My Scariest Running Moment Ever

Yesterday afternoon, I went out for a run and almost didn’t make it back. I was headed for the park near my house where I run almost every day. I stopped at the intersection, a three-way stop, right before the park’s entrance. Cars were waiting at two of the three stop signs. Both drivers waved me across. I looked at the third stop sign. No cars in sight. I started running across the street. Suddenly, all I could see was headlights barreling towards me. I flung myself backwards. I thought this is it. Tires screeched. I closed my eyes. When I opened them, I was sitting on the asphalt, the car two inches from my legs. Two inches. Dazed, but unscathed, I pulled myself up from the ground. The driver looked at me for a second, then hit the gas, and went flying down the road. One of the drivers who’d been waiting for me to cross got out of his truck and asked if I was OK. He offered to go after the driver who almost hit me, but the guy was already long gone. He’d been speeding, blew the stop sign, and almost ran me over. He didn’t even stop to apologize or see if I was hurt. I told the man in the truck I was alright and walked back home, wobbly and shaken.

In all the years I’ve been running, I’ve had a few “almosts” with cars. I once jumped on the bumper of an SUV when the lady driving didn’t see me as she was pulling out of her driveway. Last summer, an impatient motorist decided he didn’t have time to wait for me at the exact same intersection. In all of these incidents, the drivers were going only a few miles per hour, so I had plenty of time to react. This time not so much.

I’m sure you’re thinking “be careful,” or “look before you cross the street!” I was doing both those things. I’d stopped and waited to cross. I was wearing a neon orange hat and no headphones. I’d looked all three directions before crossing. There was nothing else I could have done. There was no way for me to see that driver or know he’d blow the stop sign at such a high speed. It wasn’t may fault. It was my scariest running moment ever.

Running Wisdom & Unexpected Inspiration

The past week or so I have been less than inspired to run. Between getting married, honeymooning in Italy, trying to get back into the swing of work, and now fighting off a cold, running has been sort of an afterthought. I don’t have any upcoming races, which only adds to my lack of motivation. It’s not that I don’t want to run. I do. It’s more that the day gets away from me and before I know it, the sun has gone down and it’s time for dinner. This evening was perfect for a run, though. So I made an effort to take a break from working, and my running “laziness,” to head out for a few quick miles.

As I proceeded along one of my usual routes, I wasn’t really concentrating on much — just sort of lost in the rhythm of my footsteps — when I suddenly found myself flanked by two small seemingly identical figures. I thought for a moment that I was having a cold-medicine-induced hallucination. Actually, they were two boys, dressed in identical running clothes, who couldn’t be much older than 11. A bit startled, I said “hello.” But before I had a chance to say anything else, the pair launched into a game of 20 questions that went something like this:

Boy 1: Are you a runner?

Me: Yes, I am. Why do you ask?

Boy 2: Do you run marathons?

Me: Yes, I’ve run several.

Boys: Cool! We saw your hat, so we thought you might. (Note: I am wearing a skull cap from the Cleveland Marathon.)

Boy 2: Can we ask you a question?

Me: Sure. (Thinking to myself, you already asked several.)

Boy 1: We want to run a marathon, but we’re not sure how to do it. How did you run your marathon?

Me: Well, I trained for it for several months by running a lot every day.

Boy 2: So all you have to do is run every day? How much is a lot? Three miles?

Me: It’s a bit more than that. You start with a few miles and gradually increase the miles until your body can handle about 22 or so.

Boy 1: I thought a marathon was 26 miles?

Me: It is. Actually, it’s 26.2 miles, but most people who can run 23 can run 26. Why do you want to know all of this?

Boy 2: We told you already. Because we want to run a marathon.

Me: Oh, yes. But why do you want to run a marathon?

Boy 1: We need to raise money.

Me: For what?

Boy 1: To buy legs.

Over the next 10 minutes, I learned that the two are twin brothers who want to run a marathon to raise money for their dad’s friend. He’d lost his legs in the war after an IED exploded, and his current prosthetics are “not really working,” according to the boys. They told me he’d also lost his job because his “stress syndrome” makes him sick. Their plan is to run the marathon and raise enough money to buy him new legs for his birthday next summer. I was a bit dumbstruck by their commitment to such a selfless cause. As I said before, they couldn’t be much older than 11, but they both have their hearts set on raising the money. They admitted that they have no idea how much they need to raise, and that they’d never run more than the mile they have to do in gym class. They’d set out on their run that night looking for advice from runners on how to accomplish their goal. I was lucky enough to be their “second try.” (The first guy had headphones on and ignored them.)

I told them I believed they could do it if they really trained for it. I gave them my email and offered to answer any of their questions about the marathon, as long as their parents were OK with it. Before I had a chance to say “goodbye” or ask their names, they both screamed “thank you” and charged off down the street.

I have no idea if they will actually take me up on my offer, or if they even remembered my email address by the time they got home. What I do know is that people are amazing, especially the little ones. And that I found some inspiration out on my run tonight from two future marathoners who are wise beyond their years.