running track

… at the high school track the other early morning.

I like to drizzle sweat as the day awakes.

Looking over the aluminum spectator bleachers to my right, the sun was just peering above the eastern Okanagan Valley horizon, dripping colour like the cut edge of a juicy ripe peach.

The air was still and cool and fresh. Light strands of cloud made a comb-over in the pale blue sky overhead.

Fat shadows cast themselves on the western hillside where the Indian Reserve lies. I love these early sunrise shadows on the hills; I can see all of the bumps and dents and indentations highlighted like an adolescent with nasty acne, shadows that smooth and melt away later in the day as the hot sun strikes it flat on.

There was some dew on the orange pebbly track and I heard my feet scuffing across the little stones like water softly lapping against the shore of the lake.

I shifted into a slow run, a mere jog as I crossed the “start” line on the 400 m track. A magical mental transformation happens when I cross that line and my pace picked up just a wee bit because now I was on the clock.

Glancing downward at my wrist, I pressed the red START/STOP button on the gps watch and felt an instant need for more oxygen in my legs that felt heavy.

I wonder how many laps of running equals one big scoop of butterscotch ice cream.

It always takes a few orbits around the track to get those bulky muscles awakened. My job in the moment is to mentally reassure myself that the early sense of fatigue will pass as the body adjusts –  as it always does – realizing its job is to feed fuel and oxygen to the workout fire as it builds from light crackles to a roaring feisty flame.

dog-man-running1

The track was silent, undisturbed, except… ahead on the arcing bend of the track I could see a man holding a leash, walking his medium-sized dog, perhaps their daily routine.

It might seem crazy but I felt an instant tinge of anger building inside because the man and his dog were walking, walking right on the inner lane of the track. The inner lane where runners are supposed to… well… run.

MY lane.

The man looked large even at a distance and carried himself with an arrogant swagger. I couldn’t see at a distance but I envisioned a body well painted over with tattoos. The kind of guy you’d feel a surge of adrenaline and run away from in a dark alley, fearing for your life.

The dog wasn’t large but pulled hard at the leash like a mini killer Pit bull or Rottweiler.

In my head I heard the voice – you know that voice – “Why the hell is he walking right where he knows runners would be making their way around the circle quickly…”, it said, “… or at least multiple times faster than his slow walking pace. This is a running track for God’s sake, not a sidewalk. And what if the dog shits his load right on the track? What then if I slip on a slimy chunk of puppy poop?”

It was a silly thought and I spoke back in admonishing lecture-like tones to the voice as I grew slightly closer to the man and dog and he held his ground in the lane. “Oh c’mon Larry,  this is a public track for anyone’s use, is it such a big deal to just run around the outside of him? He has every right to walk where he wants. Who made us boss?” 

The voice grumbled back at me as I scuffled forward, ignoring the beauty of the day and the clean, garden-fresh air, the lush green lawn on the inside field of the track.

The voice had made up its mind that this man was evil and deserved reprimanding or punishment. I couldn’t be sure if the rising swell of my heart rate was due to physical exertion or frustrated exasperation.

devil dog

I grew closer, and finally, just a metre or two back, I swerved slightly outwards into the third lane of the track to give a wider berth for puppy if he decided to waver and trip me up or … heaven forbid… attempt to snap at my heels.

If he chomped at me then I could get rightly angry. The man and dog would deserve a good shouting at then. Right?

As I passed, the man and dog pulled inwards towards the field to give me some space.

Then he turned his head slightly with a bright smile and chirped…”Good morning!“.

I whispered out a breathy good morning absorbing his air of warmth and friendliness. He called out as if we were long time friends. He was pleasant. He was nice.

He had me.

Any residual aggression I might have felt just melted away in the fresh early morning air.

Although now past him, I brought up his image in my head as I continued my jog.

No visible tattoos, no arrogant swagger, wearing a blue Nike swoosh shirt, clean tan shorts and runners. The puppy was a young Golden Retriever with a harmless friendly way.

I ran onwards with a slight smile on my face and a bigger smile inside.

The nugget of wisdom I try to find in one small thing each day had been delivered so early already as the sun arose.

From a distance my Trump’ish ignorance and tendency to pass harsh judgment on others had been taken for a fool.

I was reminded of why I love to travel and visit other cultures and vistas. I was reminded that in many ways, we are all one people.

Of course my solo journey of many revolutions of the track reminded me also that I wasn’t in the impressive shape I thought I was in. That was just one more lesson learned that morning.

Gifts of Unknown Things.

life gifts

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