I'd given up on my run when I saw them. I got up early -- just not early enough, apparently -- to run on the Gettysburg battlefields tour. It was supposed to be my version of a "rave run."
My water bottle, nearly empty, called my name. But not as much as my car, parked about half a mile away. I was ready to quit. I'd run three miles. Schedule called for 10k. I was OK with half that. Right?
Did I mention I was hot?
That's when half a dozen Army soldiers in fatigues poured out of their van and walked toward a monument right in front of me. The oldest caught my attention. "Great day for a run, huh?" His words struck me. They almost shamed me. Here I was, decked out in some of the best wicking gear I own, water bottle belt around my waist and perfectly good shoes. They, in long sleeves, hats, boots. Working. For my sorry butt.
"Yeah, it really is a perfect day, sir," I managed to croak. He was obviously a runner because he kept looking my way with a look that said he'd rather lace up. One of the other soldiers was already going through the location's defensive strengths, the others taking notes.
So I ran. The whole 6.2 miles my plan called for. I didn't regret it, even as I struggled.
That's not the first time I've had to force myself to go "just a little longer." Or "just to that tree." Or even "just to that lamp post."
Sometimes running is plain hard. It would be much easier to quit. But I won't. Because not running is worse.
When I first started running, I just hated it. Then I hated it a little less, but I didn't really like it. I ran only because I could no longer do tae kwon do. Then I had shoulder surgery. And I had to sit the whole running thing out for more than three months. That's when I really fell in love with running.
It was all I could think of. I even joined a gym so I could run on a treadmill when the doctor reluctantly gave me the OK.
I usually think about those months when I'm having a particularly tough run. Today, I thought about those soldiers in their fatigues. And I prayed for their safety. I got my rave run, after all.