On running: The French countryside & hunting season

It’s hunting season again here in our corner of southeastern France. A mushroom hunter was accidentally shot to death a few weeks ago, just a couple of villages over from ours. All the mushroom hunters are dressed in orange traffic vests now.

My running partner and I found a pair of shotgun shells on our running loop last week. They lay right in the middle of the rocky dirt track that serves as an agricultural road between a a long line of grain fields on one side and a golf course on another. Our end of the village and the surrounding countryside has yet to see a single sidewalk or running track.

“At least the shells on the path mean the hunter was on the path and firing away from it, not at it, right?” my partner said, giving one of the shells a little kick with her running shoe.

True, except that the only clear vista is into the open fields, which are only a hundred yards wide, and are bordered on the other side by a major local road. Apparently, driving at dawn isn’t safe right now, either.

So, we wear bright colored clothing, oranges and reds, keep clear of off-road forest paths in favor of the regular roads, run at safer hours, and keep our ears pricked for any shots that sound too close for comfort. We avoid the path that runs along a large meadow where there are clear signs – torn turf, heavy hoof marks – of wild boar activity.

A flock of wild ducks has taken up station at the golf course lake I run past. Any hunter would have to fire into the golf course and then trespass to get at their prize, so from a duck point of view, this is probably a very safe place to rest on the southward journey. When I run past, no matter how quietly I try to tread, the entire flock takes flight, circles once over the course, and settles back in. They do the same when a far-off shot is echoes along the ridge crest of my running path.

Why run here at all if it’s so dangerous?

Well, there’s the health aspect. I like running, and most of the year is off-season, hunter-wise. But the main reasons for doing it here and not elsewhere are that I like the idea of an exercise I can do just by slipping into a good pair of shoes and going out the door, no driving, memberships or other equipment required.

And then there’s my running loop, which looks like this at various points:

View from my running loop
© 2012 PKR

So hunting season means curtailing my dawn and dusk running for a while, switching to brighter hours of more traffic and higher visibility. I feel a bit like Red Riding Hood – always stick to the right path, wear something protective, avoid lethal encounters to the greatest extent possible.

Don’t want to end up like this at the local farmer’s market

During the making of this post:

Beverages: Mariage Frères black tea, American Breakfast & Harmuty

Soundtrack: Hungry Ghosts – I don’t think about you anymore, but I don’t think about you any less, and Parachutes – Paper Birds