Monday, December 31, 2007

Running company

Over the weekend, I ran 3.5 miles with Pepper at Radnor and 5.5 miles with two buddies at Percy Warner Park. Running with a dog and running with friends is very different than running alone. Ah, you say, running is running. As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend."

Running with a dog not quite two years old is challenging enough. He wants to sniff everything and everybody. Throw in the mix that one of every three folks at the park have their own dog, some of them not so friendly, and your run becomes a tug-a-thon between you and your dog. Now add the fact that your dog, who is deaf, likes to veer on occasion underneath you (he can't hear my footsteps), and you have the perfect storm ... a cluster run. Running with Pepper in the neighborhood is a little easier, but we have a few dogs who like to mess with us. All that said, it's a blast to take Pepper for runs. He loves it, and so do I. Good bonding time.

Running with friends is wholly different. Yesterday at 3 p.m., I met friends Kris Kemp and Michael Kohl at the gates of Percy Warner. Kris wanted to run the horse or walking trails, but I lobbied for a run on the asphalt because of the recent rain. I like my new Brooks shoes clean. So we headed up the steep steps at the front of the park, then veered right. We cut off part of the 5.8 mile loop, reducing it just a shade.

The weather yesterday was absolutely perfect for taking on the park's steep hills. The biggest challenge is Three Mile Hill, a steep 0.7 mile incline. In the summer, I've had some bad experiences on this hill when I've been out of shape. Bonk city, in fact. I was curious how I would take the hill on such a perfect day with two friends and some recent good hill running at Radnor. When we started up the slope, I felt light, almost frisky. We were running at an easy pace up to that point, probably a 9:15 pace or slower. I didn't fall off that pace much up the hill. In fact, I actually felt like busting up the hill midway up, but didn't want to be anti-social. At the top, we regrouped and returned to group running. Before I knew it, we were back at our cars. That's what happens with group running ... it goes by so quickly. Conversation, when humorous (Michael Kohl is a trip) and interesting (I enjoy talking current events with Kris), makes a 55-minute run seem like a 20-minute trot.

After some good running, I'm all about reaping some rewards. Every year, Mark Faulkner, the deacon at our church who has been dear to Dori and my family, and his wife Sue throw a pre-New Year's Eve Party. It's always a lot of fun with good food. Everyone brings a dish and the Faulkners provide the booze. I brought some Texas-style brisket and whole chickens that I smoked the day before. Toss in some tasty nine-layer dip, husk-wrapped tamales, fried mushrooms and cheese, and a few Coronas, and I was one happy 42-year-old. My friends Tony and Mary Belle Grande and Michael then joined me for a beverage or two at the Corner Pub. It was GREAT to get out of the house, see friends and frequent a neighborhood haunt. Of course, due to last night's "sinning" and an approaching cold front, I'm heading off to Radnor soon for another run. Kathryn wants to join me, so we'll be doing 2.5 miles max.

Dori feels great; she's on the treadmill the Antonys gave her listening to 80s tunes. She and I are looking forward to this year, as you can imagine. Happy New Year, everyone!

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