Asphalt faceplant aside, running very much worth it

Several days ago, The New York Times published a story that had to encourage any runner as much it encouraged me. Running “may be the single most effective exercise to increase life expectancy, according to a new review and analysis of past research about exercise and premature death,” Gretchen Reynolds wrote.

She went on to relate details of a study by doctors at Iowa State University that, reinforcing earlier studies, concluded “the data indicated that running, whatever someone’s pace or mileage, dropped a person’s risk of premature death by almost 40 percent.”

Reynolds went on to report “In concrete terms, an hour of running statistically lengthens life expectancy by seven hours, the researchers report.”

That was on April 12. Four days later, on an Easter afternoon run, I was not quite to the half-way point of that “hour of running” when I sort of gave new meaning to the phrase, “in concrete terms.”

As I explained to the many friendly questioners this past week wondering about my scraped and bandaged face, four words: Jogging. Trip. Faceplant. Asphalt.

Yep, rounding the south end of the oval drive on the main quad of Duke University’s East Campus, a misstep the details of which elude me sent me sprawling face-first onto the asphalt at the bus stop.

If you’re going to take a spill while running, that was not a bad time and place. Several people hurried to my aid, helping me up and to a nearby bench and expressing great and sincere concern.

A security guard whose name I got only as Reggie, and who I’ve seen on my East Campus runs, was quick to the scene. Should they call paramedics? I was pretty sure – after an initial deep fear I’d done real damage – that nothing was serious, lots of blood to the contrary notwithstanding. But their tone and my instinct suggested the answer was yes.

Long story short, paramedics came – first volunteers from the Duke Emergency Medical Services, then two Durham County EMS folks. They were thorough, reassuring, professional and patient.

They urged a trip by ambulance to the Emergency Department. I countered with Urgent Care. They pressed the ED point, suggesting that at my age (68) urgent care might quickly recommend the ED, too.

I declined the ambulance, said I thought I could walk a few hundred yards to where my car was parked at Brodie Gym, but then took their insistent offer that a campus police officer give me a ride.

Officer Tanner could not have been nicer. When he had first arrived at the scene, he smiled warmly, noted I’d jogged by him just a few minutes earlier and suggested I’d looked better then. I agreed.

My wife and son arrived to drive me – and my car – to the Duke Regional Emergency Department. Busy on a holiday Sunday, the staff was backed up but courteous and thorough. More than five hours after my spill, I was examined, cleaned up, bandaged and headed home.

Googling “falling while running” the other evening, I found copious entries from people who’ve taken spills while jogging. I’m reassured it’s not an age thing – indeed, I myself have proven that by falling from time to time, starting in my 30s.

As I write this, I haven’t been back out on the road. But I soon will be, perhaps by the time you read this.

I’m going for those extra three years – and a host of other benefits, physical and mental, that I owe to years of running.

Bob Ashley is editor of The Herald-Sun. You can reach him at 919-419-6678 or bashley@heraldsun.com.