A True Story. Pittsburgh trails are nice wooded hilly crushed gravel paths…but beware!

By Steven Garand

A lifeless body is draped over the dirt and rocks on a park trail.  Even though it was a tragic running accident, I am still the one responsible.

Heading out on a cool clear Sunday morning, the 16 mile run promised to be a pleasant relaxing jaunt.  A slight wind was blowing wispy clouds under a bright blue sky.   This, I thought to myself was going to be the start of an excellent day.  The route strung together three beautiful Pittsburgh parks, Frick, Schenley, and Highland.  It was the kind of morning that makes you feel great to be alive.

Rounding the bend on the Schenley trail something darted from the underbrush and at the same time I felt a crunch under my left foot.  I was several yards down the trails before I could stop and turn around to see what had happened.  To my horror, behind me lay a chipmunk on it’s side, with legs kicking wildly at the air.  Maybe he was just stunned I thought walking back, hoping to see him pop up and finish his dash across the path.  My stomach sank as the full extent of the situation quickly became apparent.  There was blood pooling out of the poor little guys mouth and his spastic movements were already beginning to slow.

Instinctively my mind raced into action from my emergency medical training. There was two women within earshot and my first reaction was to scream to them and ask if they had a cell phone and could call 911 to get help out here as fast as possible.  How close could a medevac helicopter get to this spot was my next thought.  Then the slower rational part of my brain grabbed and slapped my instinctive brain a few times and said: get a hold of yourself man!  This is a chipmunk.  People don’t medevac rodents out of city parks!

There were some major internal conflicts going on here.  A liberal, tree hugging, hybrid driving, organic eating vegetarian goes out communing with nature and stomps a cute little chipmunk to death.  After moving the now limp body off the trail, I slowly began to continue my run in a daze. There was nothing else I could do.  I started having visions of Alvin’s family (at this point I had named him) waiting for him, but he never comes back.  I tried to distract myself by calculating the probability of squashing an animal mid-stride given the surface area of my feet, my steps per year, the average dimensions of a small rodent, and the estimated darting frequency (yes I am an engineer).  This was to no avail since it seemed all the little critters stopped what they were doing as I ran by and stared at me accusingly.  I guess news travels fast in the park.

If this were a fellow runner I had accidentally flattened I’m sure there would be a government panel set up to investigate exactly how this happened.  The panel would eventually make recommendations on how to prevent such a tragedy in the future.  Runners might be required to wear giant foam training shoes.  At the very least there would be kind words said for the fallen runner fallowing the basic eulogy plot.  So out of respect for Alvin I have prepared his eulogy.

He was a fine upstanding father and friend, a real pillar to the rodent community.  You will be sorely missed.

The viewing will be held next to the trail from Sunday morning up until something drags him away and eats him.

Thank you for listening to my story and if you happen to see someone running around town some day with giant foam shoes you won’t have to wonder why.