As a light evening rain descends, I lace up my Asics and head for the door with dreams of tempos and fartleks dancing in my head.
It’s Halloween and the little neighborhood beggars are out in force. There’s a princess and a ghost. There’s an Obama mask and a McCain. Of course, there’s the teenager with a pillow case wearing nothing more than his favorite college sweatshirt bending the rules to take his bounty. They emerge from the night into the street lights and swarm towards the nearest house. For the small ransom of a piece of candy, they can be ejected from your porch.
The town is alive with laughter, feigned fear, and dogs barking after every doorbell. With dried, defeated leaves crunching under each step, my Garmin and I weave through the trick or treaters down the sidewalk and out of the neighborhood. My breathing is heavy at first as my lungs reject the cold evening air. I head into the darkness leaving the muffled shouts far behind.
With steady, guarded pace, I forge down the familiar empty sidewalks into the night. I know this path well but, in the moonlight, it takes an eerie, menacing feel. The tree branches bend a little closer reaching out to grab me as my shoulders brush past their twisted fingertips. A car approaches. I can see the gentle rhythmic rain streaking into the shiny black pavement by the headlamps as I squint into the blinding light. Elongated tree shadows spring up suddenly and shoot towards me until the motorist passes and they disappear again.
I’m alone now. My legs churn down the darkened path. I know this route and run it by memory. The leaves and twigs snap under foot. The rain is cool and refreshing as it dimples across my cheeks.
There are miles to run. Garmin doesn’t make a sound. Even the insistent mile marker chirping has abandoned me this night. I automatically make my turns as if on cue. Each new path brings a fresh blend of sounds and smells. Occasionally, I veer close to another neighborhood and the giggling children and spastic dogs are heard through the barrier of trees that keeps me isolated and enveloped in darkness.
My thoughts drift to my family and friends. The strides are light and easy as I recall tales of Halloween past and visions of Halloween futures. As a young child, I remember the fear when approaching the first house and having to utter trick or treat to an unknown neighbor. I wanted the candy but I’m not sure I wanted to pay that price. As always, my desire for the sugary sweets triumphed over the shyness. Years later, I’d see this same emotional battle play out on the face of my first child as a tormented Buzz Lightyear slowly mounted the porch steps. Of course, he’d also chose the sweets.
The minutes and miles pass by. I become aware that my clothes are a sticky mixture of sweat and rain water. My Asics long ago gave in to the splashing puddles. An audible squish announces the arrival of each foot fall.
As I return to my neighborhood, the streets are quiet again. The children have gone home. The porch lights are dark. A smashed pumpkin lies in the street in ruins under the glow of the lamp post. My pace – and pulse – quickens when a couple of late night scrounging squirrels chase each other along a branch, shaking it ominously, as I glide by.
Home. The run is over. The rain and shadowy darkness could not destroy the satisfaction I feel as I sit with one leg crossed on top of the other unlacing my shoe. Sometimes a run fits just right into your life. It’s perfect. The kids in their costumes…the swirling, crunchy leaves…the comforting solitude of the moonlit sky.
Could it have been a dream?
I turn to Garmin to retrieve the glorious numbers and place an exclamation point on the evening.
As quickly as a dream begins, it can turn to a nightmare.
I forgot to press Start.
Happy HAUNTED trails.
Note: The preceding was an excerpt from my future memoir titled Tales of Things That Never Happened.
Head over to Nic's to congratulate him on his puke free (though tantalizingly close) 50 MILER!