I ran 18 miles today, good lord. It’s the furthest I have ran in over two years. And while I feel a little giddy-stoned from running for that far, at least I have my cigarettes and coffee to make me feel a bit more grounded, a bit more in my body and mind after I spent so much time just wandering through the mountains of Cripple Creek, CO. Which makes me reflect on what the hell did I think about for all of that time? I do not know where my mind goes when I run. It wanders off, singing songs and thinking about other runs and races I have done. But today, I did have other thoughts about dogs to consume my brain.
Today, a dog followed me for six miles. When we were three miles away from her house, the dog looked a little confused and lost, so I decided to turn around and run her the three miles back to her part of the neighborhood. She is a dark colored German Shepard mix, and I have taken to calling her Sheila. I do not know why Sheila, but that’s just what I call her. In the past few weeks when I’ve done long runs, she has followed me for a little bit, the returned home. Today she was waiting at the top of the May Queen Road hill for me. When I get to that spot on my long runs, Sheila usually comes chasing after me from down the road. But not today as she stood attentively, looking for me as I came up the hill. Sheila has become my companion on my long runs, and I am reminded by her of my dog Athena.
Athena was a beautiful Blue Healer/Australian Shepard mix, and I would take her on runs with me in Texas. One of the country roads behind my college was permanently blocked off from cars, because there was a small hole in a bridge that crossed over a creek. I took Athena on this road with me, and let her off the leash once we got past the cemetery and the road block. She would race ahead of me, her tail, like Sheila’s when she sprints off, swinging behind her. There were two hills in the short three mile run, and Athena would always wait at the top of them for me to catch up.
Today when I saw Sheila at the top of May Queen, I thought of Athena. And I looked down at my leg where I have a tattoo of Athena so she will always be running with me. And even though she’s almost thirteen years old now, and has a bum leg and hip from falling in a hole when she jumped for a Frisbee, and she lives in Chicago with a different family now, she still runs with me. The tattoo keeps her close by, keeps her continuously contemplative as she rest easily on my running leg.
And so maybe what I think about when I run and sing to myself is those past runs with Athena, the way we would soar together down empty country roads. And perhaps a part of Athena has found me again, trudging up that hill as Sheila waits for me, then accompanies me back to what feels like home, to those memories of Athena.