SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 13, 2013

On The Run column: When your run turns into Dog Day Afternoon

By Jay Kumar
Correspondent

---- — When they’re on the road, runners are always warned to pay extra attention for oncoming traffic.

But the same can be said for running through neighborhoods or on trails. Just because you’re not going to get hit by a car doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards to worry about ... and sometimes those hazards can be of the four-legged variety.

Nearly every runner has likely encountered an unleashed dog in the course of a run. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.

I run on the Danvers Rail Trail fairly often, and twice in the last week I’ve come across unleashed dogs. One was with its owner and it approached me and barked before running off to sniff something; the owner apologized and I kept going.

The other was on its own. I spotted it on the trail and probably should have turned around to avoid it, but I was hoping its owner was somewhere nearby. No such luck. I approached with caution, slowing down to a trot as I got closer. The dog was an older German shepherd and it took a few steps toward me and barked menacingly. At this point, I was thinking there was pretty much nothing I could do if the dog decided to attack. There were no other humans around and I was stuck on this trail with a displeased-looking dog. I was imagining how painful the rabies shots would be when the dog just walked off in another direction.

I kept going on my run toward Wenham. Of course, I was doing an out-and-back route so I also had to turn around and come back through the same path. I started looking for alternate routes. There were other people heading in that direction on the path, so I figured I’d watch for the dog and if I saw it, I’d avoid it by jumping onto a nearby side street. Fortunately, the dog was gone when I returned so I just continued on my way.

In retrospect, I should have turned around the second I saw the unleashed dog. If a dog wants to bite you, it’s probably going to bite you. And you’re not going to outrun a dog unless it’s got fewer than four legs, and even then maybe not. However, if you encounter an unleashed dog that gets aggressive with you, experts advise runners to stop running, avoid eye contact and walk away.

Ultimately, there’s not much you as a runner can do about unleashed dogs other than to avoid one if you see it. Dogs are going to get out of their yards and some dog owners are going to let their dogs off leash even though they’re not supposed to. (And I’d like to note that I like dogs; we’ve got a puppy now.) I don’t think anything needs to be done about it other than dog owners making sure they keep their dogs on a leash.

Who knows; I could run that Rail Trail route 100 more times and never see an unleashed dog 99 of those times…but it’s that one time I’m concerned about. I’m going to start running a different route because I don’t feel like getting bitten. So it’s back to dodging cars for me…it’s safer.

Starts and stops

The second annual Festivus 5K for Autism is scheduled for 10 a.m. this Sunday in Salem. The race starts and ends on Wharf Street with the post-race part at Finz Seafood and Grill. The “Seinfeld”-inspired theme includes the airing of grievances and feats of strength. The event is sponsored by Parents United of Salem and all net proceeds of the race will benefit the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism. Visit www.festivus5k.com/ for more information and to register.

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Kick off 2014 in style by running the seventh annual Frosty Four 4-mile race in Salem on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014 at 10 a.m. The race is the first event in the New England Running Company 2014 Road Race Series. Registration takes place at the Tavern in the Square from 8:30-9:45 a.m. and the race starts on Front Street. Visit www.northshoretimingonline.com/reglivecb.aspx?eventyear_id=120 for more information and to register online.

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On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to jay.kumar@gmail.com.

Upcoming races

Sunday, Dec. 15

Lynn Knights of Columbus 5K Santa Run/Walk, 177 Lynnfield St., Lynn, 9:30 a.m. Contact: John Smart (Knights of Columbus) at 1-781-593-4000 x7716 or email jjsmart@icloud.com.

Wednesday, Dec. 18

Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail adam@danvers5k.com.

Thursday, Dec. 19

No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact info@wickedrunningclub.com.

Wednesday, Dec. 25

Danvers 5K Fun Run, Sweet William’s Garden Center, 141 Pine St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail adam@danvers5k.com.

Thursday, Dec. 26

No Rest for the Wicked Weekly 5K-ish, Salem Common, Salem, 6:45 p.m. Free 3.2-mile run. Contact info@wickedrunningclub.com.

Visit www.northshoreroadraceguide.com/race-calendar for more race listings.