Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Running Rural Macon County, MO....With Dogs

Macon Lake would by idyllic, if it weren't for the dogs....

There's a reason city people are stereotyped as dumb by people out in the country. The reason is....we are.

This morning I went for a seven-mile run in the town and around some county backroads in Macon, MO, about an hour north of my hometown of Columbia. My dad and stepmom live here, so the kids and I drove up yesterday to hang out with them for a couple of days. The kids have now watched all of Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King in the space of 24 hours and eaten more Easter candy than I thought their small bodies could hold. The sugar withdrawal back in Colorado may be tough next week.

For me, Macon is another homecoming. My grandparents lived here my whole growing up, and my sister, brother and I spent a lot of time up here, swimming in the pool, knocking around the railroad tracks, making up ghost stories about the people buried in creepy, mossy Oak Lawn Cemetary up the road. As I got older, I did a lot of running here and have a few favorite routes that take in both the downtown scene of grand Victorian houses with huge porches and the rolling farm country north of town. Now my dad lives in my grandma's old house, so I can still run here.

I had forgotten about the dogs.

Now, I know there are some territorial dogs in places other than the rural Midwest (I had to work around one on a Boulder training run earlier this year). But there's definitely a higher density out in places like the road around Macon Lake where I ran today.

I started out running in town, loving the chilly why-didn't-I-pack-a-long-sleeved-shirt overcast weather and cold breeze. Then I did a quick loop in the cemetary before turning north, into that wind, to my old route around Macon Lake. The first dog lunged at me near the top of a steep hill, about 2.5 miles total into the run. A big fluffy white guy, he had a throaty bark but quickly lost interest in me when I slowed to a walk and spoke to him. I was able to resume running pretty fast after encountering him.

I got another mile in, but some deep booming barks emanating from two houses set back from the road above the lake made me worry about what might be in store for me along the rest of my intended path. And sure enough, I rounded a corner to find two scruffy mutts rooting in the reeds by the lake for ducks. The smaller one let loose a cacophany of shrill barks (I love big dogs, but I'm not a fan of tiny yap dogs), and when his bigger friend looked up, he too took up the chorus and both of them raced toward me. I once again slowed to a walk, but unlike the dog on the first hill, these two didn't lose interest and followed me for a half-mile before I rounded a corner and lost them.

The lake road ended soon after that, and I turned up the steepest hill of the run. I braced myself. There are several farmhouses along this road. I didn't doubt there would be more dogs. Sure enough, two large Labradors spotted me when I was about halfway up. Baying, they ran straight at me. I stopped for the third time and fell into a submissive crouch, speaking in what I hoped was a soothing voice. These dogs were big and stocky.....and right in my path. I would need to get around them just to get home.

Lucky for me it worked. Once they got a whiff of me and heard my voice, they turned into puppies, rolling in the dust at my feet, leaning against me, wagging their whole back ends. They stopped following me at the edge of what I assume was their yard. And I ran on.

The rest of the run's dogs (yes, there were lots more) were chained in their yards. I didn't have to stop again, but due to all the unexpected dog placation I almost made my dad and stepmom (who were watching the kids) late to a funeral. Looking back on it now, I guess I'm lucky no one had to take me to the emergency room for a dog bite.

It make me sad, but I don't think I'll run the Macon Lake route again when I visit in the future. And I warned my dad, who wants to start running again, not to do it either. Funny to say, the cemetary is a much safer place. What is it about living in the country that makes people want to keep mean dogs? Have they read In Cold Blood too many times? Give me Boulder's spoiled hippie trail hounds any day!


  1. Eeek! Glad you are safe! I love dogs but mean ones are scary.
    Our dogs are actually FROM Columbia MO. We drove down there to get them when they were tiny pups! Even funnier--their birthday is tomorrow! Where have 11 years gone??

  2. When we lived in the country, I had so many problems with dogs chasing me - it was terrible! Glad you made it home safely!