I was sitting in my car at the stop light right before the trails when I saw her.
The other me.
I had noticed her many times before on my local running trail. The trail is a favorite of mine, and it would appear for her as well.
I call her Gertie. I guess Amanda or Liz would fit her well, too. But Gertie is what stuck.
I first noticed Gertie a couple of years ago. Looking back, I realize I was at my peak running performance. I had lost a lot of weight and would fly through the trails. I felt strong, confident and unstoppable as runner, if nowhere else. Nothing stopped me from running. Until the foot pain came that spread from one foot to the other.
Now I long to hit those carefree strides. Where I could feel my breath stay slow and controlled while my legs reached so far ahead of me. I could feel the wind I created on the tips of my ears. I would turn my head to look behind me and watch the leaves dance in my wake.
Gertie came on the path as I flew, and was a mirror image of myself years earlier. The only difference in our appearance was Gertie’s dark black, curly hair and bright blue eyes to my plain Jane brown hair and brown eyes. I wonder if she calls me Jane?
Gertie battled the trail in the beginning. She battled extra weight. She ran slow at first, her arms tugging her along. Her head swayed from side to side, with her eyes closed a lot. She ran on will. The will to change.
And change she did. To a strong, confident runner who flew. She shrunk in size but gained so much heart. She returned my waves, my smiles. As I ran back and forth on those trails to collect miles, so did she. Waves turned into thumbs up. “Great job!” and “Keep it up” choruses were shared between us.
Until I went down. It was on that trail that foot pain brought me to a halt. And has kept me down.
I still saw Gertie as I jogged those trails with my foot all taped up. My speed had slowed. My head had gone down and swayed from side to side. My eyes closed thinking of the times I felt like I was twenty feet above the ground as I soared. Anxious to hit those fast carefree strides I had enjoyed and watched Gertie take daily.
Until I saw her as I sat in my car at the stoplight. I was not even going to the trails to run, but to meet a friend for a brisk walk along the trails. Still all taped up.
And so was Gertie.
I saw her climb the hill leading to the trails. Gertie’s head was down and swayed from side to side. Her body moved forward with the momentum of her arms, her speed had slowed considerably.
And her right knee was bound with a brace.
“Oh, Gertie, no! Stop running!” I said aloud.
I realized the irony in my statement immediately. I saw her painful trek. I knew what she was longing for. I watched her lose weight with the help of running. I knew she wasn’t doing herself any good running on that knee. Not if her stride looked like that. She needed to rest.
I know the words runners hate to hear. “No running. Rest.” But I saw why we need to stop running and rest at the stop light that day. I feel a special connection to Gertie. She reminds me of me. Watching her lose weight, gain confidence, fly as a runner, hit the trails for miles and miles and then limp with running pain.
But there comes a time when we have to stop. Or pain will lead to injury and we will have to stop for a much longer time.
I had to stop last year. Before I reached that point again this year, I pulled back. Finding that balance is important. I hope Gertie finds it soon. And I can’t wait to see her again in the spring, on the trails chasing miles. I am excited to give the other me a thumbs up and yell, “Nice work!”
See you then, Gertie. See you then!