Jogging Writer: Think Like a Miniature Donkey
I’ve finally found a nearby route sufficient for long training runs. When possible, I prefer Bays Mountain Park (35 minutes away, 39 miles of wooded trails), but limited winter hours and lack of my desire for car time typically keep me closer to home on weekends. That means running on Ruritan Run Road in Scott County, Virginia, along with a few winding side roads.
Over the past 4 Sundays, I have successfully learned how to defend myself from zealous dogs, quickened my average pace per mile with each consecutive run, and met some very charming miniature donkeys.
First, the dogs: They’re everywhere. At one house in particular, three of them lope down the slope from their owners’ trailer, growling and barking like they mean business. The first few times, they actually crossed the road, teeth barred, and followed me. My heart rate monitor watch lit up with numbers skyrocketing. On the way back, I carried rocks and shouted at them–to little effect, though one dog did think the rock might be a treat. In time, I’ve learned that turning directly toward them, stopping and holding my ground, and settling into a sumo stance will successfully scare them away. The sumo stance is most effective when combined with air boxing and two loud, guttural, NO’s.
Second, faster pace: I’m still following Matt Fitzgerald’s amazing 80/20 Running book plan and principles, and have combined his training regimen with his recommended nutrition regimen. Ever since trying the Atkins diet a few years back, I haven’t felt like I’ve known how to eat “balanced and normal” again. Fitzgerald’s New Nutrition Rules for Marathon and Half-Marathon Runners rescued me…and I still feel like I’m eating a wide variety of foods. Best of all? I don’t have to count calories or meticulously weigh portions. Also, I have insight about nutrition while running (for runs longer than an hour or two)–something I’d never had to think about before.
Last, but not least, miniature donkeys: There are more of them than I can count. Ten? Fifteen? I pass them around mile 4 or 5, depending on my starting point, and without fail they will stop in whatever donkey-task they’re engaged in and stare at me in utter fixation. It is as though they have never seen a human being before. It is as though I am the Super Bowl, Mickey Mouse, a giant silo of oats. As I approach, one will eventually notice me and stop in his tracks, a few sprigs of hay sticking from his mouth. His friends will soon notice and walk toward the first donkey, until they’re all standing in a tight huddle with their eyes locked on mine. “Hey friends!” I’ve taken to shouting. Stare. Stare. As I pass the barn, more will poke out from the other side, lining up as if by height, so that one small head appears above another until five or six of them have crammed against the outside of the barn to get one last look at this odd, loping, human figure.
All of which is to say, what if those miniature donkeys are onto something? They look at me each time as if anew. I find it refreshing. They don’t have any judgement about my pace, my attire, the weather. They’re simply there. Looking. Fixated with a newness and curiosity I can only liken to a toddler. It’s delightful–and probably worth emulating.