Blogging is hard. It’s probably not a great idea if I do it at work (at least during my probationary period). If I do it when I get home, I don’t have time to watch four straight hours of “Family Guy” on TBS. A person needs to have priorities and if I can’t do this at work, I just don’t know when I’m going to fit it in.
Still, I have squeezed in a few runs and found a few minutes to provide you with a few highlights. They weren’t really all that great, but there is a common theme running through them all. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what that is, so I’ll leave it to you to discover it. In my mind it’s either “The Native Population is Extraordinarily Nice and Helpful” or “Stepford – They’re In On it!” I’ll lay out the facts and you decide – or leave a comment with your thematic suggestion.
About a week ago I went for a leisurely 4-miler in a park near my palatial estate (apartment complex). There’s an asphalt path that is adjacent to a fairly busy road. It begins at one end of the park and goes for two miles to the end of the park. There’s a large guard rail that separates the street from the path. The path is always full of people – joggers, walkers, children holding hands and chasing butterflies – you know what I’m talking about. It’s lovely. If it weren’t for its proximity to a fairly busy street it would be perfect. So – I was at about the 1.75 mile point when I saw a man ahead of me standing on the other side of the guard rail, in the street. He was dressed like a runner. He was facing in my direction and waving with both arms above his head. I didn’t pay him too much attention. I figured that he was signaling to a friend that he was meeting for a run in the park. As the distance between us closed, his gestures became more frantic, as though the person he was meeting hadn’t seen him yet. At the point where I was about 10 yards away from him I noticed that he had assumed the pose of an umpire at home plate and he was pointing at ME with both arms straight out in front of his face and he was yelling, “STOP!!!” I still figured that it was a mistake. I thought he had either mistaken me for someone else or he was really quite rude. I stopped and looked at him quizzically. He looked back at me with a mixture of frustration and incredulity and excitedly said, “There’s a rabid raccoon RIGHT THERE,” pointing at a dark shape huddled against the guard rail on the side closet to me. I looked at the creature and I have to say, it didn’t look much like a raccoon to me. It could’ve been the shadows playing tricks on me, but I thought it was brown and full of angry, sharp teeth – you know – a woodchuck sorta thing. . . I didn’t investigate it any further. I thanked the Samaritan, crossed the street and continued running the last quarter-mile to my turn around spot, all the while considering how that crazy woodchuck from the banks of Lake Michigan crossed the 500 miles between here and there, located me, and set up a clever ambush. I began to wonder if the Samaritan’s role in all of this was to lure me in for a closer look so that the crazy bastard could launch its attack. I hit the turn around and started back, resolved to stop and investigate more fully. I wasn’t afraid of that woodchuck. I’d already snap kicked him into a tree during our first encounter and if that man was as crazy as that woodchuck, well, I’d snap kick him too. Oddly, by the time I got back the racoon/woodchuck and the man were both GONE. OK – I’m a self-confessed pathetic runner, but, I’d only covered a half mile, at most. In that span of time both the “rabid” creature and the Good Samaritan had mysteriously vanished! I did notice a red streak on the asphalt about 2 feet wide that continued into the underbrush off of the trail, but again, it could have been the shadows . . . I’m sure that woodchuck wasn’t strong enough to have severed that man’s femoral artery and drag him into the brush. I’m pretty sure . . .
