When I was training for my first marathon, I completed the majority of my long runs alone. Not that I blame them, but no one really had the hours to invest in accompanying me as I tackled all those miles. After having a scare at one of the local trails early in my training, I decided I needed to run in more public areas. I came up with the bright idea of running a local 5k course on repeat so I could easily keep track of my mileage. I had the MapMyRun app, but didn’t like the idea of toting my heavy iPhone around with me, and it was before I got serious and bought a fuel belt.
So off I went to complete numerous 3-mile loops around the town: three, four, five, and six loops of the same scenery. The upside to this was that everything was well lit on days I ran out of daylight, and I had access to my car (and running fuel) every three miles. The downside was the whole circle deal: to say it was rough is putting it lightly. There wasn’t much room to run on the road, so I stuck to the concrete and brick sidewalks, which meant lots of ups and downs, and cracks, holes, and slopes to dodge. Great for the joints. I began to feel sorry for myself running around that giant circle like a hamster, sometimes feeling so delirious I would forget what lap I was on, causing for even more frustration. Still, I pressed on out of sheer determination and stubbornness. I found myself looking for shreds of entertainment, from the beautiful stretch overlooking the river to what became my favorite part of the course: Tess.
Tess was my furry little friend who watched calmly as I passed her once, twice, and many times over. She would lie down at the edge of her yard, unleashed and untied, just watching the day go by (and the crazy circle runner). Each time I would pass, I would call out a greeting to her, to which she wagged happily in return. A few times I couldn’t help myself and stopped to pet her head, and she was such an affectionate, sweet girl. She truly was the highlight of those long runs. So much that, when I saw her owner on the porch one day, I had to stop and tell her Tess’s significance, then take a picture with her.
I’ve always been one to preach the theory “take time to stop and smell the roses.” I have amended mine to “take time to acknowledge the animals.” Of course this applies to friendly “known” animals, and I would never suggest stopping and petting random animals, as this is a good way to get bitten. I’ve heard a wagging tail is not necessarily an invite, so when in doubt, a simple hello will suffice. 😉 My running experiences involving dogs aren’t always pleasant, so it’s nice to be able to share something positive. Fellow runners will surely understand this.
Eventually, I bribed some of my people to ride their bikes alongside me, serving as my personal fuel belts. This meant I got to hit the trails again, and let me tell you: out and back routes really made those final 20-mile runs much easier mentally. But I will never forget my buddy, Tess, and am forever grateful for her presence in some of my most difficult moments in training. It really is the simple things…