Lovely run a couple of weeks ago. It was in the build-up to my half marathon, and previous runs had been fraught with tired legs and crippling self-doubt. But this steady ten miler really did the trick and gave me the confidence that I might actually be okay. Unfortunately, there was another thing…
It was an out-and-back route, and the last couple of miles before the turnaround point consisted of a straight country road in the middle of nowhere. The footpath was flowing nicely beneath my feet, and I noticed that up ahead there was a bloke walking a couple of dogs. He was wearing a high-viz jacket, and they weren’t , because they were dogs. Anyway, as I got within about 100 metres of him, my watch beeped to let me know that I’d done five miles and it was now time to spin round and start the return leg towards home, where chocolate milk was waiting for me1. At that very exact same moment, the chap in front moved over to the right, stepping off the footpath and pulling his dogs in close while gesturing for me to come past.
I was too far away to start a conversation, so as I slowed to a halt I did my best to mime the message “no it’s fine, you carry on”. He joined in the impromptu charades with a hand flourish that seemed to say “no, I insist. I’ve moved aside now, and if you don’t keep running then it means I’ve stepped on this dead hedgehog for nothing”.
If I gave in to his well-intended insistence, I’d have had to run past him and then keep going for long enough that it didn’t seem weird. It’s the sort of thing I’d usually do, but would probably add at least another hundred miles to my run (similar to what happened in this totally true story), and so I stuck with my original plan. I jabbed my thumb back in the direction I’d come, and shouted “thanks anyway”, before turning and legging it back along the path. The return leg started off blissfully and, as I sped2 away from dog man, I was warmed by his little gesture of kindness.
“He must have thought I was a bit odd though”, I mused.
“No”, added the slightly lower-down traitorous part of my brain, “he just assumed you were scared of dogs”.
“Yep, as far as he was concerned, you took one look at his little spaniels and decided that you’d turn and run miles out of your way rather than have to pass within a few feet of them”.
Dearest reader, I’m not scared of dogs. I love them. They’re my favourite. I’ve been around them all my life. I’ve even trained with them at work, which basically involved being hunted around an abandoned industrial unit by a snarling ball of furry fury until it cornered me in a store cupboard, where the only things that stopped it from eating me were the iron grip of his handler and a squeaky rubber bone. I thought I’d illustrate this by posting some pictures of me with dogs. Like I said, I’ve been around canine chums for my entire life, so I must have plenty of photos.
No, it turns out I mustn’t. I couldn’t find a single picture of myself with a dog. So now I’m starting to wonder if I imagined the whole thing.
If any of my readers could write in and let me know once and for all whether I’m scared of dogs, that’d be great, thanks.
1 My watch didn’t actually tell me the bit about chocolate milk. I had to work that out for myself, which I feel is a massive shortcoming on the part of Mr Garmin.
2 The word “sped” is used for entertainment/novelty purposes only and is in no way intended to be illustrative of my running.
UPDATE: Many thanks to Heloise Horton for giving my brain a nudge and reminding me of this post from yesteryear: One man and somebody else’s dog. So it turns out that the only things I’m scared of are: jellyfish, zombies, paper-cuts, toenails, King Kongs, social situations, global warming and spooky ghosts.