March 17, 2012 by CJ
If you run with any regularity the same route, on the same days around the same time you tend to get a feel for the neighborhood. You know which homes are up early and which ones don’t stir until the sun comes up. You know where the dogs live and you no longer jump when they bark, if they still do when they see you running by. That familiarity is one of the things I love about my morning runs. I don’t think about my surroundings anymore, I can focus on getting to the tree in front of the family owned nursery (that’s my mile 1 marker) faster than I did the day before.
This morning’s run threw me off track. First it was pretty warm for a February* morning. When I left the house the neighborhood was covered in a very creepy thick fog. I couldn’t see to the end of my block! I didn’t think much about it. I know my neighborhood like the back of my hand. I could run/walk it blindfolded. I know where the cracks are in the sidewalks and where it’s not level. Running in creepy fog, pshhhh, that’s nothing…or so I thought.
As I rounded the corner, going down the hill I hate, I saw a car sitting there. The engine was on, lights on, sitting in front of a house. As I ran past, the car (with its windows to dark to see in) slowly drove by me. I turned and watched it gradually disappear into the fog. I continued with my run, telling myself that was just a friendly co-worker taking another coworker to a job or a good friend taking someone to the airport. It wasn’t a mass murderer that just killed the occupants of that home and once they remember the crazy early morning jogger they are going to turn around and find me…no just friendly people. As I tried to calm myself and think rationally, I noticed a man walking toward me. He was wearing a huge, puffy jacket and it looked as if he had a knife in one hand. I quickly pulled my keys out of my pocket, sure that my keys would inflict as much, if not more damage than any knife he had in his pocket. I thought about jumping into the street, but what if he was just a normal guy, walking around too early in a scary, puffy jacket? But isn’t it always the normal guy that welds the knife? What if he was sent by the car people who just killed my neighbors? I spent so much time trying to figure out what to do, I didn’t do anything. As he passed I did my neighborly, “Good morning” I may have whispered, “please don’t kill me” and I noticed he wasn’t carrying a knife, it was just his hand (yes odd-shaped hands, I agree).
I spent the rest of my run, not enjoying my neighborhood, but looking over my shoulder, running backward for a few, just in case the puffy coat, hand-knife guy decided to come and get me or creepy slow-moving car decided I saw too much and needed to quiet me. I figured out which house I’d run to first and I reminded myself I would need to scream fire and not help. There is one house I pass on my runs and the light in the livingroom is always on. There is an older man sitting there reading the paper, I decided he would be my go to man, if I needed it. I wondered if he could fight, I imagined some big action scene, like you see in the movies. I hoped his family would forgive me choosing to put his life in danger because I was up too early on a creepy, foggy morning.
I felt a little safer, once I got to the main road. The problem for me there were car lights. Those buggers cast shadows and I hate to admit it, I found myself jumping at my own shadow approaching me from various angles. The path home was better, the sun was coming up and the fog was rolling away. More familiar faces were out and about. The lady with the two little ones she carries to the car each morning, the older couple and their yapping dog, the angry teenager forced to walk the family dog every morning. Seeing my usual people helped calm my nerves and allowed me to finish my run without being obsessed with slow-moving car, or knife hands.
Back in the safe surroundings of my home I realized my time was better than it had been all week. For the first time, since I started back running, I hadn’t spent the majority of my morning ritual looking at the time. There is something to be said about running paranoid.
*I had this post sitting in my draft folder. I’m not sure why I never published it. Most likely, because after rereading this, I sound a bit crazy.
- Letters from a Paranoid Jacob (writewithoutborders.com)