My new running partner is trying to kill me.
Her methods are quite clever.
Without warning, she will suddenly launch into a sprint, forcing me to dash madly behind trying to keep up.
And, also without warning, she will suddenly screech to a stop because she sniffed something she must investigate, forcing me to leap to the side to avoid crashing into her and nearly falling.
One of her favorite moves is to change directions, in a split second, so she ends up on one side of a post, a guardrail, a tree, a bush, while I’m left recovering on the other side.
Yes, running with our dog, Haile, is always an adventure in two ways: Will I survive? And, will she?
So far, we’re both alive and well — by a few feet.
Sunday evening, coming up the Rice Street hill from Nawiliwili Harbor, we were on the inside of the guardrail. Safe, I thought. Until Haile, God only knows why, decided to slip under the guardrail and try to dash into the traffic.
She fought against the leash, inching her way into the lane of traffic, as I tried to pull her back. Because I feared the leash might come off, I hopped, well, climbed, over the rail, and picked her up. A car buzzed by a few feet away and honked. The driver probably thought I was an idiot, there by the side of the road holding my dog.
“Crazy dog,” I muttered. “You are trying to kill us both.”
Haile, though, despite her efforts to escape on our outings, is a good running companion, and is helping me prepare for the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.
She’s more of a sprinter — small and slim, a Catahoula — than a distance dog, but she is gaining endurance.
On my easy training days, I go short distances to help my legs rest and recover from longer, harder runs. With Haile, we cover 1.7 miles on the route I’ve mapped out for us. It’s far enough for her to get some exercise, but not so much that it wears her out.
When we first started running together, we would go two to three miles around the Marriott near our home. She would initially charge happily ahead, leading the way, around puddles, behind bushes, under signs. Generally, though, after a mile, she would slow, then stop, often. Just pull up, plop down and rest. Enough, for now, she seemed to be saying. And she would roll around on her back, then flip back over, tongue hanging out.
“C’mon Haile, let’s go. We need to finish this so I can go to work,” I would tell her.
She would stare at me, smiling. I’ll let you know. Not yet.
When she was ready, she would pop up.
Sometimes, she would run for another quarter mile or so, or even all the way home, without stopping. Other times, she would stop every 10 feet. So I would wait, give her water, plead with her, tug on the leash, promise treats. Eventually, we finished back home, where she immediately retreated to the closet, her preferred place in the house.
She is getting braver. The other day, when I said, “Let’s go for a run,” she actually came out of the closest and stood near the front door. This was a major breakthrough, because Haile is scared of almost everything. A leaf that blows across the road, a branch that snaps back, a kicked rock, causes her to leap in terror.
But while running, she is gaining courage. She has faced off with a hen protecting her chicks and didn’t flinch.
Her spirit is rising. She bounds through tall grass with great joy.
She is more adventurous. She loves to, when we’re running along, suddenly dive on the grass, rollover, pop up, and keep running, like Tom Cruise does in all those “Mission Impossible” movies. She is quite proud when she does this. She wants me to try, but so far, I have declined for fear I won’t be able to get up.
She also is teaching me to slow down and relax, particularly when she finds shade on a hot, sunny day. What’s the rush, she seems to be saying as she lies there. She has a point.
Haile, named after my hero the Ethiopian running champion Haile Gebreselassie, is becoming a good friend and makes our runs an adventure.
Now, if she will just stop trying to kill me, we’ll get along just fine.
Bill Buley is editor of The Garden Island. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org