trail, which is 22 mile paved trail that runs across the far south suburbs of Chicago, starting in Chicago Heights and passing through Park Forest, Matteson, Frankfort, New Lenox, and eventually ending in Joliet.
The trail used to be railroad tracks and when the railroad company that owned them went under, they sat abandoned for several years before the state of Illinois bought the land and converted it into a running / bike path. There are a lot of trails like this throughout Illinois (and probably in other states too). If you live close to one and have a chance to run on it, you should take advantage of it because the scenery surrounding the trails is usually beautiful. The reason being that there’s a federal law that says that nobody besides the railroads is allowed to build anything within 50 feet of a set of railroad tracks. So in a lot of cases, once the tracks were laid (which was usually over 100 years ago), the surrounding land on either side was left alone and all of the native plants and wildflowers from the area were allowed to continue to grow untouched. Running on trails like this will give you the opportunity to see all kinds of wildflowers, trees, birds, and other wildlife that isn’t always easy to find in other places.
About 4 miles in from where I usually start running, the route goes through a nature preserve where there’s a lake on either side of the trail. It’s really scenic and it’s one of my favorite places to run. The only problem with running here is that there’s about a foot of grass on either side of the trail, followed by a steep drop off and then water…. so there’s about a mile and a half stretch where there’s nowhere else to go besides the trail itself. The trail also pretty much just goes in a straight line so unless you’re planning on having someone pick you up on the other end, any run you do has to be out and back.
So on this particular spring morning, I was training for a marathon and had a 16 mile run to do, so I set off along the trail and a few miles in, I ran through the nature preserve and saw a goose standing on the side of the trail. It hissed at me as I ran past and I figured that it probably had a nest close by that it was protecting. I didn’t think much else about it at that point other than a passing thought that I would probably be seeing some baby geese in a few weeks.
So at that point, I continued on my run, went down about another 4 miles and then turned around and ran back….. And when I got back to the same spot, I saw the same goose….. only this time it was standing in the middle of the trail looking at me. Now like I said, this is where there was water on either side of the trail and since I was already on the second half of an out and back run, I really had nowhere else to go. So I decided that the best thing to do would be to pick the side that appeared to have more room, suck it up, and run past the goose as fast as I could.
The goose had other ideas. The closer I got to it, the more it started to honk and hiss at me and it turned and kept honking and hissing as I ran past it. At this point though, I was past the goose and was thinking to myself “ok well now I’m safe at least….”. Yeah not so much. I kept hearing honking and it seemed to be getting louder and louder until the next thing I knew it was right in my ear and I was also hearing goose wings flapping right behind my head and feeling a beak pecking at the back of my neck.
I didn’t know what else to do at this point so I screamed and started flailing my arms in the air and I also reached down and found another gear and started running as fast as I could. Even though I had already ran 12 miles at that point, I think I ran my fastest mile ever. The goose flew right along with me for about another half mile and then I heard it land on the ground behind me. And it still wasn’t done – it ran behind me for a short stretch and kept honking and hissing at me. I didn’t turn around and look back until I couldn’t hear it anymore and then at that point, I finally slowed up my pace a little bit for the last couple miles. By the time I finally made it home, I was laughing to myself but when it actually happened, I was quite terrified.
So if you’re a runner and you’re reading this, I guess the two key points I was trying to make in this post are:
- If you ever have a chance to run on a trail that used to be a set of abandoned railroad tracks, you should do it – you’ll see some beautiful scenery and wildlife, but…
- No matter where you’re running, make sure to watch out for angry geese.