I am a marathon runner. Wow, at 43, it feels pretty damn good to say that! Since my 40th birthday I've run two full marathons and 13 half-marathons. While the runs are exciting, with people cheering on the sidelines and a medal at the finish line, some of the best runs I've had have been my training runs.
There is a wildlife refuge near my home, and I love it there. It's my little piece of paradise in the middle of the city, my slice of Heaven, my retreat. I go there to walk and run whenever I can find the time.
Considering that this is a wildlife refuge, there are animals of all kinds living among the breathtaking scenery. I remind myself that it's their home and I'm just visiting. Over the years I've met some incredible "friends" on my runs.
There was the deer that snuck up behind me when I stopped to catch my breath. I turned my head slowly to the left and there was the most adorable little deer chewing on some greenery and just checking me out as if to say, "Hey, what's up?"
There have been countless bunnies that scurry across the path. Why did the bunny cross the road? It's not that dramatic, I think they really are just trying to get to the other side.
I've seen many turtles, birds, squirrels, and even a cool red fox.
And then there was the time I was chased down the path by a 3-foot wild turkey. It was an early morning run and there wasn't a soul in sight. I was feeling really good; I was in the zone! Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something rustling in the leaves. By the time I saw the turkey, he was already running towards me at full speed.
I screamed. I can't lie about it. I screamed and probably ran faster at that moment that I had since my Army days. I was able to outrun him, but kept looking back to see if he had gained any ground on me. As I turned down the path, almost to the end, I turned for one last peek behind me.
Feeling confident, I turned back around to sprint to the end and ran face first into a giant spider web. Can you guess what I did next? Of course, I screamed! If someone had a video camera trained on me in that moment, I'm convinced I would now be a You Tube sensation! I had moves that you wouldn't believe; think the dance stylings of Elaine from Seinfeld!
I ran to the car and did a 20-minute check of myself in my car's rear-view mirror. Once I could confirm that there was not in fact a family of spiders living in my hair, I laughed out loud. I laughed at what had happened and how I must have looked.
This story may make you think that this was an awful day in the life of a runner. But the truth was, it was a great day!
In that moment, I felt connected to the Earth and the animals. There were no selfies, no Facebook, and no Twitter; no email, no deadlines, and no projects. In short, there was no stress!
If you haven't made time to unplug and get outside, I urge you to do so. The time spent in nature will rejuvenate you in a way that an electronic medium can't.
I stood up and took one last look around, feeling ready to tackle my day. As I headed back to my car with a spring in my step and a feeling of lightness, a raccoon ran out from underneath my car.
And... you guessed it... he chased me!
And... you guessed it... I screamed!