Catching the Ponytail

Forbidden Drive in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Park is one of my favorite places to run. The Drive itself offers a relatively flat and soft surface with amazing views of the river. But all it takes is a quick turn off of the main Drive and you are faced with some of the best and most challenging trails anywhere. And you will not be alone on the Drive. Depending on the time and day, you can usually find a nice mix of runners, walkers, mountain bikers & dogs. (No mountain bike riding dogs-usually)

I had a great run there the other day and found myself pitted in a little friendly competition as I sometimes do. You know the situation. On any given day you will find yourself surrounded by runners of varied speed and ability. Many will blow right by you. You will blow others away. During most runs, none of it matters. Every once in a while you come across a certain someone who is running at just about the same pace as you. When that happens to me, I immediately shift my mindset from “Isn’t this a great place to run” to “Bring it on”. If they are behind you, you feel the need to increase the gap. If they are ahead of you, you immediately throw a mental lasso around them as you try to determine your strategy for reeling them in.

It happened Saturday when a little blonde ponytail came scampering out of nowhere from a trail and merged onto the Drive about 40 yards in front of me. At first I thought overtaking her would only be a matter of a minute or two. But she knew I was back there and she was determined to not let that happen.

So I turned my running cap around, shifted into another gear and increased my turnover a little bit. And so did she. Our gap remained the same. I am a decent climber, so with each subtle incline, I gained ground on her. The problem is, with each flat; she accelerated and put me back in my place. OK, this was not going to be easy. But I stayed my course and started to realize that I really was closing the gap – slowly. But since I had no idea where she would be finishing, I didn’t know how much time I had to catch her.

Finally, I started to make more substantial gains and the closer I got, the faster I went. Or so it felt. With about a quarter of a mile from what ended up being her finish line, I finally pulled up next to her, smiled and commented “You were not going to let that be easy for me, were you?” We both had a chuckle and then she said that she would enjoy pacing off of me for the rest of the trip.

We cruised into Valley Green and she went her way to her car. I grabbed a quick drink, turned around and headed back to where I started. I was content to just cruise home and enjoy the scenery. But the competitor in me took more than a little bit of pride in catching that ponytail. I didn’t come home with a finisher’s t-shirt, certificate, or medal, merely the exhilarating satisfaction of the chase and the catch.

Thanks for the great run…whoever you are.

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