It is dark at 5:30 a.m. in September. And thanks to a clear sky like today, you could see the entire span of constellations. Mark offered to run with me, as I was planning to go solo and still have this fear of tall corn and strange men. I jumped at his kindness.
And so we headed off, me trying to run straight while pointing out Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Orion, and any bright star that caught my attention. (It's tough to run while looking straight up...) I chatted, he ran in silence. Typical. After 20 minutes, I asked him to tell me a story. He paused. After two minutes or so, he recalled something from his Hershey days, I believe, about an extremely talented female runner who asked him to pace her. And by his standards, she was slow. He ran backwards, sideways, almost on his hands, and she still couldn't keep up with him. Yet, she was a state champion in the two-miler. Finally, it dawned me: I was too slow for him! This was the purpose of his story.
Still, I didn't take it personally. That's what happens when you're old like me. You just keep pushing forward; you let stuff roll of the rolls in your back. Well, we continued out out toward Alburtis, past the tall scary cornstalks, turned at the church, and headed back. We watched the sun rise, saw skittering squirrel and rabbits, heard hawks and blackbirds. By mile 9, I knew I was on pace to beat my race time from the half marathon that I did last weekend on the canal path. How was this? Probably the fuel brought on by Mark's tale. I didn't want to be the woman who would have her partner run backwards, or sidewalks, or cross-eyed. I found a nice groove and just kept riding it. By 9.5, we parted. He headed home, I kept going. We kissed at the corner, and I turned just in time to see three red-tailed hawks. Lucky me. By the end, I beat my half time by 5 minutes. It wasn't a true race time, but it was the validation I needed to assure myself that I am ready. Again.
Hours later, recovered somewhat, I gathered up the girls and dogs and piled them all into the Pilot for Dunkin Donuts. I earned a salt bagel. My girls, who are putting up with my hobbling today, deserved their pink donuts. And my dogs (who lost out on their walk last night due to the heel) needed the car ride and the chance to feel the breeze push through their ears. Windows down, Sting playing, kids laughing, dogs sniffing, woman smiling.