Lions and tigers and bears. Minus the lions and tigers.
Running in New Hampshire is lovely. Distance-wise and pace-wise, this morning’s effort was uneventful. Eleven miles, average in the 8:20’s. Legs were tight from fifteen yesterday and per my standard operating procedure, the first half-hour was nothing short of a slog. I dread the first 30 minutes of a run; it takes me at least that long to mentally and physically get into a rhythm. Once I reach 40’ or so, things get clicking into place and the miles sail by.
That said, I did have to stop my watch three times on this run. Just as I started hitting the sweet spot in my stride after turning down a side road, two growly mutts come bounding and woofing across their lawn, ready to play. Their owner is yelling, the dogs are leaping after me, and my options are either to sprint down the street toward the main road and lead them straight into traffic, or stop the watch and coax them back to the sweet little old lady in a flower print dress who is now hobbling down her driveway after little Snapsy and Snarlsy.
We exchange benign small-talk while wrangling the furballs into submission, and then I’m on my merry way, making a mental note to avoid this road on future runs. (There’s a long list of roads in this area that I avoid, mostly because the whole being-chased-by-dogs thing happens with comical consistency around here).
So it comes as no great shock that, 10 minutes later, down a dirt road I’d never explored before, another dog is making a bid at my ankles. And this little guy means business. The other two were play-bowing, barking joyfully, all set to dash along and be best friends with me. This one is out for blood, snarling like a demon with mean red eyes to match.
With no other options apparent, I must try my luck at bolting away. He’s yapping his nasty trap off, exposing teeth of the mold that could presumably latch neatly into the meat of my calf, and bearing down on me in short order.
Subconsciously, I resign myself to the inevitability that I am about to be bitten, and won’t this be all kinds of fun.
And then, inches away from my leg, the gnashing little monster starts yowling in pain. And I mean straight-up Looney Toons type stuff. He turns right around and runs away with his tail between his legs, “yipe yipe yipe yipe yipe,” all the way back to his owner, who has materialized on the porch with some kind of large remote control in hand that has enabled him to tase his dog.
I wipe away sweat from my brow that has nothing to do with the exertion of running, feeling pangs of guilt for the fading yelps of this mildly electrocuted pup, and trundle on back to a paved road where I can be confident that no more animal run-ins will occur for the remainder of the route.
I trot by the familiar “Moose Crossing: Next 3 Mi.” sign that I’ve run by dozens of times in the past decade, and laugh to myself. When have I ever seen a moose while on a run? Never. And I won’t see one today.
I make the turn down the final road to head for home, a road I’ve run on hundreds of times. Seven minutes from my driveway, I come around a curve and find myself staring directly into the eyes of a black bear, who has been ambling across the asphalt before stopping cold to assess me.
Oh, oh, oh, ohhhhkay. Stop the watch again.
I look at him. He looks at me. I toy with the idea of turning around and looping back in the other direction to get home. An extra four miles never killed me, but this bear might, right? Yet I stall. The Germany-England game will be starting at 10 AM, and a bear-induced four mile detour will most certainly cause me to miss the ride to the pub to watch it. Priorities?
After a few more seconds, we agree silently that neither of us is presently interested in any kind of bloody altercation, and he continues his slow pigeon-toed lope back into the woods.
I stand there for a moment, uneasy about running past the place this bear just patrolled. I notice a jogger coming up behind me from a ways back, and I wait for her to catch up. I figure that if the bear changes his mind and runs after us, I can definitely outkick this chick and the bear will be too preoccupied with her to take me down. [That’s survival of the fittest, kiddos. Tell me with a straight face you wouldn’t do the same]. In any case, we chitchat about the bear for a moment or two, and once we have moved through the danger zone, I take off for real again.
A few minutes later, I see my aunt running down the road, just starting her route and headed straight for bear territory, so I stop my watch again to give her a heads up. Then I finally get myself on home, into the shower, into the car, and into the bar to watch Germany dismantle England. (After wiping away actual tears following the American loss yesterday, it is nice to just sit and watch and not have my muscles bunching themselves into miserably apprehensive knots over the outcome.)
Anybody else come upon scary animals with this kind of frequency? It’s laughable how many goofy animal encounters I’ve had while out on runs.