One of the things I like about running is you never know exactly what’s going to happen or what you’ll come across.
On a recent run, before getting on the Central Lakes Trail, I saw something unusual on County Road 82. A man was sitting, casually, but motionless in the back of a pickup wearing, of all things, bright yellow pants and long red-and-white striped socks. He also had a goofy smile on his face.
He was oddly familiar and as I drew closer to the pickup, I knew who it was – Ronald McDonald, the statue, of course. It was the one where he’s sitting on a bench, an arm outstretched like he’s expecting a young child to sit by him while they wait for a Happy Meal.
“There must be a story there,” I thought as I continued on to the trail. Was it just being moved? Going to some young kid’s party? Or was it stolen and the Hamburglar was behind the wheel? As the pickup faded out of view, I knew it would be an unsolved mystery, although it did help while away the time during the first part of my run.
Later, a couple of miles into the trail, my thoughts turned to another topic: the weather. It was starting to get cloudy and dark, which was OK, it helped cool the hot, muggy temps. I usually check the forecast before I head out, but I forgot this time.
When the first few drops came spattering down, it felt good – a godsend that I hoped would help me improve my pace.
But soon it rained harder. And harder. Before long, the rain came down in giant swirling sheets. It was a monsoon. I was quickly soaked from head to toe. I kept running, my shoes and socks making squishy noises as I plodded along.
When I first got on the trail, it was filled with happy smiling walkers, bikers and runners, now there was no one. Not a soul. Just me, sloshing through the wind and rain. The others probably had the sense to check the forecast.
I guess I could have stopped running, slowed to a walk or found some shelter to wait it out. But once I start running, I never like to stop, so I kept going, pushing into the wind. It became a battle of wills between my stubbornness to continue and an evil weather god taunting me to quit. My energy started to flag. Then, up in the distance, through the downpour, I spotted another drowned-rat runner coming toward me. My spirits lifted. I wasn’t the only fool out here.
When we drew closer, almost at the same time, we both raised a fist in the air and threw a punch toward the sky, as if to say, “Take that, rain! We’re finishing this!”
The rain punched back, delivering another onslaught. My phone rang but I didn’t answer. (It turned out to be my worried wife, wondering if I was drowning.) I kept going, and then finally, it started to let up, dying down to just a few big drops and then nothing.
I was completely shot. Maybe it was because my clothes and shoes had absorbed what felt like 10 pounds of water.
When I get that tired, I often make a runner’s mistake and droop my head way down, which can throw off my whole form and make it even harder to run. Luckily I realized it this time and put my head back up. Otherwise I would have missed it: Not more than 10 feet away from me, a doe and her fawn calmly appeared from the edge of the woods and crossed the trail in that delicately nimble way that deer do. I think that’s the closest I’ve ever been to a deer in the wild. It’s a sight I’ll long remember.
As I wrapped up my run and slowed to a walk, it occurred to me that going on a run is a lot like life. You never know what lies ahead or what you’ll come across. You’ll see some strange things from time to time. You’ll encounter difficulties and challenges along the way. Try to get through it the best you can, sometimes drawing inspiration from others. Just remember to keep your head up and pay attention – or you might miss something beautiful.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.