Sunday was my first official training run with this group.
The course was supposed to be eleven miles, starting behind Grassland Elementary School, just off Hillsboro Road. But prior to setting out, I was handed a set of directions for a 12 mile course that ended on Hillsboro Road. No biggie, I thought. So it’s 12 miles, not 11.
And off we went.
There were maybe a dozen or so women in the group, and we ran as a pack for the first two miles. At that point, I ran ahead, figuring I had my directions and didn’t need to follow anyone.
Good things never happen when I do that.
I was cruising along—the weather was perfect, my pace was brisk, and I reached the 8-mile mark feeling strong. On a long straightaway, I turned back to see if anyone from the group was behind me. They weren’t, but I didn’t give it much thought. I had directions, I was enjoying the run, and … hmmm … there was a strange noise behind me. Sort of a snarling. Mixed with a lot of snorting. And panting. And a tinkling. Like a collar. Like a collar on a bulldog. A giant, snorting, snarling, panting, tinkling bulldog, with TESTICLES THE SIZE OF A GRAPEFRUIT.
Excellent, I thought. I am going to die now. Either that, or this dog is going to try and have sex with me. What else was he going to do with the contents of those titanic testicles?
So there I am, with the biggest, loudest, drooliest bulldog I’ve ever seen, snarfing and DARTING AT ME IN A ZIG ZAGGY WAY, like an evil bulldog in a Disney movie, before they photoshopped out his libidinous balls to get the G rating.
Quickly, I googled “WHAT TO DO WHEN A SNARLING BIG-BALLED BULL DOG IS CHASING YOU” in my head. And let me just say, there is a reason my brain has never had an initial public offering.
Zero search results.
Instinct told me it would be a mistake to try to outrun this animal. Instead, I decided to pretend he was my friend. My very loud, snarly, furry, grapefruit-betesticled friend. I ran very slowly alongside my friend, telling myself that if he wanted to kill me he probably would have done so already. And if he wanted to have sex with me, perhaps I could interest him in four more miles of foreplay.
A half a mile later, Dog Juan got tired of me leading him on and moseyed off to find a more suitable partner. The next three and a half miles went by without incident, and I arrived at the finish line on Hillsboro Road. Twelve miles. Done.
It was unlike any stretch of Hillsboro Road I’d ever seen.
It had a Kroger. And a La Hacienda. And a bunch of other non-suburban-subdivisiony establishments OH MY GOD.
OH MY GOD.
WHERE AM I?
WHICH DIRECTION AM I POINTING?
WHAT PLANET AM I ON?
I checked the back of the directions six or seven times to make sure there were no further instructions written there. Amazing how you can try to will a piece of paper to SAY SOMETHING. I never studied the directions before we started to see exactly where on Hillsboro Road we would end up. I just saw Hillsboro Road written there and assumed ... ASS. UUUUMED ... the directions were a full loop. Clearly, though, I was nowhere near the school where we'd started.
Keep in mind the following: I was running in an unfamiliar part of the city that is a 40 minute drive from my house. Also? I have no internal compass. I wear flip flops every day because it takes me so long to find my feet, there's no time left for laces.
So, I turned right on Hillsboro Road when I should have turned left, only to discover that, my goodness, Hillsboro Road has a plethora of shopping options IN SEATTLE.
As things became less and less familiar, I realized my mistake and ran back in the opposite direction. But I was still not recognizing ANYTHING.
It was a Sunday morning. The stores were closed. I had no watch. I had no phone. I did, however, have the very strong sense that God was laughing at me. A billboard erected itself in my mind: "THIS IS WHAT YOU GET." This is your punishment for running ahead of the pack. For being a loner. For telling yourself you were doing a great job. I TRIED TO WARN YOU WITH THE BULLDOG BALLS! BUT DID YOU LISTEN?
Now I had no choice but to keep running. And running and running, for what I guessed was a little over three miles.
Finally I arrived at a BP station and found a woman pumping gas.
“Which way is Grassland Elementary?” I asked her.
She pointed in the same direction I’d been running.
“But it’s a ways down that road,” she said. “It’s not close.”
I kept running.
I’d run just over sixteen mother effing miles when a car pulled up alongside me and a voice asked if I wanted a ride. It was the most beautiful voice in the world. I could have married that voice. It just happened to be Erin Burcham's voice. Erin writes the Her Night Out column in Her Magazine, and she, thank God, was also in the group, had also run ahead with another girl, and had also followed the directions. Only they had the good sense to hitch a ride. A nice couple had picked them up at the BP station, and now I was about to repay them for their kindness by sweat bombing their leather seats. (So so sorry about your leather seats, nice couple.)
As it turned out, we were supposed to turn back at the 5.5 mile mark, to make 11 miles. Something I would have known if I'd stayed with the group. Or if I were the kind of person who GOT THE MEMO. EVER.
I never get the memo.
Why do I never get the memo?
Also! Why has it taken me longer to tell this story than it did to run it?
Perhaps because I can't figure out the take away.
What am I supposed to GLEAN from this experience? Other than, yeah, I can definitely run 13.1 miles.