Running with snakes

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a paralyzing fear of snakes. Really, I do. I know I often come off as the brave, nothing’s-gonna-stop-me kind of guy, but snakes are my weakness. Just ask my wife. On a trip to Texas a few years ago, we stopped at the rattle snake house, a private operation by some crazy guy in the middle of the desert. He collects rattlers, and he collects a lot of them. So we stopped, paid five or six bucks each, and we went inside. Almost immediately, I started sweating profusely. My heartbeat was very fast, and I could see everything in high definition. I could also hear everything in high definition, and what I heard were a bunch on angry rattle snakes. A bunch of them.

Those snakes were in glass enclosures, so I kind of knew that I was going to be okay. That didn’t stop me from telling my wife to stay away from the glass. I was really scared. Because of that fear of snakes, I try to go to well-traveled outdoor trails instead of the more isolated ones. Dad taught me a lot about snakes, teaching me that the fact that they are cold-blooded makes them less active in the colder months of the year. He also taught me that they love to come out when it gets warmer and lay out in the sun, on top of rocks or in the middle of a trail or some such. Well, that was the case today.

As the dog and I were jogging down a well-traveled trail, we noticed that a couple had stopped and were looking at something down the trail. The man was enticing the woman to keep walking, but she was paralyzed. I asked what was going on and she screamed at me that there was a snake. To make matters worse, there was a family with children right behind us. They would be coming up on us any minute. I’d also seen some people with horses heading in our direction. You don’t want to see a horse spooked by a snake.

As soon as the woman said the word “snake”, I froze up. The dog started barking at the snake. Part of me wanted to turn around. But the other part of me told me that there were people heading our way. The brain overrode the fear and I looked around for a branch. (Later, my wife would ask how long the branch was. My response would be, “Not long enough!”) I used the branch to coax the snake out of the trail as so:

Yeah, my heart was racing, and I was very scared. It’s a primal fear, if you will. But I did it. Then the dog and I finished out five mile long run for the week. Chicago in 14 weeks!

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen