a tale from the trail
Wow! It was a year ago that I posted an account on this humble blog of an eerie encounter I had one early morning as I was running in my quiet suburban neighborhood. See the riveting account here. (I was certain I was about to die!)
I run that route regularly; lately it’s become my go-to Saturday morning run and not only because it ends at the neighborhood bagelry. This past weekend I ran it both Saturday (stretching it into more than 8 miles) and Sunday (seeking only the 6.1 miles I got from it, but giving me more than 40 miles for the week, which is only the second time I’ve ever done that!). On Sunday, my feet hit the pavement at around 4:30 a.m. (No, that’s not a typo! I love the solitude.) I reached the same shelter I discuss in that earlier post sometime around 5:00. These days I run with a headlamp. I hate the thing. Its elastic strap squeezes my pumpkin head, but I can see the trail below my stumbling feet, and I assume any cars coming my way when I’m running down (the middle of) the street can see me too.
When I came into the shelter, though, I had another unexpected encounter. I saw a lamp similar to mine bobbing betwixt the picnic tables. I assumed it was another runner, out at the ungodly hour to beat the heat (and the rain that had sprinkled me again this run). But it wasn’t. It was a woman dressed in a skirt and a jacket (from what I could tell in the dark) who may have been coming from the restroom there. Keep in mind I was the one running toward her. She had every reason to think I was the menace.
I wished her a good morning as I darted past, and she said something similar to me. (I forget what; I was so surprised!) Then I went to the water fountain on the far side of the shelter, not only to rehydrate but to put some distance betwixt me and the woman so she wouldn’t need to worry about my presence. After taking a few sips (rinse mouth and spit first, then drink), I turned to look for the woman. She was gone. I should have been able to still see her at this point if she was walking the trail, though that seemed unlikely. But she hadn’t walked to the sole car in the parking lot either. She effectively disappeared in the darkness.
I puzzled about this for a while. If she needed the restroom, why hadn’t she gone to the brightly lit, 24-hour convenience store not a block away? I suppose it was reasonable for her to assume that she wouldn’t encounter anyone in this little park. (After all, technically, I wasn’t supposed to be there. The trail is officially off limits until sunrise, which was still more than an hour away.) And she did have a light with her, perhaps pepper spray too, which she might have had in hand, with her thumb on the go button.
I’ll never know, of course.
Poe has a story called “The Imp of the Perverse” that deals with the self-destructive impulses in people: being terrified to stand at the edge of a cliff yet having some perverse desire to throw yourself off at the same time. I think I’m becoming this way about the shelter in the park on that bit of trail in the lonely hours of the pre-dawn weekends. Some perverse part of me wants to keep going there, actually hoping to have more incidents like this. In the mundane, white-bread existence of this suburban wage slave that I am, I can see how this makes a kind of sense.
But only after I finish that New York Marathon. Geez, that thing has me terrified in its own way!
And because I had included a photo of my pumpkin-headed self in that earlier post, I’m including one here:
This is a picture of my daughter, Rachel, her boy (in blue), Kenneth, me (in the cap), and my other grandson, Emmett. Somehow my face has actually managed to achieve a smile. (I don’t think it’s repeatable.)
Update 13AUG2016 – I ran through this park/shelter again this morning and encountered more than a half dozen women also running on the trail in the dark with headlamps. Of course, since it was before sunrise, they had no more business being there than I did. I don’t think they expected crossing paths with anyone since they were taking up the whole width of the trail and had to shout out to make way when they saw me approaching (with my headlamp on).