I have had a recurring dream about running. It's early morning. the mist is just burning off the Bluegrass. In my ears are the sounds of birds and cicadas. My feet pat the blacktop road as I glide between the trees and the plank fences that line the horse farms. My breath comes steady and easy as the sun warms my face. I've had that dream quite a few times. I had it while I was sick. I had it when I was walking the track over the basketball court at the gym. I had it the day I ran my first mile after treatment. I had it after I ran my first 10K. And this morning, I lived it.
I met with four other runners at 7:30 in the parking lot of a church just east of town. The sun was coming up behind the corn field that grows behind the church. We had all met one another on Twitter and Facebook, but I had never seen any of them before. We chatted comfortably as we compared water-bottles and I silently noted that they were all young enough to be my children. I realized that I wasn't going to be running with this group. I was going to be running behind them.The parking lot was full of empty cars. There were a lot of runners already out on the road.
Before long, runners started coming up the drive. They had started about an hour before. Some even earlier. The toughest of them had already run 10 miles. They were going to lead us out for another 10. What amazing, generous people. They had left water and sports drinks in ice filled buckets along the route, and there was a large cooler there in the parking lot. The early morning runners came in, changed their shirts, exchanged greetings and introductions, and we were on our way. How nice was the run?
My God, but I love my Kentucky. It wasn't long before the strong runners pulled away over the next hill and I trotted along for a short while with two of my fellow newbies. After about a mile, I was feeling pretty good, so I pulled ahead and ran alone. Such breathtaking country. I saw thoroughbreds waking up in the pastures. A heron viewed his domain from atop a fence post that stood inexplicably alone in the middle of a bluegrass field. Birds called to me from the trees and bugs sang in the grass as I trotted past. I thanked God for the chance to run this road. For letting me live long enough to run it. For letting me live in a place where such a place was a fifteen minute drive from my bed. Every runner should have a chance to have a run like this.
One of my fellow runners blogged about the trip from her perspective. Krissie and Erin stopped to smell the clover more than I did, but they still managed to catch and pass me in the last mile. I had managed my strength badly, and by 8.3 miles, I was spent. I think I walked more than I ran those last two miles, but I was running at the end, about 20 seconds behind the two ladies I had imagined as my daughters two hours ago. I was irrationally proud of their strong finish. I've always lived with one foot in my fantasy world anyway. Might as well gloat about my imaginary kids.
One of the experienced runners, Eric recognized me from my internet posts. "You're a cancer survivor, right?" "That's right," I answered. "That's pretty cool." "It sure is." This morning, it is especially cool.
I came home exhausted. Mrs P was sitting in the big chair in the den, enjoying the peace and quiet. I went out to the porch to put my soaking clothes on the drying rack. When I pulled my socks off, I saw two big blisters on the fourth toe on each foot. The blisters were about the size of the end of my pinky finger, near the top, outside surface of the toe, just past the end of the little piggy that cries "wee, wee, wee!" They hadn't broken and didn't hurt at all. I didn't know they were there till I saw them. I will take good care of them, and hope a pair of funny little callouses form. I like the kind of blister that doesn't hurt.
Yes, I made some mistakes this morning. I started out too fast. I wanted to run off on my own, and missed a chance to pet a horse's nose. I pushed too hard on the climbs and burned out before I could complete the run. But I started. And I finished. And in between, I traveled through a dream. Oh, thank God for such a place, such a day, such a life.
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