The interloper

It took a long time for me to think of myself as “a runner”.

I wasn’t a runner.

Real runners were fast.

Real runners ran distances.

Real runners ran distances fast.

And I just didn’t see myself as part of the club.

not in the club

But then one day, while moving out of a gazelle’s way, something happened that had never happened to me before.

As he passed me, the gazelle turned, smiled, and gave me the “runner’s nod”.

And, finally, I felt like I was in the club.

I'm a runner

A few weeks ago, I found out that a race was happening in my neighborhood. Two races, actually; a 10KM and a 5KM, and the 10KM would follow part of my weekend LSD (Long, Slow, Distance) running route.

It was too late to register, but I still wanted to join in the fun.

So I decided to interlope.

lightbulb

The morning of the race, I laced up my shoes about 15 minutes before the gun time and trotted out in the direction of the start line.

It wasn’t long before the first gazelle pranced by on the road while I jogged on the sidewalk. Then, over the course of the next kilometer, a full herd pranced by.

rungry

I knew I had to maintain a slower pace on my LSD run but, lion that I am, I wanted to chase the herd. So, in an effort to hold my pace, after about 3 kilometers I broke away from the pack and changed my course.

running away

After a few lonely kilometers, I decided to change direction again, and turned back towards my neighborhood. As I did, I approached an intersection.

I looked right, and looked left.

To my left, the 10KM herd was approaching, so I stopped and let them pass.

And, as they did, a familiar face glanced my way.

Gazella DeVil.

gazella reunion

She turned and glanced at me, and I blinked back at her.

I smiled and gave her the “runner’s nod”.

But, wait. Was that a smirk? No, it couldn’t be.

It had been years since our last encounter, and I was a runner now. Surely she could see that.

the runner's nod

Failing to return the nod, she just looked away, and increased her speed.

kicked out of the club

I crossed the road and continued on my LSD run, thinking of nothing but Gazella.

I watched as the last of the 10KM herd disappeared over the hill up ahead.

I wanted to chase them.

I wanted to beat them.

I knew that I could.

I was about to speed up when, suddenly, I noticed the road had become crowded.

I was so focused on my thoughts, I didn’t see that I was overtaking the back of the 5KM group.

back of the 5km

Many of the runners were fatigued and slowing to a walk.

Some had even stopped.

I looked up at the hill.

There was still time to chase the herd.

But, then I looked at the tired faces around me, and remembered a kind face and a friendly nod from long ago.

pay it forward

I knew what I needed to do.

I let go of Gazella.

“You’re doing awesome! Keep going!” I said to the first runner I passed.

I repeated the phrase to each person I saw who’d slowed to a walk.

When I got to the crest of the hill, I looked back and smiled.

A few had started jogging again.

jogging again

I crossed the road to get out of the way, and watched as runners from both races approached the finish line.

Some devoured it at a sprint.

Some comfortably trotted their way through, enjoying the warm sunny morning.

Some crossed it in agony.

the finish line

But they all crossed it.

They were, all of them, runners.

And we, all of us, were in the club.

Interloping complete, I blinked back a few sweaty tears, nodded to them all, and jogged happily away.

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37 thoughts on “The interloper

    • LOL, Maybe someday if I beat her in a race, it’ll remind her. 😉 What you say is true – even being able to keep moving for 5KM is something most of the population struggles with. So if you can run, you truly are part of the club!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I almost got tears in my eyes! I loved this post so much!! Encouragement is SOOO important in any sport. My first small triathlon, on my last leg of the 5K, a male runner pranced beside me and patted me on the back and said “keep it up, you are doing great!” I found another breath and finished. Similar thing happened in a SUP race. A nice guy paddled beside me (the wind had come up) and shouted ” use the waves to propel you…” I did and took 2nd. Yay!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The things we tell ourselves!
    I’ve running for about 10 years and I still don’t think of myself as a runner, even with the odd running nods. I don’t follow plans, I’m running longer distances this year, but I stop and rest or walk! Do people running more than 13km do that? Then there’s that thing of my monthly physio/osteo appointment and there’s always some new issues, niggle that makes me feel I’m not doing something right!
    But you my dear helping others out, pushing them on isn’t very lion or gazelle like. It’s Lioness like and we all know lionesses work as a team! I can’t say I’ve ever had in races someone saying come on apart from by standers generally cheering. I find the energy of the race pushes me on, but maybe that’s just here! I’ve found from reading Canadian and American running blogs, there’s more of a community that you don’t get in Europe. It’s all for one and one for me. Maybe I should change my attitude! That said if I smile at another girl running (runners nod) maybe it’s their running face, but dagger eyes (both France and Spain!)! Few smile back! But you’ve inspired me to try to be different next time a race or just out running!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lionesses unite! Some people just take themselves too seriously. I say keep smiling and soften them up a little! 🙂 It’s also good to take walking breaks, I know lots of people who take them once they get up in the higher KMs. I think it’s good for injury prevention.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my goodness…just discovered your blog. You are VERY funny! I love your cartoons. I am now following you. I will look forward to seeing your humor on a regular basis!
    I am just starting a blog about my 2 favorite things: Travel, and Running. I hope you will visit sometime if you get a chance.
    https://travelrunstyle.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The local cross country coach actually shunned me (as in a sharp head turn away from my gaze) when I did the runner acknowledgement with a smile to him. He was biking after the XC girls. I’ve heard he’s a real ass and tends to run his students into serious injury, and now I like him less because he made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. Because it’s all about me and my hurt runner feelings 😉

    But seriously, it’s the insecure runner who needs to look down on the efforts of other runners. You’re awesome for cheering on those people who probably really appreciate the support.

    Liked by 1 person

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