"You don't know what it's like, you don't have a clue -
If you did you'd find yourself doing the same thing too -
Breaking the law, breaking the law -
Breaking the law, breaking the law ... "
- Judas Priest, "Breaking the Law" (video after post):
*On the very remote chance that this post is read by somebody who is influential and bored enough to hold me accountable for what I’m going to describe, I’m gonna go ahead and slap a disclaimer here to say the following post is a work of fiction. At least as far as you can prove.
For the overwhelming majority of my day to day life, I try to be an upstanding member of society; it’s only when I’m running that I have a tendency to skirt around the rules.
(OK, maybe when driving also – but that’s a separate story.)
My disobedience is typically justified – to me, anyway – for one of two reasons: 1) the rule simply doesn’t make any sense, or 2) I’m too senseless to care. (Additionally, it’s worth noting that my wife recently described me as a “screw the establishment” guy, which probably factors into this little story as well. But that’s as far as I’m going with the psychoanalysis.) During any given run I embark on, it’s quite likely that I’ll break the rules for at least one of the reasons I mentioned above – and if the run is long enough, both of those reasons can easily come into play. Allow me to explain – and who knows? Maybe in a similar situation, you’d find yourself doing the same thing too.
Here’s an example of reason #1: a signpost at a trail entrance to the Fort Ord open space in Salinas - as seen at 3:30AM. A handful of these prohibitions were installed over the past several months, to crack down on … I’m not exactly sure. I’ve done pre-dawn runs here for at least 10 years prior to the existence of these signs, but apparently this year it’s against the rules. I’m not quite sure what happened in the off-season, but now my activity presumably makes me some kind of menace.
At first I thought it was a liability thing – like if someone happened to be mauled by a mountain lion in the middle of the night, he (or his surviving family) might turn around and sue the Bureau of Land Management who oversees the open space. However, you’re equally likely to suffer an animal-related trauma at midday – and for the record, my running group’s most recent mountain lion sightings out here have been around lunchtime - especially when you consider that rattlesnakes are generally still sleeping at 4AM. So you can’t really use liability as a rationale.
Then I thought perhaps the neighbors had an issue with people scurrying around behind their houses in the dark. This one seems a little shaky as well, because there’s really only a couple of streets that border access points to the public trails, and it’s not like I’m making a whole lot of noise when I’m shuffling by their homes. If someone happens to hear me, I’m almost positive that they were already awake when I got there. And once I’m past the houses, there are literally thousands of undeveloped acres where I can’t bother a soul; I could lead a marching band out there at 4AM without being noticed.
(The whole idea begs another question, of course: who’s going to enforce a “no running in the dark” rule? Will there be a graveyard patrol roaming the trails throughout the night? Will someone chase me if I run past an entry point one morning? Come to think of it, that might be kind of nice – I wouldn’t mind some company out there every now and then.)
Most of the time I’m not even using my headlamp when I pass the homes, which speaks to the appeal of running in Fort Ord in the dark; the trails are so wide and the landscape so open that I can run almost exclusively by moonlight. I wear a lamp just in case I wander into some heavy tree cover or tricky single track, but for the most part it stays off – and as soon as the first sliver of daylight peeks over the Gabilan mountains on the far side of the Salinas Valley, I tuck the lamp in my pocket for good.
A few hours and several miles later, I often encounter another type of sign that I disregard:
It says, “DANGER. DO NOT ENTER. This site is being investigated for ordinance and explosives.” Sounds pretty convincing, huh? I’ve written before about how Fort Ord is one giant munitions dump, with shells and casings lying around pretty much everywhere you look. The great fear, of course, is that some of the ammo on the ground is still live, which could obviously create a huge bummer for anyone unlucky enough to trip a landmine or step on a grenade somewhere.
The Army is gradually going through and clearing every square mile, but it’s an extremely laborious and time-consuming process that could take 20 years or more to complete. In the meantime, it’s not uncommon to find one of these signs on a seldom-used trail, basically warning you that there’s no guarantee you’ll make it through the next section in one piece.
Under normal circumstances, that’s enough reason for me to find another trail – but sometimes at the end of a long run I’m just looking for the most direct route to my end point, and my glycogen-depleted brain dismisses whatever risk might be involved. Last week, I found myself here at roughly mile 24, knew I was at least 7 miles away from my car, then looked at my watch and calculated that I had to be at work in about an hour and a half. Taking the long way around wasn’t an option, so I headed directly past the sign and into the unknown; I figured that if I blew up, at least I’d have an excuse for not showing up at work. At the time, that reasoning made perfect sense.
By the time I return to my car, I’m a law-abiding citizen again: the sun has come up to officially “open” the trails, and the paths that guide me home have long since been cleared of any danger underfoot. And if anyone official-looking should happen to ask me where I’ve been, I’ll probably just reply that I’ve enjoyed another beautiful morning on some of my favorite trails.
But as far as I’ll officially say on the record, this whole story has merely been a sleepy dream.
Although I haven't technically broken any laws, this song seemed appropriate considering that I haven't gotten around to posting my 80s metal playlist yet. I'll still try to get to it sometime - but until then, rest assured that this one made the cut.
Judas Priest, "Breaking the Law" (click to play):
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