— Ernest Hemingway
Little pomp and even less circumstance greeted my crossing last weekend of the imaginary finish line that marked my second terrestrial orbit of Planet Earth — all on foot.
Those who sometimes read this column, and the fewer who admit it, will recall in last Sunday’s edition I wrote of the approach of a personal feat that involved the feet. After about 28 years of jogging, give or take a few months, I had managed to almost make my way around the earth’s circumference (the equatorial midsection) twice ... in a symbolic sense.
That’s about 49,802 miles, figuring the planet’s girth to be some 24,901 miles.
In my early days of running — which was a far cry from today’s geriatric “trot” — I started a running log (sort of a daily journal) at the suggestion of “Runner’s World” magazine. The periodical suggested the log as a tool for staying true to the exercise regime. The rationale was it makes a runner ... in some cases, trotter ... feel better about himself by documenting each day’s effort with a positive number — five miles, six, seven, eight or beyond ... anything but zero.
It promotes consistency.
It encourages weekly goals and monthly objectives.
It advocates improved health and general well-being ... any long-term, negative impact on knees and hips notwithstanding.
Over these many years, I have updated the log religiously and I keep a running total with each entry. That’s how I knew a week ago that I was closing in on completing the second global spin.
In Sunday’s column, I suggested it was going to happen just about any day. Figuring that’s all that folks would have wanted to know — if that much — I was going to leave it alone without further mention. But, somebody did ask about it and then another and then a third. Somebody else here at the office, acting on a request by yet another somebody, even designed a clever computer graphic that showed an image of me standing atop the ocean-covered planet. The colorful poster’s wording carried a “Congratulations” salutation for reaching the 49,802-mile milestone.
It was an awful photograph of me, as all photographs are these days, because it made me look just like ... well, me. Yet, I was touched by the thought behind the awful. Such emotions prompted this second column. For those who didn’t want it, I am sorry.
Early last Sunday morning, my feet — followed by the rest of me, a short time later — hit the mileage milestone at about sunrise.
Technically, it was supposed to have happened on Black Friday, but a combination of long office hours, rain and Thanksgiving threw me off schedule by two days.
That’s just a part of life in running ... er, trotting. Outdoor exercise often falls victim to weather. At one time in my life I ran regardless of rain, sleet or snow. Heck, I was as reliable as the postman and more dependable than the Maytag Repairman. But with age comes wisdom ... and wimpdom.
In my imaginary world, the Oak Grove Elementary School track last Sunday would have been lined by pretty cheerleaders, colorful poms-poms, a live high school band in the oval’s grassy interior playing “We Are The Champions,” and government leaders at all levels would be standing in wait near the mythical finish line marked by a bright, yellow ribbon. Roosters would be heard crowing in the distance as a filtered sun slowly emerged from the eastern horizon.
First lady Michelle Obama would even be there to proudly present a certificate of good health. I would accept it with boyish charm and modest heroics while stealing a longer-than-proper embrace with the White House’s attractive moniker of modern fitness. Secret Service agents in black garb and dark sunshades (probably just getting a headstart on the pending sunrise) would step in and suggest that I step away.
Cameras would flash, microphones with big foamy heads would be shoved into my face and reporters would scramble for positioning around my sweaty, tired frame — all asking the same question, “How does it feel?”
Alas, that’s not how it played out. Instead, my only welcoming party was a gang of smart-alecky squirrels with whom I had rumbled before. Their idea of fun had always been to wait until the last second and then scamper across the track directly in my path. The high-risk maneuver often led to my misstep and near fall.
On this morning, they saw me coming — the same, boring, two-legged trotter whom they had dubbed “thunderfoot” years earlier.
Several lined a heavy oak limb that hovered high above the track ahead of me. They sat on their haunches, waiting for me to pass under. I looked up at them. They looked down at me.
Although they seemed well-behaved, perhaps even mannerly, I smelled a set-up. I was right.
As I approached, they held my stare. It was then a grey blur with bouncing tail whisked across the track just inches from my next step. Per expectation, I braked, stumbled and almost fell.
In typical squirrel fashion, they laughed. Think Alvin. It was that kind of chipmunk giggle.
I frowned. But I kept trotting, all the while muttering insults over my shoulder in their direction. I tasked their ancestors as well.
Passing beneath another limb, acorns began to rain down. Because I was wearing my hoodie, I could only feel the “thump thump” of the pelts. I could not see them. I hoped it was only acorns.
Even in the face of trotting history, I suppose squirrels will be squirrels. Being just varmints that are not far removed from the common rat, they probably didn’t understand the significance of a man and his dream of circling Planet Earth ... twice.
A firm proponent of turning the other cheek, I have already forgiven their antics of last Sunday.
Besides, life is too short to dwell upon the negative.
The world awaits. And I must circle it yet again. By starting now, I should arrive sometime around Jan. 1, 2026.
It promises to be another long voyage, one filled with countless twists and turns, foresights and hindsights, lessons learned and memories made.
See you on the other side, folks.
... And happy trails.