Sunday the weather was beautiful, so I decided to take a run. No, that is a huge exaggeration. I decided to take a long walk along country roads with intermittent clumsy jogs interspersed so I could pretend I was out on a run. Yes, that is more accurate.
I am and always have been a terrible runner. It’s one thing I really like that I’m absolutely no good at, and despite effort, don’t seem to improve doing. When I lived in Florida I went through a period where I readbooks on running. I did speed drills and distance runs and every single day I tried to improve my performance. Still, I was average at best. Probably a bit bellow average. Hell, I sucked. This is partially because I have such terrible feet from years of dance and running. Every time I run for a few weeks I get plantar facilities. I can barely walk, yet I’ll still plod on – ignoring the pain. I think another reason I’m a lousy runner is that I can’t keep my mind on the task at hand. I start off wanting to run faster or longer, but before you know it I’m ruminating on something – dreams, relationships, personal goals, problems and if not this, I start writing fiction or letters to people in my head. I guess running is medatative to me, so the minute sweat starts to make even the subtlest appearance, my mind take off, and my body simply slows down and falls into that lumbering plodding rhythm that lacks any semblance of runner’s talent.
Ah well, at 50 how important is it to run fast or far anyway? The fact that I enjoy being outside and alone with my thoughts is what makes me love running. This is why I never run with anyone else. I’ve tried. I even had some lovely neighbors that ran everyone morning in Florida who always invited me to join them. I probably seemed like some anti-social creep because I always made an excuse to avoid joining them. My quiet time back then was just too precious and rare to give it up to be polite.
In Florida, I ran 3 miles a day, at least 5 days a week. I almost always ran at 5:30 in the morning – first because it was just too hot later in the day to run and it was the only time I could carve out for myself that wouldn’t be interrupted by daily responsibilities, but later because I love mornings and I adored watching the sun come up. It was just me and the sunrise and my thoughts.
Well, that isn’t exactly true either. It was me, the sunrise, my thoughts and Sam. Sam was my little dog and beloved running buddy.I pretended he was important for safety, you know they say a woman running alone out in the dark needs a dog for protection, but that wimpy mutt would roll over a cry if a squirrel looked at us funny, so the idea that he was protection was ludicrous. He was, however, enthusiastic company and a great inspiration. On days when I was feeling lazy and wanted to skip running, he would look at me with such disappointment and confusion that I simply had to get out the leash and take him out. I always thought, ‘I’ll make this a short one”, but once I got outside the adrenaline kicked in and I’d do my traditional route. Sam was my running muse.
Anyway, I tried running in Georgia, even did a race or two, but the hills and the fluctuating weather and the fact that we had long since lost Sam in the woods one day, all added up to killing my motivation. I bought a treadmill thinking I’d run and watch TV, but since being outside and alone with my thoughts was the real purpose of running, this too sort of fell by the wayside.
I became an ex-runner.
But I’ve been thinking about running a lot lately, missing it. It hit me just how much on a recent trip to Florida. I felt the balmy breeze in the early morning, looked at the long flat stretch of street and thought, “Running is what I miss most about living here.”
So when I got home, I kept thinking about running, and it occurred to me that when I was a regular runner I spent a week every summer in Boston and despite the hills, I always fit a few good runs in – so the fact that there are hills really shouldn’t be an excuse for me to stop. And the fact that Sam is gone shouldn’t count either. Change is a part of life, but that doesn’t mean your gut self has to change.
So, Sunday, when the weather was drop dead gorgeous and I was down at the barn with the horses, I looked down and noticed I had on some good (but muddy) running shoes and decided to just take off.
I walked down the long gravel road to the paved street that rolls along some fields. I have tried walking and running this stretch before, so I’ve clocked the three miles and figured I’d just do the route again and see how things felt. As I began, I noticed my two huge dogs lumbering along beside me, their long legs talking them a quarter mile ahead, then they would circle back, head into the trees and return to me. I yelled for them to return home, but they don’t listen to me. I thought of Sammy on his little leash ,always a foot or two away from my legs and thought, “Man, my life is different now. Everything is exaggerated, bigger, wilder and out of control…. Even my dogs.”
I have two huge dogs. One I absolutely adore who is the perfect dog – respectful, protective, adorable, (Teddy) and one who is a great big pain. She is clumsy, demands attention, is too smart for her own good, and always getting into trouble doing things she darn knows she isn’t allowed to do.
I was uncomfortable with the dogs roaming so erratically around me, but they are used to being free on 50 acres and have no understanding of good behavior in public. The few times I tried putting them on a leash for a run, but the attempt resulted in more a drag than a run and we didn’t make it a mile before I just gave up and took them home.
After I was about a mile out I decided to turn around. As I said, I’m out of shape so I decided two miles would be enough of a start forday one. I crossed the street (BIG mistake) so I would be headed towards incoming traffic. There aren’t many cars on that long stretch, but when they do come along, they barrel by like they are in a speed derby. It’s a country thing.
There is a horse that lives alone in a huge pasture out there. When I ran this route before, I always stopped to talk to him. Horses are herd animals and shouldn’t be left alone, and I always feel sorry for this one, especially since he runs to the fence when he sees me and whinnies, then runs back and forth along the fence as I jog by.
No sooner did I pause to talk to the horse, than I noticed my beloved dog (the good one) Teddy’s eyes turn to me as if he was thinking, “She stopped. She must need me.” And at a hundred miles an hour he came charging towards me. Across the street. Oh shit.
