I first composed the barebones of this over four years ago to highlight (and lowlight) the final run of my first year’s electronically recorded miles using the Nike Running App. Each venture out is as unique as the Pennsylvania snowflakes I waltz with each winter. This last run of the year was certainly a rarity. Road running is full of excitement, rewards, and surprises with unpredictable weather, terrain, and strength. NOTE: I avoid treadmills like lima beans and will only touch one if I absolutely need to.
In September of 2012, I figured out that I could track 500 miles before my one-year “appiversary” on November 30, 2012. This is a little story about those closing, annual steps.
Today, using the same app, I calculated 570 runs and 2624 miles. Such a little thing has made all the difference at inspiring and holding me accountable me as a runner. This morning, I also saw yellow-vest-guy taking his morning stroll (more about him later).
*** NOVEMBER 29, 2012***
Tomorrow marks an entire year since I invested my best $2 for my iPhone’s Nike Running App. Its accurate record keeping and reliable GPS have motivated me to go faster and further. The past 364 days granted me various runs with a burn of over 50,000 extra calories, often stemming from Goldfish Crackers swimming in my red wine sips (my favorite food and drink combo ever).
Today I got up at 5:00 am to snag my 120th run of the year, the one that would get me to mile 500. I ventured out and kissed the frosty 28 degree November wind with Vaseline slathered lips. The dogs and I were ready to hit the road. I pulled my hat down tight over my ears, placed my headphones atop, and nestled my phone in my armband. I pushed start and listened to the encouraging female app voice countdown, “Three-two-one, beginning workout.”
The first two miles were chilly but comfortable. Both dogs had an extra spring in their paws, like they knew this was a special run for me (Every run to them is always special, like extra bacon on Christmas morning). Today’s course was our street lit neighborhood where the dogs know the hills, flat parts, and possible cat sightings.
Italia’s aging hips and legs still carry her forward, but to avoid injury she only runs a couple miles. We needed to clear about five and half, so I dropped her off after two and accidentally “ended” the app workout instead of “pausing”. Dang, I just wanted today’s final mile to happen during one run, but I couldn’t dwell on it. I just had to track two separate workouts instead of one.
Louie would finish the final miles with me though. I used to feel guilty returning Italia while Louie remained, but he’s still such a rambunctious pup who needs the extra exercise. He is almost a year old and is both hyperactive and noisy. He barks at everything with legs, without legs, with wheels, without wheels, with shadows, and without. He barks at his own echoes of barks. Louie is the annoying neighborhood barker. When I can zap some of his energy, it helps mute his squeaky squawk.
Back to the driveway, I hit “start” again waited for the “Three-two-one, beginning workout” signal and sped up the hill. The sky barely lightened since we started. Thankfully the streetlights shine on, especially during these starless, cloudy mornings.
The next two miles were smooth and serene. So far this was a good run. The randomly shuffled tunes blared out the best motivators for a private race like this. I fist pumped around the hood to the beats of “Born to Run” (not joking), “Old Time Rock and Roll”, and a Serbian Orthodox chant that helped me pray. My feet lightened like a gazelle while I dreamily prepped for my finish line and the extra cyber cheers my app would deliver.
Suddenly, the fuzzy needle scratched over the record album as a street light burnt out while I ran beneath it. That happened only once before, and that was a very bad day. Oh oh. Was that a skunk odor spoiling the refreshing air? Louie kept pulling to the right, the source of the smell. I didn’t have time to be jinxed or skunked. I was too close to the end for these distractions.
With less than half mile left, I zipped through my final song-length’s-hill. The finale, the monumental moment was near. I got back into the groove and danced up Stephen’s Road to Rusted Root’s “Send me on my Way”:
(On my way, on my way) I would like to reach out my hand, I may see you, I may tell you to run (On my way, on my way). You know what they say about the young!
This song reminds me of college when I was twenty-years younger, and a pack-a-day smoker, not a smokin’ runner. Thankfully, I gave that habit up and picked up this one.
With just one-tenth of a mile left to go, I diverted back into my current reality. More than ready to flash to the end and grab my imaginary medal, I’d love to report that something like “Chariots of Fire” belted out while I crossed my personal finish line. “Ch, ch, ch, ch bring in the synthesizer, the piano, the percussion, the strings! We are here today to honor the legend. Donna’s gonna do it! Cymbals! Who has the blasted cymbals? With hope in her heart and wings on her heels.” Instead, the cowbell clanged with absurdities and obscenities.
Louie tugged at his leash again, this time to the left. He spied my elderly neighbor taking his early walk. This active old man and I have never spoken to each other during these morning jaunts around the hood, and except for the obligatory wave, I only know that he lives in a well-groomed ranch and wears his reflective fluorescent yellow vest every time he walks. I’m a chatty neighbor and would love to talk, but he just lifts his hand in a half-mast-wave and keeps a serious stride. It’s obvious that he doesn’t want my morning chit chat, so I just wag my hand like a puppy’s tail and smile.
When Louie saw yellow-vest-guy, his need to greet him was strongly intense. Maybe he thought he could get the quiet man to do a trick and speak. Louie yelped and whined and bolted toward him with relentless sheltie persistence. I screamed a bunch of opposing, confusing commands, “Louie! Stop it! Heal! Come on! Let’s Go! Damnit! Quit it!” My crazy minion of a canine and I tug-o-warred with his paisley print leash. Yellow-vest-guy stood like a statue until I got things under control. I wonder if he thought I was yelling at him or if he realized my dog was obnoxiously trying to jump on him to lick his shiny reflectors.
When I successfully yanked Louie back, my iPhone came loose from my armband, jetted out, and dove to the earth like an asteroid. “Sh#@! My phone! My miles!” I quickly sprinted to and picked up my device that luckily landed in the grass instead of the road. Although it seemed unharmed, I still hadn’t made it to my finish line, my app cheers, my fake crowd of fans, my self-made trophy, and my triumphant end.
Yellow-vest-guy stood still, like a mannequin, while I cursed Louie (who now angelically sat by my side like the champion of puppy obedience school). I swore at my cheap piece of sh%@ armband and shook my phone like an Etch-a-Sketch trying to get it out of screensaver mode. I stripped off my non-touch screen gloves to get back to the app.
I needed to record my 500th mile! There it was, Nike+. I plugged the headphones back into the phone, and started running towards home with the phone in my hand. Three-two-one, and in a breath I caught my 500th mile. Imagine that. I was only seconds away from my goal that ended with embarrassing expletives, disturbances of the peace, warped facial gestures, and foul dog antics.
Perhaps my next running year will end on a more victorious step, but, if not, all the footprints that lead up to it will hopefully be as glorious, therapeutic, peaceful, painful, relieving, and energetic as this one.