Last night I posted to Facebook, inviting anyone to go on a 4-5 mile run with me. No one took up the offer, so I thought I wouldn’t go. Instead I had a healthy (read: big) serving of Dryer’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and started to watch Conan. And then I started to dress for a run. Dang it.
I checked Facebook one more time, just in case there was a last minute offer, but there was none. I headed out the door and started an unusually fast for my first mile. I’ll be honest. I was nervous. Apparently, when I’m scared or nervous, I run faster. Good to know.
Once I got down to the path entrance, I considered just taking the road the runs alongside the Provo River Trail. Safer. More light. Shorter distance. Not as scary. Because of this last detail, I chose to take the scary route. Not sure why I do this. With my newfound UDAP pepper spray, I started off into the pitch black, my headlight guiding me.
This is a good time to mention that I really like this headlamp. It sits close to my head, doesn’t distract me, and lights up the road enough. I could see investing in something brighter, though. I’d like something that blinds anything in front of me. Really.
I’ve always had a very defensive posture. Ever since I was a kid. Maybe it was from the time that Chad, when I was in grade school, punched me in the stomach, because I kept singing Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra”, even after he commanded me to stop. Maybe it’s because I got into that one weird fight, on a run, in Springville, about 7 years ago. Either way, while I’m never looking for a fight on a run, I’m always considering my Next Move. The point being, if I had a nice, bright, blinding light, I’d have a little bit of advantage while my attacker couldn’t see. Maybe I’d spray him. Maybe I’d start kicking and punching for all my worth. But I think we both know I’d run like hell, à la Pink Floyd.
Mile 1: 0:8:25
Regardless. Or irregardless, for those of you who don’t know better, I started down this dark trail. Immediately I heard familiar footsteps behind me. Because I’ve already panicked over this sound, I knew that this was the sound of my own footsteps, echoing between the river bank and the trees on my north. Just in case, I risked a quick glance behind me. Just the chasing darkness.
The second mile wasn’t so much that I was running fast. It’s that I was running fast for my visibility. Every once in a while, a foot would brush into a lump or patch in the trail’s asphalt and I’d lose my balance. I very quickly learned to take some higher steps. So for being out of my gait and running in the darkness, I’m clipping off 0:8:00’s…I’m obviously trying to get off of this path. ASAP. As fast as I can without tripping and spilling into whatever enemy awaits. Bears? (Just came back from Yellowstone, so bears are on my mind.) A bad guy? Skunk? Russian Mafia? No idea. But I sense the danger, all around me.
I spend a lot of time on my second mile, sweeping my headlamp from the left to the right-hand side of the trail. There are so many trees and I don’t need to be taken by surprise. Every once in a while I spin my head around to see who’s following me. Can’t see anyone. They must be very stealth and good at self-concealment.
Mile two: 0:7:56
Passing the two mile mark, I realize that the only choice I have is to continue on toward Utah Lake. Otherwise, I’ll find myself running back the way I came, dealing with the consequences of whatever I’ve stirred up on the first half of a dangerous out and back. So I reach the end of the trail (I’m alive!) and start running on the parallel road that takes some of the distance off of the first half. I know I’m close to 2.5 miles, here, so if I run home, I’ll likely get 4.5 out of this run. If I were more of a man, I would have eeked out a clean 5 by staying on the trail. And fighting a ninja, probably. Not worth it.
Mile 3: 0:7:57
I only saw two people on this stretch of lonely, freakishly dark stretch of road. The first was a car that drove way too slowly past me, then turned around and drove slowly past me again. I clutched my critter spray and just DARED someone to step out and mess with me (the best defense is a good offense?), but they continued on.
The next person I saw was on a motorcycle or scooter. It sounded like a scooter, but the rider was high up enough, that I couldn’t tell. I gave a friendly wave (hint: if someone doesn’t wave back, they are the enemy). There was no return wave. I am immediately suspicious.
Mile 4: 0:11:26
My shin started hurting, here, so I started walking, just in case I was going to aggravate something that might affect my upcoming long run on Saturday.
At night, every trail, every road is approximately 20% longer than it is in the day. So I ran for what seemed like a few weeks. When I reached the trail entry, I knew I was safe. We’re in my territory, now. During the day, I claim the entire trail and dare anyone to challenge. Except for the faster runners. They get a pass (ha!)
From here, I trotted home, victorious; alive. I walked into my house, dried off with a towel, stretched, showered, fixed a nice (that’s two, now, for those of you keeping score) glass of Dryer’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and sat down to finish Conan.
I love these night-time runs. Any of you who read this (there is one of you) are welcome to join me.