Urban Running Legends

Everybody loves urban legends. You know – those famous stories that are seemingly unfathomable, but gradually spread by word of mouth for so many years that almost nobody is certain whether or not the events actually happened.

Local runners also know their share of urban legends. And while our stories might not be as captivating as aliens landing at Roswell, or the guy who flew over LAX in a patio chair with weather balloons, we still find them rather interesting.

So today we’re passing them along to you – with a catch.

Some of the following stories are true. Some are urban legends. And we’re not saying which are which. If you want confirmation, you’ll just have to ask the people involved.

See if you can separate the myths from the facts.

Legend #1: Many years ago, local marathoner and triathlete Andrew McCllelland of Salinas competed in Ironman Canada. He had been married less than a year at the time, and the triathlon put his wedding vows to the ultimate test.

As Andrew exited the water after the swim, he felt his new custom designed wedding ring slide off his finger. It was decision time.

He could have stood around looking for the ring amidst hundreds of stampeding racers, but decided there was little chance of finding it in the murky lake. Plus, it would have slowed his transition time down (he’s a racer, after all – we completely sympathize). So he continued the race, and spent the entire bike portion contemplating what he was going to tell his wife afterwards.

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. The day after the Ironman, Andrew hired a man with a metal detector to search the area where he exited the water - and after only an hour, his wedding ring was found.

Legend #2: Steve Marshall of Seaside will try absolutely every training method he reads about in running journals. Unfortunately for Steve’s wife Mona, Steve once read an article about Emil Zatopek, the legendary Czech runner who won multiple Olympic gold medals in various distance events.

Zatopek used the very unusual training method of running while carrying his wife on his shoulders. Steve read this, and told Mona their first workout was going to be in two days.

The next day when Steve returned home from work he found bags from the Treadmill and Fleet Feet, where Mona had gone shopping for running outfits.

When Steve inquired about the large Visa bill, Mona calmly replied, “If I am going to start this running program, I may as well look good!”

Legend #3: Patty Selbicky of Pacific Grove was the women’s winner of the third Big Sur Marathon. She used to do speed work at the Monterey Peninsula College track with Richard Leutzinger and Glynn Wood. For a point of reference, Richard looks a great deal like Woody Allen, only scrawnier - if that’s possible.

On most afternoons, the runners on the track, and the MPC football team on the field, did their workouts in peaceful coexistence. However, one fateful day, the football team’s wide receivers thought it would be funny to interfere with the runners by executing their pass patterns out on the track.

Each time this happened, Richard got upset and yelled at the MPC players. After an especially close call, one particularly enormous football player confronted Richard face to face.

Glynn and Patty immediately came to Richard’s aid, and Patty stepped directly between the two would-be combatants. The player then made an “ungentlemanly” comment, and Patty decked him with one punch. The football players never bothered the runners again.

Legend #4: One of your Running Life columnists - we won’t say which one - was running along the path near Lover’s Point (notice that we didn’t call it a “bike path”). The columnist was running on the paved portion toward Pacific Grove and made eye contact with a very fast biker heading straight at him from the opposite direction.

As they got closer, the columnist assumed that the biker would go around, but a vicious grin on the biker’s face indicated otherwise. A last minute jump to the left by the very coordinated runner helped avoid serious injury, but the result was a collision leaving both runner and biker on the ground.

Before the biker even stood up, he started yelling, “THIS IS A BIKE PATH!” The columnist’s retort was calm: “Even if it was - does that give you the right to run me down?”

The biker remained enraged, and his loud arguments quickly drew a crowd of onlookers. The encounter finally ended with the runner lifting the expensive bike and body slamming it over the seawall as the crowd applauded wildly.

Legend #5: There’s an active subculture of Monterey Peninsula athletes who enjoy running naked. In fact, the nude running movement once became so popular that Jim Allen of Monterey started organizing nighttime Naked Runs at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club golf course.

For several years, by the light of the harvest moon in October, dozens of local men and women ran in the buff through the fairways of the MPCC Shore Course.

Unfortunately, the run became too successful for its own survival. Too many people started showing up to run, and bystanders began lurking in the shadows to take snapshots with cameras as the runners came jiggling by. Jim also realized that it really wasn’t very comfortable to run naked, anyway. So the Naked Runs are now a thing of the past.

(But if any of our readers want to buy some great photos … you know where to find us!)


Anonymous,  July 19, 2007 at 8:16 PM  

As a local runner and cyclist, the attitude behind "Legend #4" really bothered me. The reason the cyclist yelled "This is a bike path" is probably because that path has "Bicycles Only" stenciled on it about once every 50 yards. Have you really failed to notice that?

As both you and the cyclist failed to yield to the other until it was too late, you were obviously both at fault for the collision, yet you don't seem to acknowledge the role that your own belligerent attitude played in the incident.

This attitude among runners is exactly why I, and most of the other cyclists I know, gave up trying to ride on that path long ago (even though its purpose was to create a safe alternative to riding on the street). I stopped after an incident when a runner who was running safely on the adjoining dirt (pedestrian) path suddenly jumped right onto the bike path and directly into my line of travel without even glancing at where he was going.

Fortunately, I was going very slowly and was able to avoid hitting him or crashing, but it was a very close call .... and, of course, he yelled at me for being reckless (even though he'd never even looked up or seen me until he stepped right in front of me and had no way of knowing how fast, slow or otherwise I'd been riding).

This incident made me realize that whatever happens on the bike path, the cyclist will always be at fault. To the majority of pedestrians and runners, cyclists are inherently reckless and always to be blamed for anything that happens ... which also helps to justify their "right" to run and walk on a strip of pavement carefully marked as for bicycles only. Your story about that crowd of cretins cheering while you vandalized the bike says it all.

So now most of us ride that stretch of the coast on the road, where the drivers are considerably more courteous and alert than the runners on the bike path (although once in a while one of them yells at us to get on the bike path). We're just not willing to be held responsible for whatever incident a belligerent or brain dead runner or pedestrian causes.

And when I'm running, I assure you that I do not do it in places where I'll be obstructing people who are doing us all a favor by traveling by bike ... both for safety and as a matter of common courtesy.

BTW, it was nice to see a mention of my friend and fellow runner/cyclist Patty Selbicky (who has also given up trying to ride on the bike path), although again your theme seems to be runners suffering wrongs and solving the problem through violent retribution. That's certainly not the attitude that Patty goes around with and certainly not an approach that she would endorse (whatever she may once have done in the heat of the moment!).

Try giving the cyclists a break ..

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