I have been in Pennsylvania for the past week. Tonight we fly back to Illinois. We will arrive home too late to see Limerick but I will be happy to see my cats, to be home. I miss Limerick very much. I had a dream last night that when I arrived at the barn I saw that she was very skinny and unhappy. I miss her whiskers, her sweet breath, her velveteen pink muzzle beneath my lips, her large brown eyes regarding me.
I, the not-born-but-raised Midwestern girl, have gone on four runs here. The first run was around a large park and fairly flat. 3.6 miles.
Sleet and freezing rain accompanied me on the second run, which began at late dusk and ended in dark. I went through part of Dover, the town where my in-laws live, the town where my husband grew up. I tackled some hills (wary of accumulating ice), ran around my husband's elementary school (still bright inside despite the empty parking lot), almost got lost, and ran until the sidewalk ended. By the time I returned I was soaked to the skin but too warm to care. 3.2 miles.
The third run was gray and wet from heavy morning rains. Mid-afternoon. I took a complete foot tour of Dover. The town is small. I did not encounter many people. Those I did see beamed and waved at me. I waved back. The sidewalk was not continuous and I was thankful for my bright yellow shirt. Drivers slowed for me. It was a stark contrast to Chicago--all sidewalk, everywhere. People that totally ignored you, including drivers. I came across my husband's high school. The track was open. I ran around it a couple times, around the football field where he played. I was alone in the gray. Light fog muted the hills on the horizon. It was 15 years ago. I saw my husband in his red and white varsity football gear, a tall skinny teenager, striding across the field. His legs were muddy and sweat ran down his face. His eyes, as always, were as blue as a clear sky. I thought about the lump on his collarbone, the pictures I have seen of him with his arm in a sling, still in football gear, wincing with pain. This is is where it happened, and now our footsteps are intersecting. His from 1994. Mine--his wife from Chicago(!)--in 2009. 5.10 miles.
The fourth run was yesterday. My husband drove me to Pinchot State Park. Expecting the wide limestone trails of Chicagoland, I was initially confused.
"Where are the trails?" I asked as he parked the car.
"I don't know. Around." He pointed towards a network of leaf-covered narrow trails leading into the hilly forest. He stayed in the car with a book.
It was mid-afternoon. Cold but the bright sun warmed my bones. I started my run semi-paranoid. My Midwestern blood was alarmed. What sort of beasts hid within these hills? The trees and brambles were thick. To the left of the trail the ground sloped down sharply, rockily, towards a large partially iced lake. But the trail was not easy and bore rocks--from fist-sized to boulder-sized--tree roots, and ice, and I had to concentrate on where I placed my feet. Worries slipped away and I ran on. Ice covered the brambles around me and sparkled in the sun. I pretended I was a mountain goat as I ran up steep hills using icy rocks as stairs, my glutes whining with the effort. The beauty of the landscape almost swept me off my feet. And indeed, 45 minutes into the run, it literally swept me off my feet. As I gazed at the leafy tree-dotted hillside to my left, my right foot hit a rock in the trail. As graceful as a human javelin can be, I sailed through the air in an arc.
Well, here we go.
I hit the ground with my hands, slid, hit my right elbow, slid, hit my right knee on a rock, slid.
It was my first fall as a runner. I stood up. Dirt streaked my gloves and polyfleece shirt. I was thankful for both. My right knee screeched. I put weight on it. It whined but was not broken. I walked for a few moments and the throb subsided. I picked up a cautious run. The knee protested then quickly quieted down. I ran on for another 30 minutes. Back at the car, I showed my knee to my husband. It was, is, a badge of honor and I am thankful that my first fall was on such difficult terrain and not flat Midwestern asphalt. 7 miles.