I'm running 7:25 splits. Eight miles in. I haven't got stuck at an intersection. Not that I ever do. Runners got the right-of-way. And like my buddy Randy Run 'N Gun would say, I'm zen. Very ******* zen. Used to be a walker. Not no more. Not after the heart attack. No, siree, I'm a runner. A good runner. Lost 45 pounds. I did. I did. I stick to the left side of the road. So I can see the guilt in the drivers' eyes as they pass by. They're thinking, there's an old man out there taking care of hisself. I should be taking care of myself.
And they should. They really should.
But what's exercise to the people in this town? A walk down the block to Loaf 'N Jug for a Snickers, that's what. Or if you're a rich *****, it's twenty minutes on a Stairmaster three times a week. And I have to wonder if they're really doing it for them, you know?
I'm on the way back to the house. I peel off 30th, cutting across four lanes of traffic. Head into Garden of the Gods park. I do this so people get the right idea of the city. When I was a tourist here, I thought to myself, why's everybody all lumpy-assed and tied to children. Made a promise to myself. Told myself, when you move out there, you're going to be the trophy. So, I run through the red rocks and insert myself, mid-stride, into all those family photos. That way, when they get home, they'll point at their pictures and say, everyone in Colorado is so fit.
Now I'm getting close to the spot. It happened about a mile--mile and a half into the Snake Trail over by that 30-foot tall rock that looks a bit like Lyndon Johnson. I was a tourist and a walker then. Not no more. Not ever again.
There's a stretch of blacktop that cuts Snake Trail in two. I can't remember the name of the road. I think it's named after some preacher who got cholera, lost his faith, regained his faith in the end. One of those touching trajectories. Those stories always sound like a lot of fluffy *******, if you ask me.
Cars are backed up on Wishy-Washy Preacher Road. There's a crowd of people gathered in the middle. I look at my running watch. I don't like this. This is the kind of unplanned circumstance that skews your splits. Then your run time makes you feel like a lumpy-***, and that ain't me. Not no more.
I start pushing through the crowd. There's a lot of whispering and a lot of little kids all snotty and teary-eyed. And it's all just frustrating, because I feel like I'm cutting through molasses. I look at my running watch. I reach the center of the crowd.
A mule deer had been runover--well, halfway. The stupid beast still uses his front legs, dragging his crumpled and ****** backside along in a mad circle. A screechy whimper comes out in intervals like beeping hospital machinery. He's so scared, some middle-aged woman with a kid to each hip, says. A longbeard, beergut hippie starts into a prayer,
Gods of the natural world, gods of the sweet animal kingdom,
we ask that you wrap this wounded beacon of your light
into your warm embrace. May you replace his great pain
with the great comfort of your cool breezes, with the great
comfort of your warm sun, with the great comfort of fresh water.
I unzip my running belt. It's not a ***** pack. I pull out my NAA Guardian .32 automatic. It's not a woman's weapon. See, Randy Run 'N Gun, got his name because he invented this kind of running. I respect him for it. Got nothing but respect for that man. See, a fella has to be prepared at all times. There are mountain lions. There are bears. And perhaps worst of all are all these ******* mule deers. They ain't even scared of people. They stop and wait for you to feed them, blocking the sidewalk when I run, skewing my splits.
These hippies ain't going to do ****. They're taking photos with their cellulars and saying theologically vague prayers. And all these tourists are watching. So I walk right up to the mule deer. Someone behind me breathes in so hard, it's like she vacuumed all the sound. Pop. Pop. The beast stops its beeping. Legs twitch. Legs stop twitching. I'm the only one with courage enough to grant a mercy ****.
It's all about doing. Right? That's what the heart attack taught me. Before the heart attack, I thought about being a runner. The rhythm of it, the mechanical discipline appealed to me. Liked the idea of doing a marathon or the sound of it. I was walking in Garden of the Gods. Noticed the LBJ rock, said to myself, Holy hell that looks like Lyndon Johnson. I heard these quick steps coming from behind me. I thought some potstentch, beergut hippie was going stab me. Felt like the gears at the center of me came off their handle. The right side of me just wasn't there anymore. As I fell I saw it was only a runner.
I reach the Lyndon Johnson rock. I'm eleven miles in. My splits have averaged to 7:43. ******* deer. The ground is lower at the spot where I had the heart attack. Why? Because I dug a hole there, that's why. The old me, the walking me, the tourist me lies dead in that hole. As I pass by, I spit it the ditch as I always do. Good riddance. Yep. Yep.
The trail finally turns downward. A little more oxygen in Ute Valley. Randy Run 'N Gun he calls moments like this, Runner's Reward. And I like that. Nature's okay. The cedars, the meadows, rivers -- all that **** -- is just fine. But what I like about running is the metaphor. See all the hippies, all the tourists they live their lives in a constant state of reward. They think, I'm alive, so I'll smoke this ***. They think, I'm alive, so I'll take ******* pictures of everything. But runners, runners know that you don't deserve life. It's a gift to be earned. So you work your *** off. Mile after mile. A reward for me is a valley. The reward doesn't last long, just long enough for me to catch my breath, you know?
I exit the valley. I pick up the pace. Try to make up for earlier delay. I cross Flying W Ranch Road. I hear metal-scraping-metal. And I'm hit.
I'm in the air. I'm sliding. I'm bouncing. My knees and elbows are hot. I blink.
A woman in a bright pink tank top and yoga pants stands over me. Stay in the car, Jacob, she shouts. Oh my god, oh my god.
I tell her runners have the right-of-way. But she doesn't respond. I say, Lady help me up, you're ******* up my splits. But she doesn't respond to that. She repeats over and over, You're going to be okay. Your'e going to be okay. Just keep looking at me.
I turn my head. The display on my watch is cracked. I can't read my splits average. My head is a ton of bricks. My elbows and knees are hot.
Jacob, stop, the woman says.
Her boy stands over me, taking pictures with his cellular.