Las Vegas Ragnar: The blessing of Leg 24

I fell for the first time about a half-mile into my 7.8 miles.
And when I say I fell, I mean I flopped onto my stomach, my headlamp flew off and I scraped up my hands and knees.
“Oh, are you okay?” said a runner who seemed to appear out of no where.
If you’ve ever fallen in public then you’ll understand how humiliating that question is. I assured him I was fine (you can run with a bruised ego), and thanked him for his concern.
I walked for a minute and then started running again. Very quickly I realized this was going to be a lot more difficult than I’d anticipated.
I was, in fact, looking forward to leg 24 of the Las Vegas Ragnar Relay. It was billed as hard, but about six of the 7.8 miles were a trail. Well, the first thing I realized, besides the fact that dead animals don’t freak me out as much as falling in the dark, is that my definition of a trail and Ragnar’s definition of a trail might not be the same.
As one person said, “It was more like a dry creek bed with some washed out sections.”
Rocks, and I mean substantial rocks, littered every part of the trail. If I tried to run in the tire ruts, I risked stepping into a hole or sand that fell away when I stepped on it. I rolled my ankle more times than I can count, but thankfully didn’t do any damage.
The only thing I can liken it to is this:
Have you’ve ever run through an obstacle course that had a section of tires you had to high step through?
Well imagine doing that for six miles.
“Hey, I’m stuck on the stair climber and I can’t get off!”
Walking was equally unattractive. Not only did it prolong my time on the stairway to exhaustion but I started thinking about what might actually live in that sage brush. There were no lights. And hey, I watch Animal Planet, I know the carnivore always goes for the slow, weak but slightly meaty one who just can’t seem to keep pace with the pack.
So I kept pushing.
I found myself wishing that someone passing me, or someone I passed might actually run/walk at my pace. No luck.
I lost one of my dogs last week. He was 80ish in dog years, but he was my loyal and loving friend for 12 years. Mojo was a lover. A 100-pound Golden Retriever, he’d actually try and climb in my lap back when he was more agile. He loved stuffed animals, and when I say love, I mean he carried them around and DID NOT chew them to pieces. He did however eat baseballs and just about any kind of food, including French fries.
He used to run with me and my Red Heeler Lucy. But eventually, his hips made it impossible for him to get in and out of my truck, and his recovery time kept getting longer and harder.
It killed me to leave him home while Lucy bounded around on a leash. He has the best eyes. They were so full of personality, and when I’d leave him, he looked so sad.
I could tell he was a kid trapped in some old guy’s body.
The last six or seven months were tough for him. It is hard to watch someone you love suffer, especially when that someone can’t do much for himself. He went downhill pretty quickly and died laying on his bed about 20 feet from where I write stories every day.
So when I found myself growing frustrated on those rocks, I thought of him. He was a favorite at the veterinarian’s office because nothing seemed to bother him. Even during painful procedures, when other dogs would howl, cry or snap, he just looked at you with those brown eyes, sort of like he understood you were trying to help him.
“This is one good dog,” my vet once told me. “Really a sweetheart.”
Just thinking of him made me move a little faster. When we first started running, I put him on a leash that wrapped around my waist and he definitely helped me up the hills.
I shined the light on the rocks, and thought about how much he would love to run through this brush. There were a lot of funky things to smell on that “trail” and he would have been wagging his tail and smiling with those eyes.
“This is where you push,” I said to myself. “This is what makes you strong.”
I moved from rock to rock, not with grace or beauty, and definitely not with speed. But I moved forward. I was, in my heart, having one last run with my Mojo, one last adventure. And this time his hips didn’t hurt.
After a few minutes, my attitude about that trail began to shift. It stunk, believe me, from start to finish.
But as I huffed and puffed, and felt the sting in my legs, I said a little prayer thanking God for the chance to love a soul like his. I am not sure I deserve a friendship like his, but I will be grateful for his affection until the day I join him on that trail in the sky.
After I finished I complained. I heard a lot of others complaining about the leg, as well. It was tough. But that’s sort of the point of Ragnar isn’t it? To seek out that which brings you to your knees?
It isn’t the easy trails that teach us the value of true love. It’s the ones that are ugly and scary that force us to find the strength within ourselves and within those we meet along the way.

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