OK…so, I knew I needed to get out and start running again. A little history I talked about in the book: I used to live in a little rental in the historic district of Dover, and even in the most bitter cold, I was out there on those nice, flat, well-lighted streets, greeting the transit drivers who drove by and waved, recognizing me in my red windbreaker and DelDOT-approved safety vest. I trained for a number of months and finally entered a 5K. I didn’t know until I arrived at Killens Pond State Park that the race was cross-country. It had already been raining for some time, as up and down he hills I went, striding through dark puddles under which lurked tree roots that dared me to stay upright.
Somehow, I did though, and when I ran uphill toward the finish line, I heard someone who was recording time look at a co-worker and say, “she’s 3rd.” I had no idea what that meant until awards started being handed out and I had taken 3rd Place Women’s in my age group (50-59 at the time). My then roommate was a letter carrier, and I drove back into Dover and met up to show her my trophy. We laughed later at how, when I got out of my car splattered with mud and soaked, holding the trophy, she could have sworn she heard the theme from Rocky playing, and that’s pretty much how I felt.
Fast forward a couple of years, when I had built my house in the country west of Dover and was thrilled to discover that the little enclave of homes across the county road from me had an exact, one-mile loop, so I had started running again. It wasn’t the bright streets of Dover and there were no transit drivers, but it was my new home….until things started to get weird.
One winter morning, for instance, I had gotten about 1/8 mile into the loop, and someone in a white sedan saw me running on the county road and did a U-turn to come back. I had gone into the development and he pulled around me and abruptly turned into the driveway in front of me (and yes it was a distinctly male profile — I’m not being sexist). I ran around the back of the car and continued on. The next thing I knew, he had backed out of the first drive, driven just ahead of me and again, pulled into the driveway immediately in front of me. This happened one more time and I was on edge.
Now, if this were the days of milkmen or newspaper delivery people who brought the morning news to the doorstep, I wouldn’t have been concerned, but something about this hit the pit of my stomach and not in a good way.
Ask me how fast I can run.
Well, that morning, knowing the families whose yards were unfenced wouldn’t mind, I would tell you I can do Mach 3 when I have to. One neighbor who saw some of the drama told me later she could not believe how fast I was moving. It took a few days for me to get past it, but I knew I couldn’t let one idiot ruin my routine. Winter turned into Spring, neighbors were out earlier walking their kids, dogs, ferrets (yes, really) and I was enjoying my morning runs again.
Then another funny thing happened (note here that I have a rather peculiar sense of what’s funny)– I was on the “back stretch” as I called it, the last quarter mile which is out on Rte 8 when a neighbor’s Doberman apparently considered me something of a threat. Now, I will concede I tell people I’m “118 lbs of raw, raging power” but c’mon, really? …out on a major artery road that runs between Maryland and Dover, Delaware?! This pup scaled a 6′ fence and before I could say, “I love big dogs” had me down on the pavement, and I was doing everything I could to have my body take the impact and not my head. I know it sounds weird but I was not afraid of the dog — just of getting a concussion.
“Bro'”s owner was out his front door like a shot, grabbing his dog by the scruff with one hand and pulling me up with the other, and was clearly afraid. We live in such a litigious society these days, I’m sure all he could think was, “this b***h is going to sue me and have my dog put down” but I told him, “I just need to go home. I’m okay — he’s just doing his job….but I think you need a bigger fence!” The guy insisted on driving me home and he did put a row of lattice atop the chain link (which looked rather ridiculous, but hey, whatever works!) but I have not gone running in my own neighborhood since that time. The bruises on my ribcage and hip bones took weeks to heal and even lying in bed at night hurt.
I’ve let that scare me long enough.
This past week, ready for some inspiration to train again, wherever it works, the Governor’s challenge came out — Gov Jack Markell sponsors a 5K in September, and I have taken up the gauntlet. It’s been years, and I’m not sure yet where I’ll run, but I will do this and keep this promise to myself to get fast and strong again.
Much love to all of you who are working on your own transformation as I am on mine –