Inside Texas Running - Dangerous Running

Lies, damn lies and statistics.

"Why, you're more likely to be struck by lightning while playing elephant polo than to be injured in a car accident."

"Jumping out of an airplane is safer than making toast."

Those facts courtesy of the Automobile Manufacturers Safety Council and the Parachute Bureau.

My point is that while you should never, ever believe stats, you can always figure out trends by reading random AP wire stories once every two months. And that's where I found this gem, a tale of imminent danger that I couldn't wait to share with all my running buddies.

I certainly don't intend to make light of the tragedy that struck in Broward County, Florida in early May. A young woman who was presumably in rock star shape, since she was out for her "nightly jog", lost her life. It's the fact that she lost it to a ten foot alligator that I think warrants mentioning.

You see, this lady, whom I prefer to imagine as being super hot like one of the college co-eds working as a counselor at Camp Crystal Lake while wearing a baby doll t-shirt and playing strip monopoly because she has no idea that Jason is hiding nearby wearing a hockey mask, liked to run along a canal every evening after work. Then one evening, in the name of staying skinny, a gator dragged her into the water and had her for supper.

One of the many ironies is that you'd think a discriminating alligator would have opted for someone slower and fatter. But then again, how often do slow, fat people come in contact with alligators? I'm neither slow nor fat personally, but I sure as shooting know where those folks hang out. I've been going to icehouses for decades, and the closest I ever saw to a giant reptile strolling through the door was when this guy named Daryl had psoriasis.

Therefore we can safely conclude that a dark, smoky establishment selling alcohol poses little danger of wild animal attack. Many bad things might happen to you in a strip club, my friends, but getting eaten by a huge lizard is not one of them.

So it's clear then that I should be greatly concerned for all my running pals. I mean, follow the logic. Since gators live outdoors, only "outdoorsy" types will actually be near them. And since even a stupid reptile knows to avoid jet skis and trolling motors, that leaves runners as the most vulnerable.

Runners often lope along some idyllic path that winds beside the bayou. Their headphones pumping out Duran Duran tunes as they admire the lovely Spanish moss and cypress knees. The farthest thing from their minds is that some harried mom flushed her kid's pet down the toilet back in '94, and then suddenly SNAP! The next thing anybody knows is when the dude from Parks and Wildlife can only locate your leg.

Sure, the officials in Florida are quick to put on that Ted Koppel face and tell you that: "There have been only 25 fatal alligator attacks in Florida since 1948." What the heck does that mean? That Truman beating Dewey took the wind out of their sails? That they found the bomb to be a deterrent? Of course not! It tells me that Florida officials are, once again, making stuff up. These are the people that couldn't figure out how to count votes, remember.

When trying to figure out why something is the way it is, never forget this simple rule: Follow the money. And how does Florida make money? They make it by selling theme park tickets, zinc oxide and cheap t-shirts to incredibly white people from Ohio. So what do you expect? Surely not that they'll plaster the state with billboards reading: "Come to Kissimmee. We lose four toddlers a day."

I know; we don't live in Florida. Thankfully we live in Texas. But while Texas Parks & Wildlife don't seem to want you to know exactly how many alligators live here, their counterparts in Louisiana are quick to tell you that they have 1.5 million of them. And you can do your own math to figure how many hundreds of thousands of those Cajun gators relocated here following Katrina, and the shady ones at that. So this problem must be huge!

All of which brings me back to my original point. By my own calculations, getting eaten by alligators is the second overall leading cause of death among runners. Number one? Mountain lions. And those are followed closely by: mauled by bears, hit by a bus and shot by a jealous spouse. Face it, what would you think if you come home early from work and see some guy wearing nothing but shoes and nylon underwear running past your driveway?

It's a dangerous world, and that's why I prefer the warm cocoon of a barstool. But if you must go running, for Pete's sake, be careful out there.