What I really wanted out of Saturday’s run was some hard-earned sweat, some sore legs, and some indication that I could still go fast. It had been a week since I’d been “running” and almost another week since I’d actually put some effort into it. I had lots of stress and energy to burn off and a mind that needed some open spaces, or maybe just something to focus on, if only for an hour. Something like speed.
And I was getting what I wanted. Sweat and soreness, for sure. I don’t know exactly how fast I was going, but I was passing a lot of people and breathing hard, and that was encouraging. But as I neared the hill (aka Devastation Pass), I faltered. I was sure I would crash and burn. Should I try to hold my pace? Slow down and go easy? Turn around and go the other way to avoid it (even if it did add an extra mile to my run)?
I braced myself, told myself I could slow down, wondered if maybe I could make it halfway up at this pace, remembered that hills are my strong suit, then felt the soreness in my legs and heard the difficulty in my breathing and was back to square one. There’s no shame in walking, I thought, you just had a baby.
And then, in front of me, was David.
It had been a while since I’d seen David. Not since May, when my belly was just starting to catch people’s attention as I did my normal lap around the park. We’d crossed paths several times in the year before as we trained for our marathons, exchanged names, congratulated each other on races completed and then on my impending arrival. It was fortunate that I should run into him just then, when I was losing focus and confidence, I was sure of it.
I called his name, he recognized me. We started talking and suddenly the hill was flat. I didn’t notice it at all as he told me about his latest marathon and I told him about my new baby, about how my oldest child had run his first 5K last weekend. He talked about his teenagers and their interest in sports and running and then . . . we were to the top.
Time for me to head home.
I turned off the park loop, grateful that I didn’t have to think about the hill, grateful that I didn’t crash and burn, grateful that I didn’t have to deal with any shards of shattered confidence in my speediness. And energized enough to push myself all the way home.