Happy Thanksgiving! Because the weather was gorgeous, I wanted to use my new sports watch, and I wanted to feel a little less guilty about all the calories I would ingest, I decided to go for a run yesterday.
I went down the trail I normally use. I was a little less than a mile into my run when I came to a road I need to cross. My run had been completely quiet up until that point; I hadn’t met anyone. But, then I saw someone with an orange flag, motioning people. Lots of people. She was motioning hundreds of runners onto the trail I had hoped to use.
I thought about turning around for a minute. Then, I decided I didn’t really know another route I wanted to run right then, so, I joined in the fray.
About three seconds after I joined in, I was sort of sorry I had. I was getting passed by all sorts of people. I am not the fastest of runners to begin with, and since I had recently been sick with a cough and sore throat, my energy was less than usual. Before I knew it, men with graying hair passed me. A few telling me to keep running. Then, most humiliating of all, a blonde haired boy whom I think is my ten-year-old’s friend (I’m not sure since I only saw the back of his head), passed me up. My short stubby legs kept going, and though my ego was somewhat bruised, I still loved the experience of running with all those people.
They accepted me as one of their own, even though I was in sweat pants that had shrunk and carried pepper spray in one hand. I got quite a few strange looks when people saw the pepper spray. Who runs a race with hundreds of other people and expects to be attacked? To those who gave me the strangest looks I imagined telling them, “Oh, I’m not worried about being attacked. I just really want to win this race! Ha!” as I sprayed them in the eyes. But, I am not that diabolical. And a weird look doesn’t deserve temporary blinding as punishment, most of the time.
Pretty soon, I came to the end of the trail. Normally, I turn around and go back the way I came. That didn’t seem to be a possibility. I briefly considered still doing that and had an image of myself pushing through all those runners, arms flailing, to go back the way I had come. But although I wanted to yell and divide the runners like Moses parting the Red Sea, I decided to just keep going with them.
I ran up a road and down to the road in front of my kids’ school. I had planned to just keep going down that road, but a lady with a flag told yelled at me as she saw me turning, “You have to cross here!”
“Okay,” I thought, “I guess I have to cross here.” And, being the mostly obedient soul that I am, I crossed with all the runners. By that time my energy was starting to flag a bit, but I was still running. I saw a sign that said mile 3 and smiled. I had only run about 2.5 miles, but I wanted to believe I was already done with 3. Then, the sag support was on the side of the road.
“Water, Gatorade?” they yelled with the drink proffered in an outstretched arm.
“Don’t mind if I do,” I thought as I took the offered water, gulped it and threw it into the gutter with the rest of the hapless paper cups lying there.
Soon, I had a decision to make; the rest of the runners were turning, and since I knew where they were going, I knew it would be too far from home to run back, too.
The next flag holder yelled at me, “Hey, you’re going the wrong way! You have to turn here!”
Now, I know the perfect ending to this story would be that I kept going and simply ended with all the others at the rec center. And for a brief second, I nearly did that. But my throat was starting to hurt, my energy was gone, and, did I mention I was really kind of still sick? So, I ignored flag boy and kept going on my way to home, a smile on my face, thinking that, for half of my run, I got a chance to feel like I was running a 10K. For free.