I don’t like to run. In fact, I have always hated running. My first memories of this hatred go back to about 7th grade, when I was always near the back of the pack during PE class jogs, despising every second, having to force one foot in front of the other, fantasizing about various ways to get out of the final quarter mile.
If I fell into a hole or tripped on a giant rock right now and sprained my ankle, I wouldn’t have to endure the last 100 yards of this hell. If I passed out, someone would carry me.
This went on through high school, where I only played sports that required very little distance running — no soccer, basketball, or track for this girl. I never jogged for exercise or “fun” during my college or post-college years.
Then, a few years ago, I decided to give running a try, because everyone seemed to be doing it, and hey — it’s free. I started a Couch to 5 K program, and did OK with it. Then I just kept forcing myself to run a few times a week. My feelings went from “seething hatred” to “dread” to “mild distaste” to “hey this is almost tolerable.”
So now here I am, forcing myself out to run a couple of times a week. I just moved from sea level to 7,000 ft. so the acclimatization process is kind of painful, but I’m working through it.
And then this happens:
Now, I live in the mountains and I know there are rattlesnakes out here. This isn’t the first one I’ve seen. There are also tarantulas, centipedes, scorpions, coyotes, and probably bears and mountain lions.
But here’s the thing about seeing a snake while you’re out running. You unstrap your phone from your arm and take a picture (zoomed in, of course). Then you carefully skirt the snake, giving it a wide orbit just in case it is a snake with a ‘TUDE. Then you continue on your way. And then…. no matter where you look, everything is a snake.
Tiny lizard running into the grass = snake.
That twisty swervy crack in the asphalt up ahead? BIG SNAKE.
Twigs by the side of the road = whole bunch of snakes.
Tumbleweed blowing across the road behind you? Sounds like a snake to me!
Dainty yellow butterfly alighting delicately on the blooming purple sage? DEFINITELY A SNAKE!!
You get a little jumpy, is what I’m saying. And the rest of your jog is socked in by an overwhelming paranoia that the snakes are plotting against you and surely this will be like a bad Sci-Fi movie where a jogger gets eaten by a 40-foot rattlesnake before the opening credits even start, and that jogger is you.
The last half-mile is a steady uphill slog. I can barely walk it without passing out, much less run it. So I trudge onward and upward. One foot in front of the other, cursing these stupid ideas of “running” and “exercise” and “health” and scanning the brush and road, seeing the snake in everything.
Onward. Upward. Left, right, left, right.
If a snake bit me right now, I wouldn’t have to go this last half mile. If a snake bit me right now, someone would carry me home.