Article by: Michael SelmanReproduced with permission of the author
" W-O-W-W-W, Y-E-A-H, HEY BABY WAKE UP, COME AND DANCE WITH M-E-E-E.." My daughter Monica's chicken alarm clock bellows these words loud enough to get us all up on a typical Saturday morning. The clock is completely obnoxious, but I bought it for her when she was still living with her mother. Poetic justice, I thought at the time. How was I to know she was going to come and live with me?
Nevertheless, this is what we are greeted with, and it's somewhat of a call to arms. Harriet and I slowly crawl out of bed, feel our way downstairs to brew a fresh pot of coffee, and put on the weather channel so we can try to determine how to dress for today's race. We grab a couple of bananas, and we're out the door. I drive and Monica and Harriet go back to sleep for an hour or two. It doesn't bother me. I like the peace and solitude of watching the sun peaking over the eastern horizon. (Naturally, I DO have to wake Harriet up as we approach the race sight. After all, someone has to ask for directions ;-)
Sunday afternoon races are completely different in all respects. First, there are no chickens to deal with. That's the dominant plus. Eating also becomes a part of the approach. You want to eat long enough before the race so the food won't still be in your stomach trying to digest at race time, but you have to eat something or you'll be seeing spots by the time the flag drops. The best part about a Sunday afternoon race is the drive up. In stark contrast to Saturday mornings, the family is awake and talkative. And our conversations give me ideas for new articles, like this one.
We were driving up to do the Barnsley Gardens Daffodil cross country run One Sunday afternoon. We had no idea how difficult the course was until we had already sent in our applications, so it was too late to back out. We were chatting with Monica about what's going on with their schoolwork, and she started telling us about a research project she had to compile data on over the next month. It was called "Operation Road Kill." Their assignment was to look for and identify various dead mammals, reptiles, and amphibians along the Georgia highways, byways, and back roads. Additionally, they needed to note the surrounding terrain where the dead animals were found as part of their study information base. The following ground rules applied :
- Domestic animals could not be included in the study.
- If the fleshy mound was decomposed to the point it couldn't be identified, it couldn't be used in the study.
- You were not allowed to have your parents intentionally run over the animal.
- You could not find a dead animal in the woods and drag it out to the street.
If you do a lot of your training on the roads of Georgia, I'm sure you've had your share of encounters with roadkill. If you run the same routes often, you've undoubtedly monitored the deterioration process of these victims, and how the effects of rain, sunshine, heat and humidity aid in that process. If you are in a larger city, you can usually call the department of highways and transportation, and they will send someone out to scoop up the remains before any damage is done. In smaller rural towns, it becomes more difficult. The powers that be will often refuse to clean up the refuse, as a dead opossum can suddenly become a significant landmark. "Well, you go down past three dirt roads, make a left after the second dead raccoon, and it's the third trailer on the right once you pass the dead possum."
If your expired animal has to stay, the first day or two is not so bad. Rigor Mortis may set in during this time frame, but I can deal with that. It's days three through ten that make running really difficult. It becomes a question of how long you can hold your breath as you pass the carcass. Don't look down as you pass, either, because decomposition has already started. Hot, sweltering summer days accompanied by strong afternoon showers only enhance the experience. Finally, after about two weeks, the remains are pretty well flattened, and now it's mostly only a visual delight.
We were all really excited about Monica's project, and, since we were already approaching Adairsville, we decided not to procrastinate any longer. Her requirements for the project were to identify ten different roadkills. They didn't all have to be different species, but ten different isolated incidents. Within two minutes, we had our first "kill." It was definitely a possum. The terrain was flat and wooded. Another three minutes and there was another sighting. This one was a squirrel. This was near farmland surrounded by pines. Monica squealed with delight. "This is fun" she said laughing. And then she added, "Hey Dad, you should write an article about this." Consider it done, Monica.
We got to the race, ran through the most difficult cross country course any of us had ever experienced, and we all lived to tell about it. I suggested after the race that Monica might want to comb the course and find something else for her ever growing roadkill list. She gave me one of those stupid parent kind of looks. "Dad," she said. "Humans don't count. They are considered domestic animals."
By the following Friday afternoon, Monica had identified nine different roadkills. She had a nice variety, including a rabbit, a hawk, a frog, a squirrel, and several possums. She still had one more to go. The following morning, we were greeted with " W-O-W-W-W, Y-E-A-H, HEY BABY WAKE UP, COME AND DANCE WITH M-E-E-E.....". A very short time later, she had her tenth victim. It was a chicken alarm clock, and the terrain was our driveway.
Michael Selman Roads Scholar Atlanta Georgia USAMichael Selman is a freelance writer who has appeared in publications and web sites throughout the world, including Runner's World, Footnotes, and CoolRunning.