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'Nemo's' Dory was right: 'Just keep swimming!'

Nov. 01, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

It was bound to happen. My streak had held out too long. In fact, it had been over a year since the last incident. After it happened, my husband, John, asked, "How did you do that?" Duh, obviously if I knew I how I "did it" I would avoid "it."

"It," Dear Reader, is "fall."

Yep, I fell. Sprawled out on all fours. At least I mixed things up and injured my left knee this year, rather than my right knee, which I injured last year. Both palms are swollen, scraped and sore. Pride, well, it too is injured -- mostly because I allowed an expletive to release rather loudly from my mouth upon impact. Well, darn it, I was reeling from the swift and sudden impact.

The story (read as "excuse," Dear Reader) goes like this:

I am training for the Marshall Half-Marathon. Last year, I was blessed to complete the full (26.2-miles) marathon for the first time, at age 46. This year, however, my life has had a few added twists (not to mention injuries) that left me wondering if I would ever have the time or ability to train for another long distance event again. Yet, without a training goal, my desire to run floundered. That is when it hit me, why not compromise and try a half-marathon instead?

Therefore, I found myself, this past Saturday, needing to run 11 miles as per my training plan. After a week of picture perfect weather, Saturday's weather took a nose-dive. Using an online weather site, I chose 8 a.m. as my designated time to run. Temperatures would still be around 50 then; and, supposedly there was only a 10 percent chance of rain. I never thought to take a ball cap with me to keep raindrops off my glasses. Nor did I think to bring a rain jacket.

I began my run happily enjoying the contrast of the fall colors to the dark (should have thought, "ominous") clouds. The fragrance of damp leaves and the soft cushion they provided my feet reinforced feelings of joy. This was going to be a great run. I could feel it. Leaving the confines of Ritter Park, I headed toward downtown Huntington to check out the scenery and continued feeling optimistic. "Maybe I'll get to see some early tailgaters. They are always entertaining to watch early in the morning."

First, it began to mist. "That's okay, a minor nuisance on a great morning," I told myself. Next came the drizzle. "This will soon pass. No big deal." Then came the shower, a light one. Still framing it positively, I thought, "It will be a short shower. This is good preparation in case it rains the morning of the race."

Unfortunately, the rain became heavier and heavier as did my clothing, shoes and hair. My pride became soggy with self-consciousness. I began to hope no one I knew would see me! Then, I began to get cold -- which has never before happened during a run. Finally, at 27th Street, I decided to turn up 5th Avenue and head back for the park -- never reaching 31st Street as originally planned.

Now, I was running through and around standing water on the sidewalks. "Just keep running, Steph," I told myself. "Each step gets you closer to the park. Don't stop. Pick up your speed. The faster you run, the sooner you'll be back at Ritter. Once you get to Ritter you can stop if you want. Don't look at the cars passing by. Don't think about what they are thinking as they pass you. Ignore that hilarious person in a car you don't recognize beeping at you in mockery. What did that injured runner say at the Olympics? 'Faith, Focus, Finish.' Keep saying that. You got this, Steph." On and on the self-talk went, just like the rain.

I decided I would cross 5th Avenue as I neared the section with all sorts of beautiful and sacred-looking churches. Houses of God surrounded me looking resplendent with the autumnal leaves tumbling down around them. I began to feel inspired. "I am making it!" I cheer myself on. "This will soon seem like a bad dream."

Then, I see them -- a pack of dogs. No one is out and about on this section of 5th Avenue. Just God, His houses, and me. "Are these friendly dogs?" I gulped and wondered as I decide this is the perfect time to cross the road. "Keep an eye on those dogs, Steph." Ah, blankety, blankety, blank. "I've fallen and I have to get up cause I don't know if those dogs are friendly and they are getting closer."

Knee throbs. Hands feel like needles stabbing them. My last pair of running tights without holes now has a hole in the left knee and I can feel the blood running down my leg inside the tights. The churches mock my lack of control when it comes to word selection during my fall. "This is misery!" I want to lash out. Instead, I plow ahead and tell myself, "It's not that bad. Nothing seems broken. Keep positive, Steph." Then, words from the movie "Finding Nemo" hit me, and I start to laugh out loud. "Just keep swimming, swimming!"

I trip several more times as I run, full-tilt (pun intended) to the park. Arriving on the path, I realize I have 1.2 miles until I reach my 11-mile goal. Could I let it go? No, not me! I had to finish it. I see another fellow runner; and, I'm certain I redden from their recognition. Finally, I get in my car, rain-drenched. Pick up my cell phone to text that I am on the way home, when I see the following message. "We just drove past you running by the softball field. Hope you get dry soon. LOL." Ugh!

May we all "fall" for a funny story -- even at my expense!

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and an eighth-grade reading and writing teacher at South Point Middle School. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net.