Today’s workout included my longest run prior to the race on July 30 — I needed to run 11.5 miles. I already had plans to be in San Francisco for a meeting, so I figured I’d do the long run there for a change in venue.
I love running along the water in San Francisco! The Marina Green, Crissy Field, The Presidio… and of course THE BRIDGE!
I’ve never actually run across the bridge. I’ve biked and driven over it too many times to count… but never made the trek on foot. Today was the day! It was relatively nice weather (very windy over the water, but not cold and foggy) and it would be a good way to add mileage without going too far out of my way.
Do you know how long the expanse is? *leave a comment!
The most treacherous thing about crossing the bridge is navigating the tourists! I don’t have a whole lot of patience for people who are oblivious to others around them and space they are taking up. Making it worse — erratic behavior is just plain dangerous when you’ve got pedestrians, cyclists, and workers trying to use the same narrow path.
But, it was a weekday morning, so I went for it. The trip to the Marin County side was worse because all the tourists were huddled on the Bay side of the bridge taking photos. The return trip wasn’t so bad as long as I stayed all the way to the right and gave plenty of advance notice I was coming; sudden movements by the tourists are the worst.
I made it to the second tower on the way back and noticed a young policeman kind of “standing guard” there. He had been looking over the railing on the north side of the tower on the trip out and I thought to myself, “I wonder if someone jumped!” But I dismissed it because there are also painting crews working on the bridge and he could have been doing anything. Your mind will wander like that 7 miles into an 11.5 mile run…
I kept going and the crowd along the pathway had thinned out entirely. I noticed this because it was so blissful to have a long expanse all to myself. It was just me and one other guy who was minding his own business. I was really getting into a great stride!
As I approached this lone guy, I watched him put both hands on the railing and hike one leg up, making the move to climb over it. I stopped running and stared at him. I was totally dumbstruck. He hadn’t looked around like he was trying to make sure no one saw him, so I questioned his motives. I had about a thousand thoughts in the space of three seconds:
“Is he really jumping?”
“This must be a joke, right? He’s just playing around.”
“I bet he dropped something and is just going to retrieve it.”
“No, I think he’s jumping. Areyoufuckingkiddingme?”
“Maybe he’s a construction worker. He’s kind of dressed like a worker.”
“Should I call out to him?”
“If I call out to him and he’s not jumping — what if he’s crazy and comes after me.”
“And what if I call out to him and he still jumps? I don’t know if I can handle that kind of pressure.”
“Where the hell is that cop/guard dude?”
AND THEN HE JUMPED!!
While I just stood there. By this point, there were a few tourists who had passed and they turned around and were taking photos of the jumper (see what I mean about tourists??). I’m sure they also got me with my mouth hanging wide open…
What I didn’t know at the time is this: there’s a narrow platform under the edge of the railing. A person doesn’t just plunge immediately to his/her death once you’re over the railing. There’s a “grace period” of sorts. The below is a stock photo of the bridge that shows the narrow ledge just below the railing (the net has been added graphically to show the proposed solution for suicides — it IS NOT there now):
By this time, the policeman was running up to the scene shouting, “No! Don’t do it!” Another man was with him, though he was dressed in construction-like clothes (not in a uniform). Me? I continued to stand there, paralyzed with disbelief. The men were exchanging words with the jumper and the worker-looking guy pulled something out of his pocket — a tin of chewing tobacco. Maybe the jumper had asked for a cigarette? The cop was looking around, very unsure of himself and the situation. I made eye contact with him and asked if I could help, gesturing to my phone. He said no and motioned for me to keep going.
Of course, part of me wanted to stay and watch this tragedy unfold… I suppose this is human nature. Most of me was still in utter disbelief that it had happened at all — and mostly that I had done nothing to stop him. Now that I am home with the world at my fingertips, I have read about would-be jumpers who went out to the bridge saying to themselves, “If one person notices me and asks if they can help, I won’t do it.”
You can imagine how I feel.
But the reality is this: it isn’t about me. This man felt he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and it was a burden he could no longer carry. He almost jumped to his death right in front of me and only me AND I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.
I make this promise to you, fellow man/woman/child/tourist: I will do better next time. If I am placed in a situation where I am questioning my ability to help, I will at least try. Perhaps it will do no good, but I will not let you harm yourself or anyone else while I stand idle.
I don’t know if this man was talked back from the ledge or if he ultimately jumped. My last four miles included running to Hooper’s Hands, and kept my eye on that part of the bridge the whole way, though I saw nothing one way or the other. News reports are generally very scarce on bridge jumps, as not to sensationalize them. I will let you know if I find out one way or another.