Last night I had to do the unthinkable. I had to do my long run all alone. I've gotten spoiled rotten by running with a group of friends every week, so the thought of running for a couple hours all by myself seemed like such a drag. Not to mention that I was already pretty tired from spending the day riding in a horse competition, and pretty demoralized from watching the Patriots lose. If we're being honest, all I wanted to do was open a beer and sack out in the recliner. I thought about taking the day off and moving the long run to today, but since I'm only technically on Week 2 of marathon training, it seemed a little early to be wimping out.
Reluctantly I threw the cat off me, got dressed, and made a last minute decision to bring an iPod. I haven't run with an iPod in years, but I figured I might need a little extra motivation since I didn't have anyone to talk to. Up the steep hill I went, holding the iPod while I struggled to keep the ear buds stuffed into my ears. Every once in a while I would swing my arm a little too much and yank one back out. A half mile into the run I remembered how much I hated iPods and thought about stashing it on the side of the road, but tried to stick it out a little longer.
Less than a mile into the run I realized it was going to be one of "those days". As I was approaching a driveway on my street, a car backed out onto the street without even looking. Now I'm not one to think that it's "all about me", but if my toes are already in the driveway, it's probably worth letting me pass. A short time later, not one but several cars veered so close to me I had to jump into a lawn to avoid losing my knees. And then there were the classic "I don't think runners should run in the road when there's a sidewalk" drivers that wouldn't move over at all even though no cars were coming towards them, just to send a message. Finally as I was approaching the parking lot exit of a school, a car came up behind me and turned left into the exit, cutting me off in the process. Arm motions were made and I distinctly remember calling him a "stupid blah-bitty-blah!" The joke was on him though because he then drove around and caught me again as he was trying to exit through the entrance, where I suddenly felt the need to run reeeaallly slowwww so he had to wait for me. After this encounter I broke into my "I hate people" mood and started getting pretty aggravated. In my country towns it's unusual to run into such a string of angry drivers, so I'm going to chaulk this up to the Patriots loss. I'll make a note of that in the future so I don't schedule runs immediately following football games.
Shortly after passing the school, I reached the breaking point of the iPod. I absolutely hated having music directly streaming into my ear drums and the cords felt constricting. I stopped on the side of the road, in an area I call the "creepy section". My friends know where I mean. It's a road where there are virtually no houses and it gives off a major creep factor. While keeping an eye out for kidnappers, I stuffed the iPod into my fuel belt and got a good gulp of water. Just as I was getting ready to go again, a woman on a bicycle passed by, asking if I was okay. I said I was fine, thanks, and thought to myself, what a nice lady! I bet she didn't watch the Patriots game. I started down the road again and order was restored. My head felt better without the music invading it, and I just let loose. It was one of those runs where I felt like I switched bodies with a good runner. I busted a move for miles, and aside from the occasional crack of body parts slapping together or knees cracking, it was a very peaceful run. Every time I checked my watch I found myself going even faster than the last mile. I don't really know what got into me and I know I was supposed to be doing a long slow run, but I felt good so I just went with it.
Something tells me that my body language showed the way I felt. I can't help but feel that the dog walkers and bicyclists I passed gave me a more enthusiastic wave, and one lady walking two dogs actually clapped and said, "great job!" Okay that was actually a little weird.
I barreled towards the finish of my route, which was going to end at a trail and then I was going to walk the trail back for a cool down. I got to the trail and stopped, checked my watch, and realized the route was a little shorter than I wanted. So I took a few sips of water, regrouped, and just as I was starting to run again I saw a woman on a bicycle coming. No, it's not possibly the same lady that passed me four miles ago. Yes, yes it was. I made sure I looked strong and in need of no assistance as she passed me, and she gave me a big smile and thumbs up. I can't help but wonder what she was thinking as she saw me again. Why is that lady always standing on the side of the road? How did she get here so fast if she's always just standing on the side of the road? I chuckled and continued on.
The last 1.5 miles of the run I did through the woods and just did a slow cooldown jog. This too is a creepy area because at 6:30 at night it was getting dark and I didn't want to spend any more time in the woods than necessary. About a half mile from my house I spotted two questionable looking men loitering in the trail. Covered in tattoos and moving slowly, they were enough to make my skin crawl. I kept calm, heading towards them but thinking of ways around them and preparing myself for the possibility that I may need to do some sprinting in the next 30 seconds. (Finally, a practical application for track workouts!) When they heard me coming they turned around and motioned for me to stop. I slowed, weighing my options, and they yelled out that there was a giant bee's nest up ahead and I should stay away from it. I stopped and chatted with them for a few minutes, checking out (but keeping a very safe distance from) the bee's nest. Turns out they were looking for a pair of sunglasses that they had lost a couple hours earlier when they were being attacked by the bees. I felt a little foolish for thinking the worst of them, and grateful that they warned me about the bees. I started getting really cold really fast so I left them to look for the glasses and I ran the rest of the way home.
So, all in all a great run. I lost faith in humanity after repeated near-roadkill episodes, but faith was restored with my bicycle angel, my cheering spectators, and the beekeepers!