Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Running Hazards: Copperheads

Blogging Marathon Day #3


Deadly Encounter
While my knees are preventing me from running, I have discovered that I can ride my bike as long as I don't push down on the pedals at a particular angle. So I was riding my bike through Umstead Park this morning, on my way to work, when I had a near death experience. This is what happened:

I was climbing up a hill, and a woman was running down it, coming towards me. She was waving her arms frantically and screaming at me:


Brown Snake Copperhead!
Clearly she was warning me of some danger ahead. But I couldn't quite hear her over my grunting, groaning and wheezing.  Robbers? Cops? "What was that?", I asked as I passed by.
"COP-O-ROB-O-POPA!", she repeated.

I stopped and turned around. "I'm sorry, what?"


"Oh my god! Thanks!", I said.

King Snake Copperhead!
Masters of Disguise
This actually happens quite often. About 4 or 5 times a week, when I am out walking the dogs, running, biking, or driving my car down the freeway, a passerby will warn me of a dreaded COPPERHEAD! up ahead.

I am lucky and grateful for this these warnings because I am  very bad at identifying copperheads. The ones people point out to me I would have mistaken for a black snake, or a garter snake, or a turtle. But copperheads come in many different colors and shapes, and are in fact, the only snake that exists in North Carolina.

I have included some pictures of copperheads here that are mistaken for other types of snakes.

Northern Water Snake Copperhead!
Near Death

Anyway, the only sane option was to ride back and take another trail about 7 miles out of my way to avoid riding by the snake. But I was late for work and really tired. So instead I continued up the hill, and hoped that maybe the snake had already moved on and bitten some other park visitor.

I scanned ahead, ready to turn around at the first sight of it. But when I did see it, it was too late.

It was directly to my right. Coiled up and staring at me, 14 inches of certain death. I was about 10 feet away from it, and moving fast, but I knew that would not save me. Copperheads are known to spring at lightning speed up to 25 feet through the air and bite people right in the face.

I closed my eyes and waited for it to strike...

But it didn't! Copperheads are insanely aggressive and will attack 99% of time, but I guess I was the lucky 1%.

Brown Water Snake Copperhead!
Be Careful!
So runners and bikers, be careful out there this summer. Always assume that there is a copperhead on the trail ahead, and that it will kill you.

The best way to deal with them is to buy a treadmill and run indoors. I recommend a Tigram Trail Treadmill. (Of course, do not order the deadly snake option).

Here we see Laurent Fignon, a French cyclist who was bitten
 in the face by a copperhead while leading the Tour de France in 1983


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