Running in the sticks

Running near my brother’s home in the farming heartland of rural Southern Ontario was the epitome of quietude.

Running on the trail-like roads that wind and rise and fall and pitch and rut in the bush of cottage country was the essence of hard work.

Not only was it a challenge to navigate the loose gravel and dirt on the roads that had been washed out by heavy rains, but the deer flies were incessant in their attack.

At first it seemed the flies didn’t know I was there. The first few minutes were pest-free. But it was me who didn’t realize their presence. I turned my head to glance at a noise, a crack of a stick in the woods, and saw them…a herd of deer flies hovering and chasing me just a few feet away.

Then, they began to pick their moment, find the perfect place to land for a sweaty snack. They started to dive bomb at my neck, back of arms, and even my butt!

I spent the rest of the 30 minute run swatting, flailing, swinging my arms violently while trying to hang on to some sort of run rhythm. The only rhythm to be had was chaotic breathing, clumsy arms and legs flopping about like a manic marionette, and the excessive use of swearing at those little punk-ass bugs.

They completely ruined my run. They made the half hour 6k torturous. I returned to the cottage, scrambled indoors for relief, and felt like I had run 20 k really hard and fast.

They killed my run rhythm, but they didn’t beat me down. I got out for two more runs during our stay up at the cottage. The second run was much like the first. And then I got smart.

The early morning of my third attempt to run was full of dread and anxiety. I desperately wanted to stick to my run routine. I was already feeling like I had been eating and drinking too much and not exercising enough. I felt gross. But I also felt that I simply couldn’t take another second of being isolated on the rough roads with those stupid flies.

So I jumped in the car, drove out to the main road and parked in the gateway to an old cemetery. I had a great run along the paved road where the brush was cut back enough to keep the flies in the woods and me in peace. It also helped that it was early enough in the morning that the majority of my 10k run was in the shade of the roadside forests. It was only during a few lengthy stretches in full sun that a few flies on reconnaissance missions found me. But they failed to report my presence to their army of bugs.

So, in the end, one run for me, two for the flies. But I’ll take it as victory as they never bit me once. Just took a bite out of my rhythm.

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