I went on a run this morning; I woke up with the sun peaking through my blinds and could no longer sleep, so I got up, put my shoes on and went for a run down my street.  It was warm, heavy and humid – the kind of warmth that presses in on your sides and weighs on your shoulders like an ox yoke.

I started out down the street, turned left onto the Huckleberry Trail and then up the few steps onto a side road that leads to a hidden driveway that runs parallel to main street.  The gravel on the driveway behind the houses facing the main road crunches nicely beneath your feet – the the tiny rocks spreading into an even grind beneath your forefoot – and so I go running here a lot to escape.

I crossed over main street and started up the golf course hill, winding up and around the paths all the way to the top, expecting a magnificent view.  Instead, the haze clouded over the mountains usually seen in the distance; just a gray veil hiding the crests and troughs of the blue ridges.

I descended disappointed, but continued on, back over main street, past Draper Road, past Preston Avenue, and back onto the Huckleberry Trail by Margaret Beeks Elementary. Up ahead I saw a man walking his dog. The man’s hair was grey and cropped and he wore a simple white undershirt with jeans and a scuffed pair of boots. Now normally when passing people on the huck, elderly or not there is an unwritten and unmentioned rule that, out of courtesy, the runner is responsible for announcing their presence to the unsuspecting walker/biker/runner etc. Normally this can easily be done with a louder cough, a couple shuffles of the sneakers on the pavement, or even just a loud, but fake, sneeze. Some resort to the ‘behind you’ call out, but only those who really don’t mind going out of their way. Afterwards the person, being alerted to the runner’s presence moves aside/stops/slows and lets the runner pass. Sometimes, when the person has not been sufficiently warned, they jump, startle, or even scream softly; it’s not pleasant and I as a runner do not enjoy scaring people, but sometimes it is inevitable and I think how would I feel if a malnourished looking skeleton came up beside me all of a sudden.

Anyways, I approached the man and his dog – a small grey dog with shaggy fur which I assumed his wife had picked out, he at first opposing the animal and then later growing to love it, leading to him taking it for walks by himself later on. I projected a double alert system as this was an older man who looked like he might have a little trouble hearing even if you were right beside him. I scuffed my feet against the path and coughed a few times like I was clearing something from my throat. Thinking he had been warned and even believing that he had moved to the side of the path slightly for me to pass by, I continued on.

Out of all the reactions I have ever encountered while running, I have never met a person who wanted to fight and so when I came up on the man’s side and he turned in a flash poised like a 1920’s prize fighter, holding his fists one behind the other, ready to strike his attacker, me, at any instant, I can say that I was thoroughly surprised. I threw my hands in the air and immediately apologized after which the man calmed and assured me it wasn’t anything to apologize for, that I had only given him a start. I turned and eventually finished my run, thinking the entire rest the way about what would have happened if the man had been a little more frightened. Would he have punched me? If so, where would it have landed? I wasn’t much taller so I would assume the face, but judging from his stance he may have had some experience. Would he have gone for the gut then to the side of the face, finishing with an upper cut to leave me unconscious on the side of the Huckleberry? Could I have taken an old-man punch? I’d like to think I could. I’d like to think I’m pretty tough sometimes, but really it might just be a farce as I haven’t fought, and don’t intend to, anyone since elementary school.

Moral of the story is, nothing really. Maybe, don’t trust old men. Or, don’t surprise them half-naked – top half – while they’re walking their dogs in the morning. Either way, I learned my lesson I guess and haven’t seen the man since. I think if I did, maybe I might stop and do a couple fake jabs at him to see what would happen. Or maybe I’d just run past and nod silently, hoping he didn’t finish what he’d almost started.