This past Sunday I decided to go for a run, but figured a change of venue might be wise. (One of the best ways to thwart an attacker is to change your routine!) I didn’t go back to the park. Instead, I went to a nature trail a mile or so away from the apartment. It’s a beautiful trail that follows a creek bottom (so there aren’t a lot of hills). The trail is made of crushed asphalt and limestone and is lined with trees that are particularly beautiful this time of year. The maple, elm and oak trees are turning and the leaves were just beginning to drop. It’s a popular place for runners, walkers, bicyclists, and nature lovers of all ages – a very idyllic scene. Anyway – – – I set out on a “long” run. I had just started – maybe two miles into it when I saw a man (a different man) walking on the path by towards me. He held up his hand and this time I knew he wanted to talk to me. I stopped and he said, “Just so you know, there’s a big snake on the trail just ahead.” Hmmm. . . this is weird . . . I’ve never been stalked by a snake before. “Oh, that’s great. I hate snakes,” I replied. He agreed and told me that he turned around rather than continue down the path because the snake was sprawled out in the middle of the path, effectively blocking it off. I thanked him for the warning, but continued on because, hey, it’s a snake. I ran a short distance and rounded the bend and there it was. Only this wasn’t an ordinary snake. Right now you should be thinking “Chamber of Secrets” type-of-snake. It was much more like a basilisk than a snake. I stopped and eyed the creature. It wasn’t moving at all and, in fact, appeared to be dead. I kicked some dirt at it and then picked up a rock and threw it and it didn’t move a muscle. I speak Parcel, so I yelled a few insulting words at it in Parcel and approached slowly. Still, no movement. I carefully walked around the tail end of it (on the opposite side of all of the teeth, venom and hell-fire colored eyes). Figuring that this particular basilisk breathed no more, I resumed my run. I reached a turn around on the path about 5 minutes later and headed back in the direction of the beast. As I rounded the corner I could see that it was gone. There was no one else on the path but me (and the snake) and the snake was simply gone. I continued on my run considering the implications of these curious events. The basilisk was obviously not dead. I suspect that it also had set an ambush to lure me into striking range, but it likely drifted off to dreamland, warmed by the sunlit path. But what, I wondered, was the role of the man who had warned me. Another Samaritan? Or someone who had my psychological profile and knew that I wouldn’t do anything other than get a closer look? Hmmmm. . . .
I didn’t know for sure until my run yesterday. I returned to the same path and ran the same route. I HAD to know whether or not the forces of evil had brought a new enemy to bear. The deer (ARD’s), the woodchuck, bears and other assorted ploys have all failed. Maybe “they” were trying something new. I had to know. I ran the same route. More leaves had fallen on to the path since my run on Sunday. It was a wonderful afternoon. The sun peeked through the trees casting shadows of light and dark around me. There didn’t seem to be very many people on the path – I guess they were still at work or in school. I got into a rhythm and all I could hear was the sound of my breathing and the crunching of the leaves underfoot. I didn’t see any woodchucks or rabid raccoons or even any basilisks. In fact, I didn’t notice anything unusual at all . . . at first. As I ran back past the place where the basilisk had set its trap I could hear something. If it hadn’t been for the Autumn leaves I wouldn’t have noticed it all. I could hear leaves crunching underfoot, but the sounds weren’t synchronized with the falling of my feet. My first reaction was to think that a runner was coming from behind and preparing to pass me (after all, that happens quite frequently). I glanced over my shoulder to look and noticed movement in the trees about 10 yards off the trail. There was something out there, running alongside the trail, trying to use the trees for cover, and stalking me. I’m not too proud to admit that I was afraid – my thoughts passed from a passing runner to a Yeti running a parallel course, preparing to toss me around like a twig. As I regained my composure and started to think about what I should do, I stole another glance at the tree line. Now, I couldn’t swear to this in a court of law, but I’m pretty sure I know what I saw . . . it wasn’t a Yeti. It was a group of PEOPLE. There appeared to be about 7 or 8 people out there running in single file through the woods keeping a perfect pace with me. A couple of them were children, about 12 years old or so. They were running just on the other side of the tree line in the underbrush, taking care to be a quiet as possible and occasionally glancing my way. Among the adults I’m certain I saw at least one of the two men who served as a Samaritan during my last several runs. I yelled at them, really out of shock and fear. I quickly turned my attention to the path, looking for an escape route. When I glanced back at my stalkers, they weren’t there. It was though they’d vanished into thin air (or possibly used a turnkey?).
True story. I don’t know what’s going on here, but it’s starting to freak me out – just a little bit. The only thing I know with some level of certainty is that I NEED a running partner. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen when I run with someone else. When I run alone, it’s like a scene from American Horror Story.
The Cape Code Half is staring me in the face this month and I’m not ready. Bonner – who’s running it with me – has been offering helpful and encouraging words to keep me motivated. He’s so full of life and exudes such positive energy, I’m thinking that his new running moniker should be Walter. Plus, I really need someone in the group named for a Lebowski character and he just can’t be The Dude (I think that’s more me).
Please leave a comment – let me know what you make of all of this.
Until next time, PR