Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A surprise running partner

Sometimes I feel like I write about running too often. I know that most of my readers are not runners, and when writing, one should always keep the audience in mind. But it is such an important part of my life, I can't ignore the things that happen while I'm out for a run. After all, it may be the thing I do for the most amount of time after sleeping and working. So, if you are bored with my running posts, feel free to skip them. I won't be offended.

Yesterday was my day to run. I had contemplated running in the morning since my train arrived from Tbilisi at 6:30 a.m. and I didn't have to be at school to teach until 9:45. But when I got to the house, I started talking with Tea about the weekend's adventures and ran out of time. No problem, I would run in the afternoon, as usual.

Afternoon came around, and because it was hot and sunny, I put off going out until the sun had started going down. Tea and I sat in the living room talking while Elene bounced around from one place to another. I mentioned that the sun was low enough to keep me from sweltering in the heat, so I was going to change my clothes and head out. Elene piped up and said that she wanted to run with me -- this was a first. Tea and I both chuckled incredulously, but she insisted that she could run with me. Tea was ready to tell her, "No," but I said that she could come with me until she got tired, and then she could come back home. I told her that I was going to run to the bridge (20 minutes away), and I would not carry her home if she went further then she should. Tea translated for me to be sure that Elene understood the deal. She nodded in agreement and bounced off to find her sneakers.

Five minutes later, we walked out the front gate. Dog bounded out behind us, smiling a big dog-smile. I thought that maybe he would join us, but instead, he loped off into the cemetery across the road to pee on the gravestones and fence posts. I looked down at Elene who, at almost 8 years old, comes up to about my elbow and said, "Are you ready?" She gave me a bright-eyed nod, and we started down the road.

Since her legs are half the length of mine, I slowed my normal pace to a jog. Elene's legs were churning at the pace mine would usually be hitting. She looked up at me and smiled.

I expected her to tire about the time we reached the school (a half-mile away), but when we reached the school, I asked her if she was tired. She shook her head, still keeping pace with me. We ran on, greeting everyone who exclaimed in surprise to see Elene running with me. They are all used to seeing me out on the road, but not with Elene in tow.

When we got a mile down the road (a little less than halfway to the bridge), Elene started to get winded. I asked her again if she was tired. And again, she said no. I started thinking that she would be able to run to the bridge..... but back to the house? Probably not. I could also tell that she was not going to turn around on her own to go back home. I decided to turn around with her, run back to the house, drop her off, and go out for another couple of miles.

Another quarter-mile out, I told her that we were going to turn around and that I would run back with her. She didn't argue as we doubled back toward the house. She did point to her cheeks and ask (in English), "Is it red?" I said yes and asked if mine were, too. She said yes. (She rarely speaks to me in English even though she knows a lot. The exercise must have tightened up a connection between her brain and her tongue.)

We ran back to the house -- she was tired on the return run, but I encouraged her along. She was very proud of herself when we got back to the house. I congratulated her on a great run, and went back out to pick up the pace for my last two miles.

So, I may have a new running partner. She wants to run with me again tomorrow. I think it's great!

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