The Last Sliver of Light
I can no more predict when those special runs will occur then I can predict when Democrats and Republicans will work together for the common good. I certainly had no expectation on this evening as I left the parking lot at Forest Meadows and scampered down one side and up the other of the gully to the baseball fields. Storm clouds controlled the sky and darkness was moving in fast on the strong wind gusts. If the rain didn’t get me, the dark surely would.
Maybe it was the feeling that the last rays of the sun were on my side or the surreal bluster of the wind or the adrenaline of being lost or maybe it was a day’s worth of tensions and stresses slowly leaking out; regardless, it would turn out to be “one of those runs.”
I followed the first two miles of the Pot Luck Bash 4 Mile Race course. I ran stiffly in the beginning with no sense of what was to come. The wind blew, but the rain held off as the early miles offered a lot of easy downhill. I began to push the pace a little and soon found a nice rhythm. Life’s problems began floating by in my head on a silent picture screen before disappearing. My foot strikes echoed in the woods off the trail a short distance behind me.
Light was quickly retreating and the wind blew through the tree tops, bending them over. The conversion had begun as I broke out of the woods onto what we affectionately call “The Truck Super Highway,” a pretty stretch that runs from Miller Landing Road to Lake Jackson. As I ran toward Lake Jackson, I could see the overflow pond filled to the highest level I could remember seeing. I turned on a path I thought would take me there; instead it ended in the middle of nowhere.
Somehow as I tried to retrace my steps, I instead found myself running on a trail that plunged downhill toward the pond. Suddenly, I was running alongside a stream I had never seen before, but it seemed to be whispering “follow me.” There was a swamp on my left. The darkness was growling at the remnants of light still hanging around. But I needed that light to find my way out. I was hoping the path would take me around the pond and back to my road. I pushed harder, racing to find familiar trail before darkness reigned.
I heard a rustle and a growl behind me. I paused. It started again and this time I followed it high up into a pine tree. A giant spread of wings lifted off the branches, more a silhouette against the sky than something I could really see. It – owl, eagle, or osprey – soared away into the sky. I should have turned around, but I pressed on searching for that loop around the pond. It reminded me of the early days of running on the Phipps property where every run was a new adventure and I often got lost. This area was beautiful. But the trail was moving away from the direction I need to go.
I turned around with daylight fading with each minute. And yet, it would not give in to the dark. It was fighting just for me; to survive just long enough to lead me out of the forest safely. Soon I found myself back to familiar trails by Lake Jackson and eventually began the climb up Mt. Boston. As I started the climb, the heavy tree canopy snuffed out the light. But the last rays of light would not give up and as I climbed just a little higher they were there to guide me to the top. At the top, I could have jumped to Miller Landing Road. But not really, not after the light fought so hard for me. We had to finish on the trail.
Finally, with less than a quarter mile to go, the last ray of light vanished. As I finished the run it was too dark to see my watch. But then, all of a sudden my friend reappeared as the backlight and revealed a perfect 7 mile run.
This is why we keep running.