Final Thought


Summer dampens my running. I do well to run 80 miles per month in warm weather. By contrast, last November I ran 132 miles as I prepared for December’s Three Bridges Marathon.

In July, in highly humid Arkansas, a good time to run is around sunrise. Once the sun is up, running is akin to jogging through a thin, warm broth. I’ve never been much of a morning person, so I usually run at night. That way, the experience is more similar to jogging through mildly tepid broth.

To keep from stumbling or maybe stepping on a snake, I wear a light clipped to the bill of a visor.  The tradeoff is that light attracts insects, of course, and one night last summer I swallowed a bug. Other than the time I tried siphoning gasoline from a motor scooter, I don’t recall ever being so unsure whether I’d breathe again.

I imagine that insect was merely a midge, a tiny fly, but at the time it felt like one of those brawny June bugs. Sporting golf shoes on its six feet. I coughed convulsively, then finally managed to guzzle enough water to get things under control again (though a scratchy feeling remained in the back of my throat, making me wonder if something lingered there). The ordeal painfully reminded me it’s best to inhale through the nose.

About the only time I manage to roll out of bed for a morning run is on Saturdays, when I rise at 4:45 a.m., drink a little coffee and eat half a bagel with peanut butter, then meet up at 6 o’clock with other crazy folks who are part of the Little Rock Marathon training group. One reward of getting up so early is getting to hang out with kindred spirits. More about them shortly.

As I write this, it’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m debating how late to wait before slipping on the running shoes.  Meanwhile, I’ll reminisce about a few notable running moments.

Little lights on the subjects: The marathon training coaches implore us to wear reflectors and lights so we can see and be seen, particularly by motorists. Such precautions are especially important on winter mornings when we set out well before the sun comes up. Just about every imaginable flashing light is available these days — arm bands, bracelets, anklets, things you can tie to your shoes, things you can clip to your clothing — and they come in an amazing variety of colors. It’s an awesome experience, bordering on the surreal, to see a long line of lights, blinking at varying intervals in green, red, yellow, pink, orange, blue, you name it, representing runners stretched out along the Arkansas River Trail in the pre-dawn darkness.

Running with the deer: North Little Rock’s Burns Park has a wonderful trail system; one can run for miles and miles on paved surfaces, or take off along paths through the woods for great adventures. The woods are home to many deer. Once, while running along a ridge, I spotted off to my right a herd of about eight deer bounding up the hillside. We seemed to be converging on the same spot. For a few glorious moments I enjoyed the illusion that I was actually galloping along with these beautiful creatures. Naturally, they crossed the trail well before I did and, like apparitions, faded away into the woodlands.

Bouncing on the bridge: The Arkansas River Trail crosses Little Rock’s Jimmerson Creek, which flows into the Arkansas River just upstream from the Big Dam Bridge. The bridge here has a concrete surface that one Saturday morning gave me and three other runners an odd sensation. Running roughly two abreast, soon after we began crossing the bridge I felt almost like I was on a stair step machine, the bridge surface seeming higher with one step, lower with the next. It was disconcerting, but I attributed the sensation to my imagination —not having full control of my senses so early in the day. Once we crossed the bridge, one fellow said, “Well, that was strange.” Another said, “Oh, yeah!” I said, “I’m glad to know it wasn’t just my imagination.” The surface, as happens with reinforced concrete bridges, was simply moving to the pressure of our footfalls; I hadn’t expected that with only four runners. Later, when there were about 20 of us on the bridge during the Three Bridges Marathon, the sensation was more like being in a bouncy house. Woohoo!

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