Approaching bison territory during Saturday’s Chilly Chili Run, I was all set to take the short route back to the camp lodge at Oubache State Park.
All that sheer ice on the trail was really getting to me, along with the fact that I’d dropped out of view of most of the other runners. Due to the informality of the run, the start had taken me by surprise. I’d just walked back from putting a jacket in the car and was inadvertently standing near the front, talking and getting ready to stretch, when I suddenly realized the run was under way. After sitting at a computer all morning at work and having just hopped out of the car a few minutes earlier, I found myself taking off with a faster group than I was used to — and getting passed like crazy.
But as I jogged along the straightaway by the bison fence, a long line of runners came back into view. And one of them, who I was rapidly closing in on, looked familiar: It was Sammi from my Weight Watchers group.
I figured a bunch of these runners ahead of me were taking the 3-mile loop, but I’d really wanted to do the whole trail, a little under 6 miles with the connecting route to and from the campground. Sammi, I knew, had done a couple of half marathons this past year. If she took the long route, maybe I’d have some much-needed company the rest of the way — partly for morale purposes, but also in case I fell and broke my neck on the ice.
“I dunno,” Sammi said when I came up alongside and asked her intentions. She wasn’t familiar with the trail, and she wasn’t thrilled with the ice, either. But after I promised to be her tour guide and keep her posted on our progress through the woods, she agreed. As most of the pack veered left onto the park road, we crossed into the next stretch of woods.
It was fun to compare notes on eating and running. Though Sammi’s a Weight Watchers regular, attending every single week, she doesn’t really count points anymore. We both prefer to just eat something healthy when we feel hungry, whether it’s real or perceived, rather than try to distract ourselves. We’re both hoping to do a marathon this year.
Thus distracted, the trail passed more quickly, especially since there seemed to be less ice on this section. But I let my guard up too soon. Suddenly my legs went flying out from my under me and I crashed down on my left hip. I knew I‘d be sore later, but I wasn‘t really hurt. We kept going.
We’d only seen one other runner since the 3-mile turnoff, but as we approached the last half mile a couple came up on us from behind. We chatted briefly as they slowly moved past and then fell in just ahead of us, and we all trotted back toward the campground lodge for chili and cornbread.
We found Ben, who’d wound up taking the 3-mile route himself and finished running and eating long before we got back. He was hanging out with Noah, a cross country friend. I was glad to see he’d finally put on a sweatshirt. Despite the fact that the temperature was below freezing when we took off, he insisted on running in nothing but shorts and a T-shirt — though he at least agreed to wear a hat.
It was a fun run, and I was glad Katie had let me leave work a few minutes early so we could make it. In this era of shrinking government budgets, it’s cool that the Bluffton Parks Department sponsored an essentially free event, with optional $10 T-shirts. No times were kept, which surely kept costs down.
Since there were no official results, only a few dozen runners, and nobody standing around the finish line — wherever that was — I have no way of knowing whether Sammi and I finished last or not. But on this run, at least, it didn’t really matter.