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A Perfect Stranger

Friday night I went on a 12-mile training run along Bayshore Boulevard. I had made it through the toughest part--the halfway turnaround--and I was about three-quarters done with the run when some instinctive calling told me to stop and turn around, observe the sky. It was about 8:20 p.m., and an earlier storm had left behind a sky of cloud that veiled the intensity of the summer sun. And even though the sun does not set over this particular bay, the Hillsborough Bay (the shore of which faces east), the muted sun did a couple of magical things that I had to stop and take pictures of.

The first thing it did was cast a golden gleam onto the buildings of downtown Tampa. From the distance at which I stood, the buildings were not so recognizable that they were familiar; instead, the golden speckles made the downtown area look to me like a gilded city, another place entirely.

Still smiling from this encounter, I continued on my run. I was about 8.5 miles in when I decided on a whim to look up at the sky behind me. This is what I saw:

I won't say I was as emotionally overtaken as the notorious double-rainbow guy at Yosemite, but I was touched enough to get the attention of the guy running behind me and to show him the rainbow that was cutting through the clouds in the pink-tinted sky. I said, somewhat in awe, "There's a rainbow." He looked up and said, "Oh, yeah." So maybe he wasn't as moved as I was. But he did thank me before carrying on with his run. The sun went down so quickly after that, that had I not stopped him in that moment, he might not have seen the glory in the sky. 

I eventually continued back on my run, now a bit exalted from nature's impromptu slideshow. I looked up ahead and saw the same guy I had stopped, now stopped again on the sidewalk. But he wasn't doing anything--just standing there. Once I caught up to him, he turned to me and asked if he could run with me. I was a little taken aback, but the first thought I had was, maybe he did care about the rainbow! No stranger has ever asked to run with me before, and it was almost dark out, but after a slight hesitation, I told him, "Sure. If you can run as slow as I can." He asked how far I was running, and I told him just a couple more miles. We talked about running, mostly--our backgrounds in it, our goals, etc. He turned out to be a nice, harmless guy. He also alluded to his wife somewhat early on, which made me feel a bit safer. After almost two miles, I told him I was about to go off of Bayshore and onto an upcoming street, hoping that would signal our departure (friendly or not, I didn't quite want him following me home). Then he thanked me for running with him. He said he wouldn't have gone as far if it weren't for me, and that made me feel really good. I thanked him, too, for his company made those last couple miles of a long run much easier to bear. Almost as an afterthought, we exchanged names. He told me he runs a few times a week on Bayshore, and I said I'd keep an eye out for him. 

Though I started my run solo, by the end of the run I had felt the warm companionship of both nature and a fellow runner.


Runner said…
Nice post! I love those moments when a long run is brightened by nature!

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