It’s hard to know what to think when another runner merges with your long run at mile 6, saying, “I know who you are!” In my case, it’s a safe bet he doesn’t mean, “Everyone talks about what a beautiful and intelligent inspiration you are!” More likely he means, “I read you peed your shorts at mile 5 in Chicago.” Or, “I know so-and-so across town doesn’t like you.” Still, there’s always a small thrill that comes with nano-celebrity, and so it was.
Saturday morning, I putzed around way too long before going for my long run. My excuse is that my foot does better on a run if I’ve been walking around on it for a while. Also, I was lazy. A little past 11, my gentleman friend and I finally hit the road for 16-18 miles. We decided on two loops of 8+ miles so we could call it off midway through if either one of us had knee or foot pain. Matching injuries are much less romantic than they sound. It’s more like the dorkiness of wearing the same shirt than the swankiness of ordering the same martini.
Anyway, we limped off for mile 1.
“How’s your foot?”
“How’s your knee?”
I know: hot, right?
The first mile was fast for me, but I held on and so did my foot and knee. We ran along the rural roads, noticing a conspicuous amount of discarded fruit along the way. Apple cores, orange peels, like Carmen Miranda had been running ahead of us. It was a mild kind of day, cloudy for the most part, and windless, which was a nice change of pace this winter. I’m mostly sick of the roads in my town, but running them with someone else lets you notice things you don’t usually see. “What’s your favorite giant statue in that yard?” is a question you wouldn’t ordinarily ask yourself, for example, when running by a property dotted with a prominent display of statuary.
“The Venetian boys in the gazebos, obviously.”
We ran by the library, which had a sign for a book sale. “Why would the library have a book sale?”
I never really thought the library book sale was odd before. “So they can buy new books? Circle of life and whatnot?”
After running down the mile-long hill from the town Common, we crossed the railroad tracks and passed the parking lot to the big town trail system . I saw a man getting out of his truck, obviously getting ready to run. Obvious because he had the expression that I have when I’m getting ready to run, the one that says, “I am compelled to do this. Whether or not I like it is irrelevant.”
I ran on with my gentleman friend. Less than five minutes later, the sound a of a different man’s voice startled me out of my fantasies about potato chips. “I don’t want to scare you guys. Just running up behind you.”
I thought he was probably trying to pass us, but instead, Mike joined us on the run. I’m always happy to have more conversation to distract me from my watch/foot/knee/brain, so I wouldn’t have let him pass us anyway. After we’d exchanged two sentences came the “I know who you are!”
He’d read my blog. His wife knows I bought a foot scruncher for my plantar. He knows friends of mine. We’ve both run for Dana-Farber. He probably knows I peed my shorts at mile 5 in Chicago. We run in the same circle, kind of literally, since he runs the same roads I run all the time. It was fun to make a new friend, who I’m surprised I hadn’t met before. And for 20 minutes, I didn’t look at my watch.
The three of us ran together to mile 8 or so, when we diverged, pilgrims in technical fabrics pursuing different paths to 18 miles on the watch. My gentleman friend and I paused at the halfway point, deciding that we both felt good enough for a second lap. We refilled my water bottle with Nuun we poured all over my right glove and headed for another round in the opposite direction.
At about mile 11, just before the mile-long climb to the town common, I gave permission to my gentleman friend to dust me. I futzed around with my earbuds and iPod, weaving around the shoulder, but got them in at the base of the hill when he took off. Beyoncé launched her “Single Ladies” anthem, which I thought was particularly cruel timing at this point in the game. Ring or no ring (on it), I really can’t put my hands up (hands up) while trying to climb a mountain. An uphill battle is hard enough without putting my hands in the air like I just don’t care.
I passed a house that reeked of pot but I made it to the top without stopping for a bong hit, amazingly enough. After I’d passed the weed den and made it to the Common, I had to pull over to take a Gu because I couldn’t fumble with my water, mittens, and Gu at the same time, not to mention the iPod that was swinging around my feet because it came unclipped when I took my Gu out. I hate these kinds of shenanigans when I’m just trying to run, dammit. This is the kind of thing I imagine when someone says, “I know who you are!” With my luck, he means, “You’re the freaky lady who was tangled in her iPod cord, smearing chocolate Gu all over her face in front of the police station.”
I got myself put back together and ran on, with less than 5 miles to go and a right hand frozen due to the Nuun spill. With 3 miles to go, I took off the glove and ran like a Michael Jackson tribute. This is usually the point in a long run where I start making bargains with myself. Usually the bargains have to do with lunch, dinner, and the placement of a margarita in my day. By the time I got to the last mile, I’d figured out where we were having lunch and what I would order because it was 1:30 and I could think of nothing but carbohydrates and salt. Also, we were going to have beef short ribs and potatoes for dinner. By the close of the 18th mile, the question about when to have a margarita became a question about when not to have a margarita.
I turned the last corner to get to my house, and my gentleman friend was cheering and jumping with his hands in the air, for me, not Beyoncé (I assume). 18 relatively painless miles done, 15 sec/mile faster than last week, plus a new friend, who knows who I am and seemed to like me anyway. I call that a long run success.