Every runner’s got that thing that makes her weirdly jumpy. For me it’s unleashed dogs, squirrels making menacing noises from trees and, above all, birds. Now don’t laugh at me just yet, this fear is totally founded. I’ve never seen Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (though this movie still is too fitting not to use), but I have been attacked by a bird—while running!—in real life.
‘Twas a sunny spring day, and I set out for a leisurely run on my then-usual bike trail along the shoreline south of Milwaukee. I jogged down a stretch surrounded by trees, enjoying the good weather, when a red-winged blackbird swooped down at me and clamped its claws around my head. Like anyone in this situation, I freaked out. I batted the territorial bird off my head (losing my headband in the process) and sprinted to the nearest exit off the trail with my now-loose hair flyaways flapping in my face.
I didn’t return to that path for at least a month, and even though it’s been two years since that blackbird so rudely attacked me, I still don’t trust birds when I’m running. It’s not just blackbirds either. Sparrows, crows, seagulls—all untrustworthy. If I see a bird headed toward me, I flinch involuntarily and feel very self-conscious if a passerby catches me in the act. Don’t even get me started on geese. I will go out of my way to run a safe arc around a flock of them.
I’m really trying to cure myself of this fear—if anything, so I don’t look so odd when a bunch of birds fly out of the bushes as I jog by—but it’s hard to shake. So if you’re ever in Milwaukee, and you see a 20-something cower in the presence of a mere robin, come say hello! While you’re at it, tell me about your running fears so I feel a little less ridiculous.