The Accidental Jogger

In my career as an athletic trainer I encountered a lot of people who liked to run long distances. Some of them even seemed sane. Many rhapsodized about the ‘endorphin high’, which apparently occurs when you punish your body to the point that it begins to crank out its own painkillers in self defense. As thrilling as that sounds, I decided to pass. My lungs are not meant to bleed.

Given all that, you can see why I was amazed to find myself jogging a while back. Obviously, I hadn’t planned to jog. If such a plan had crossed my mind I would have had the good sense to stay on my couch until it went its merry way, as most of my thoughts are prone to do. My husband, however, needed a fuel pickup at the hayfield. I needed exercise. I agreed to take the pickup out then walk home, crossing the north pasture both ways. I noticed our small band of Longhorns was clear over in the farthest corner so I left the gate open on my way through. I really should know better. These are not normal cows.

I parked, got out, and set off across the field for home, prepared for a leisurely sunset stroll. A hundred yards from the pick-up I realized the Longhorns had stopped pretending to graze and were marching directly toward the open gate with a big old black spotted cow taking the lead. I could practically hear her calling cadence to keep everyone stepping along smartly. Worse, the bull seemed a little testy. Rumbling and growling and shaking his impressive horns.

I looked back. Looked forward. If I went for the pick-up they’d beat me to the gate which would mean saddling a horse to gather them up again. I had the angle on them, though. If I kept going on foot, picked up the pace, surely I could get to the corral first. I broke into a trot, blundered down the rock strewn trail into the coulee, hopscotched across the bog at the bottom and staggered up the other side, rubber-legged and huffing like a steam engine. The Longhorns still gained ground, topping the hill straight east of me with only a short side draw separating us.

Uh-oh. Not good. I was now in the dead center of the pasture at the spot farthest any fence. The bull glared at me and did more rumbling and head shaking while the lead cow made a swift command decision. Forget the gate. She led her pack straight south, cutting off my route to the corrals. I had no choice but to make for the south fence.

Ignoring the protests of my oxygen-deprived body, I kicked into a brisk jog. The lead cow also picked up her pace. My vision began to blur, but I didn’t dare slow down. The side coulee ends a quarter of a mile from the fence and we were all on course to collide at its head. I had to keep running. The heart attack would have to wait.

The bull was only twenty yards behind and closing fast when I flung my body through the fence, collapsing in a heap. The Longhorns gathered on the other side to snicker at the pathetic little human, then wandered off in search of a stray coyote to harass. I was not so amused. My chest felt like I’d snorted a fistful of cayenne pepper. My calves were cramped. I had wild rose thorns in my knee caps and a puncture wound in my shoulder from the dive through the barbed wire.

When I regained full consciousness I hauled my tortured body upright and hobbled down to shut the gate, more firmly convinced than ever that joggers are not mentally sound. If this is what they call a natural high, I’d hate to see what they consider a low.