We chatted about their move and D's great, secret idea (which I will reveal in an alternate blog at an undesignated date that will, hopefully, be in the near future) while nibbling on the most tasty foods we could think of (I was starving after our run so I might be a bit biased). The company was splendid and the conversation just as satisfying. We were also pleasantly surprised to learn that Nick and Cecelia live just around the corner from us, basically, which is awesome. Almost no one from school lives near us (and if they do, we don't know it). We're not the kind of people to go knocking on the doors of our friends and just barging in, but it's nice to know that if they need us or just want to swing by our place, we're close enough for it to happen. It's especially nice if there's an emergency. Nick and I might carpool to school since he couldn't get a parking pass (they're tough to come by)...and we have a similar philosophy (all of us) on wanting to be at school, do what we need to do, then peace out and get back home to our lives, dogs, home...etc. When we parted ways at the end of the night, we couldn't help but remark about what "good" people they are and, it's unfortunate, but not often that I find myself saying someone is inherently "good" and "genuine" like these two are. What a nice, needed addition to the program.
Fast forward to before we met up with these two lovelies, though. Today my "half marathon training schedule" said I needed to run 4.5 miles, which I wasn't compelled to run in the state of fatigue I found myself in come "cooling hour" (around 7). However, I am a woman of my word and I pulled on my running gear and, accompanied by the huzbah, went to the Katy Trail. We agreed that I would run about five miles and D would run whatever he felt comfortable with...whoever made it back first would wait for the other. Cool.
It was 7:30 when I took to the trail, my feet crushing rocks and dirt beneath me as I found my pace and began pushing my distance further up: Maybe I'll just run a little over five m
iles, instead. I'll see how I feel...it's not out of the question. A girl with purple shorts and a heavy white t-shirt and her running partner, in purple shoes and purple shorts, pulled ahead of me on my left. A man with no t-shirt and black shorts swooped past us all "Nice work, ladies. Keep on going," he called out to us. "Great job, buddy. Nice stride," he waved to a middle-aged man running toward us...and he continued to call out encouragement to each runner he passed as he went. The girls chatted idly and picked up there pace; I started to follow there lead and then some, gaining on them as we reached the half-mile marker. Woah, woah! You'll never get six miles in if you run at this pace, I chided myself and begrudgingly slowed down. I am competitive by nature and swallowed my pride as the purple-clad girls pulled to a comfortable distance ahead of me. (Photo is of the Katy Trail during daylight.)
I followed them for two miles, passing children on bikes sandwiched between their parents, also on bikes, a man and his dog and granddaughter, two women and their dog, runners, walkers, bikers, roamers...we passed old people, young ones, women pushing strollers, people walking dogs both big ones and tiny ones through shaded portions of the trail and the overcast-sunny ones until the girls broke off at the rest place and walked clear off the trail. I continued forward, glad I didn't keep up with their stride, through a tunnel, under the road, into the forest beyond city limits.
It was still light out when I hit 3.15 miles and turned to make my way back. Still light out as I ran the un-shaded mile with nothing but fields on either side of me and heard "moo-ing," but saw no cows. It turned dark as soon as I hit 4.2 miles and not just dark, but black. The trail went dry and empty without a soul in sight or sound but my feet hitting the ground, the occasional hoot in the dark or flicker of dull light where the trees parted overhead. I thought of Dustin and why I hadn't run into him yet. He told me he thought he'd run five miles. He should be out here somewhere. Unless something happened to him. The band on my arm that keeps base withe the satellites that track my mileage blinked green like a firefly in the dark; I ran through a spiderweb that stuck to my face like hair on my wet skin.
The silence turned on me and something rustled in the forestry surrounding me, the trail turned to wood as I passed over a bridge that I thought I'd already crossed. A man on a bike nearly hit me, though we saw each by the light of the rising moon and had plenty of space between us. I worried he might turn around and come at me on his bike from behind. I couldn't possibly outrun a bike if he attacked. I'd be no match. Still no Dustin, only darkness. In the distance, I spotted a vague white glint ahead, fast approaching that disappeared as I passed through a particularly thick area. I didn't see it again until it was an inch from me: another woman, running alone in the dark. Or was it? Images appeared then disappeared, something flew past my head; I heard a whooping from above. Am I not alone, after all?
At the end of the trail, where I began, the lights glowed yellow a mile away like a beacon guiding me back and the fear rising inside of me boiled so furiously my pace only increased. I forgot I had water to drink or feet that had run nearly six miles. I worried Dustin might be worried or looking for me or, worse yet, hurt...and that light still a mile away. I pressed on, fighting the relentless spiderweb off my face, hearing animals in the wood around me, shifting leaves and crunching gravel.
As the gap between me and the end closed in, a flashlight went on in the distance: fluorescent and bright. Then off. Did I see that at all? Is my mind playing tricks now? Then on again, consistent and stable. I knew it was him searching for me in the distance and ran faster. The last two minutes were easy; the fright subsided and I ran to the light: "Neesh?" I grabbed onto him and hugged. "I knew it was you." My heart beat hard in my chest from being so scared. "How did you know?" he asked, guiding me back to the car. "Because you always come for me. You're always there waiting and making sure I find my way safely back to you."
I will be running earlier from now on. The mind has a way of playing the most frightening tricks on you at the worst possible times...or does it? Whatever the case, I don't want to find out next time.
Thank God for Dustin.
Sweet dreams, all.