Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Stopping suddenly AND bending down

An added twist to the local vice I decried last week. (I'm now once again an early morning commuter three or four days a week, so I am getting to see a lot fo this.)

In addition to suddenly stopping dead for no very good reason - in the middle of a dense crowd of moving people - many Chinese also seem to think nothing of dropping instantly into a crouch or a squat or a kneel, so as to become pretty much invisible to those coming up behind them.

The other day, I almost tripped over a young girl who decided to stop to adjust her shoes - one yard from the subway train she'd just disembarked from, in the middle of a narrow gap between two pillars on the platform, with about two dozen impatient commuters streaming around her. She was so tiny, she would have been far below my eye-level when stood erect, and when she scrunched up into a ball not much more than a foot high - INVISIBLE!

I call this the 'Human Bollard' phenomenon. I have found it especially hazardous when running in the Beijing Marathon over the past few years. Actually, in my first outing - running the half-distance in 2003 - I had one guy who went from running normally to a dead stop AND in a crouch (adjusting a shoe-lace, I think) in the space of about half a second, when he was directly in front of me. I don't know how he did that. I just don't have that braking capacity when I'm running. Having no chance to stop myself, I was tempted to leapfrog over the top of him - but instead (a rare display of courtesy and tolerance on my part!) I jinked abruptly to one side to go around him...... and tore up something in my left knee. I managed to finish the race that day, but my knee was getting very sore and slowing me down badly by the end of it. And that has tended to be a recurring source of injury for me in long races since. Bloody Human Bollards!!

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