I look up and sure enough there is a truck zooming along r
ight at us. I look up and see the dog, then over to the truck and it is as if everything is going in slow motion. I yell – I guess I was yelling at the dog and the truck at once, God too, but no one slowed down. This is a long open stretch of road, so that truck could damn well have slowed down, and it should have considering there were dogs on both sides of the road, but it didn’t. And ofcourse, my yelling made Teddy want to get to me sooner, so he just sped up.
And I stood there in horror as I watched the truck slam into my dog.
I guess another woman might have screamed or cried or something. I just stood there and said “Shit. “ then I said “shit” again. And again, and again, and again. I couldn’t believe how stupid that driver was, and the dog, and ME for crossing the street and pausing to talk to the horse. I should have know the good dog would follow as soon as he noticed me pause.
A 17-year-old country boy was driving the truck. He got out to check his fender. Meanwhile my dog is screeching in pain, yapping and dragging his backside to the grass by the road, his eyes filled with confusion and pain.
“My dog is dying and he’s checking his fender.” I said to no one in particular. Sometimes my sarcasm leaks out despite how I try to keep it in check. Redhead thing.
The kid heard me, blushed and came and apologized. He kept saying, “I didn’t hit him on purpose.”
“Of course you didn’t. No one would run over a dog on purpose. But couldn’t you see him running straight across the street?”
“Well, yea, but I thought he’d stop. When he didn’t, I tried to avoid hitting him.”
He saw the dog? It took everything in me not to call him a dumb countryjackass – but really what good would it do? The kid felt bad. The dog was already hit. My anger wouldn’t have helped this situation in any way.
The kid just stood there watching me muttering, “shit” under my breath as I tried to check how injured Teddy was. He seemed in such pain, but there was no blood. He couldn’t stand, however.
I asked the kid if he could help me put the dog in the back of the truck so I could at least get him home. I only lived a mile down the road. The kid was quick to help. I didn’t know if we should pick uphe dog, but together we lifted him up. Teddy let out such a pitiful cry I almost cried myself. (Instead I muttered “shit” again. Seemed the perfect expression of my frustration at the time – a description of my life this day.)
We drove Teddy home and amazingly; he stood up slowly once when we got into the driveway. This was good, it meant he didn’t’ have a broken leg or pelvis or anything, but he was still in pain and couldn’t get out of the truck. When we tired to lift him, he cried again. Finally, we placed him on the ground, and the dog slunk to the bushes by the front door and lay down.
“Nice house,” the kid said.
“Want to buy it?”
“You and me both, buddy.”
“You have a pool table?”
“What to sell it?”
“I will when the house goes.”
“Maybe I’ll drive over one of these days when I have cash and you can sell it to me.”
“Yea, and you can see how my dog is doing too.”
“Oh yea. Sorry about that, ya know.”
So the kid drove away and I tried to attend to the dog. It was late on a Sunday now, and the vet was closed, so I decided to observe the animal and wait for Mark to get home to discuss what I should do. I’m guilty of this – waiting to see how bad something is before acting. I NEVER go to the doctor, never take my kids to the doctor, and rarely run animals to the vet. I trust nature and good sense to repair physical problems. My kids always say someone has to be dying to get medical attention around here, and it’s true. I’m just not an alarmist, even when I probably should be. Anyway, Sunday is the day I cook for family so once the dog was settled I went inside. I rummaged all over to find some pain pills that I thought we had from when our other dog was fixed, but couldn’t find them, so I took the dog water and gave him some love then went to prepare dinner.
It was hard to keep my mind on cooking. I made a mediterianian flavored cous cous with shrimp, sautéed scallops in a light orange sauce and grilled a big London broil (for those that don’t like fish) thinking I’d have leftovers for the dog. I made potatoes and honey & lime glazed carrots,ratoutee and a gourmet salad (salad is now my specialty having done a recent study of the art of making a decent salad.) I made a custard with blackberries and raspberries for dessert, but it was like I was on autopilot in the kitchen,and I didn’t enjoy the process. I kept going outside to check on Teddy, thinking he might be dead from internal bleeding or something, but he would wag his tale and look at me with warm eyes. Still, he was hurt because he didn’t get up.
That night I lay in bed wondering if my dog would be alive in the morning. What if he had internal bleeding or something? I then got a call that my brother was in the hospital and getting triple bypass surgery in the morning. Any thought I had that I might take the dog to the vet in the morning sort of disappeared because now I was going to drive to Atlanta to see my brother.
In the morning the dog was fine. Sore, but walking. He winced (yes a dog with as expressive a face as Teddy can do that) if he moved much, but he did get around, and even ate some food. (A good sign).
It’s been three days now, and the dog is moving a bit more.I’m amazed he survived, much less has rebounded so quickly. The damn truck hit him hard, knocked him ten feet.
But my dog is indestructible, it seems. And still loving and responsive and wags his tale whenever he sees me. I bet if I took off for a run, he’d be trying his best to follow. Amazing a dog can love you without reservations like that. Wish it was that way with people – ha, don’t we all.
I want to continue running again. I feel my body, heart and mind needs that challenge right now– the sweat and solitude. But you can be darn sure I’m not going to do it around here where my dogs will follow. I could take what happened as a sign that I really just shouldn’t run in Georgia. I could decide to avoid running altogether because a thing isn’t worth doing if it means hurting the ones who love me, but I’ve decided no more excuses. Maybe I’ll head up to the Ocoee Whitewater center where there are long, beautiful trails along the river. This means getting in a car and driving before I run, which is rather premeditative for me. I’m much more a “lace the shoes and go on the spur of the moment” sort of girl. But you do what you have to do sometimes, like it or not.
So perhaps I’ll share stories of upcoming runs. But I’m afraid they won’t be with the dog. One thing about Georgia that I’ve discover again and again. I’m really on my own here more often than not. That above all else has been the biggest adjustment of all.