My neighborhood is very runner-friendly. There are trails, rolling hills, outdoor tracks, and some not-so-rolling steep climbs. Over time, the neighborhood runners have got to know one another well enough to share “the wave” as we pass each other on our jogs.
Most of us are lions, but there’s a gazelle amongst us. Tall, lean, and graceful, the gazelle turns heads wherever he goes.
In fact, seeing him trotting around town was one of many things that made me want to be a runner. Once, my husband and I saw him a good 20KM from home, not sweating, not panting, but glistening and grinning as he passed.
One summer evening, I laced up my shoes to go for a jog.
“I’ll join you, in case it gets dark while you’re out there,” my husband said.
When we went outside, we noticed the gazelle stretching at the end of our street. We made eye contact, smiled at one another, and said hello. I assumed that would be the end of the exchange.
“Would you like to run together?” I heard from behind.
“Sure,” I replied, and the gazelle trotted forward to join us.
There wasn’t room on the sidewalk for the 3 of us to run side-by-side, so we moved into a V formation, the gazelle and me in front, my husband in behind.
“So, how long have you been running?” the gazelle asked.
“Ummm, about 2 years,” I replied, trying to gauge his pace. I didn’t want this to become a mercy-jog, so I pushed myself to match his stride.
“Very good. You run at a good pace,” he said.
My ego sufficiently stroked, I asked him how long he’d been running.
“Oh, at least 15 years, I’m not sure, really.”
“Do you race?” I asked, still beaming from the compliment.
“Yes, when I travel, I always run a marathon.”
“How many have you done?”
“Wow. Have you ever run Boston?”
“Oh, yes, several times.”
We were starting up a hill, and I was desperately trying to save face and keep the conversation going without passing out.
“You must be really fast.”
I don’t know what that comment was supposed to accomplish, but that’s what came out of my mouth.
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I’m older, so qualifying times are easier in my category. But I am working towards a sub 3-hr marathon this month.”
I didn’t even know what to say. I could hear something behind me, but I was so focused on making it to the path that led back to my house that I didn’t acknowledge it.
“So, that was a crazy storm we had a few weeks ago. Did you have any damage?” I asked, at a complete loss for words.
“Oh, yes, our sump pump backed up on us. Water everywhere in our basement. You?”
“No, our house was fine.”
I don’t know why that made me feel validated, but it did. We’d left the hill behind us, and were now approaching the path.
“So, another time around the neighborhood?” he asked.
“No, we’d only planned on a 5KM tonight,” I replied. We. I hadn’t heard from my husband in at least 20 minutes. Where was he?
I turned the corner and hobble-jogged back to our house. A while later my husband arrived.
“So, how was your run with the gazelle?” he asked, disgruntedly.
“Well, he’s run 75 marathons, and is training for a sub-3hr marathon this month,” I answered.
“Good grief! He’s Ironman!”
“He really is… hey, you know what we should do tonight?” I asked.
“We should order a huge pizza, split a bottle of wine, and watch a movie in our dry basement.”
We did just that.
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