Keep Running Down The Road Where Fear Lives (A Morning Practice)

He lunged at me as I ran by, and I quickly ran to the other side of the street to try and make peace as I normally do with my wild canine friends. The dog, although on a choke chain, was showing all his jagged teeth now and barking ferociously at me as if I were an intruder.

I noticed it took all the woman’s strength to hold onto him as she stood waiting for her daughter to catch the school bus. I tried to ask her a question over the snarls, “Would your dog ever run after me?” I yelled. I could barely make out her reply, it was something to the effect of “No, no, he doesn’t normally do this…he’s friendly.”

I know every dog within an 8-mile radius of my house and their varied temperament.

There’s the curious Shepherd mix who darts out at me but stays behind his electric fence.

The two sheep dogs, whose tails are wagging, but whose bark is intimidating. They never stop jumping up and yelping until I’m long gone.

The German Shepherd puppy curled up on the front doorstep who likes to run out to the edge of his yard when I come by but goes no further. His owner assured me he is skittish and would never do anything to me.

Then there’s the two dogs, one a huge Rottweiler, who stay behind a tiny chain link fence. They hear me coming by and threaten me with their yaps, I hope every time they are never angry enough to break through.

Then there’s Finn, the burly one I mentioned in the beginning. I think he comes up to at least my waist and I whisper a prayer every time to never encounter him alone.

There are also the three dogs I’ve avoided since last November. I had to re-route my entire loop after that day because of what happened. One of the dogs set out on a vicious mission to scare me.

He crossed the road barking all the way. I ended up falling straight into the ditch on the side of the road, narrowly avoiding a gigantic marsh. Once he saw me tumble down the slope, he dashed back home. His work was done. I ran the last mile of my run shaking and thankful their was no blood.

I’ve been hurt before in our old neighborhood.

A nasty dog sprinted out from beneath the garage door as it was being opened. I was jogging by probably thinking about my plans for the day and before I had time to prepare, he had already pierced his teeth right through my pants and into the skin of my upper thigh. Stunned and feeling a stinging pain, I screamed and hobbled back home, the cut took weeks to heal and after that I could never pass that house without first stopping and surveying the driveway and accessing if it was safe or not. I never saw the dog again.  

The most recent incident isn’t one I’m particularly happy to report.

I had only run a mile or so when I saw a few hundred yards in front of me a dog I had never seen before. Normally, if I’m passing a house with a dog I try to make sure there are cars around who can see me if something happens. But there was no one around this particular morning. I stopped dead in my tracks.

I could feel I had zero courage, instead I had horrifying images flashing in my head of being chased or worse being mauled to death. I stood on the shoulder unable to move, I tried a few times to go a few more feet, but every time I jerked to stop.

I decided to turn around and make a slight alteration to my usual path, but as I crested the hill I heard the train and saw the gates coming down in front of the tracks. Familiar with the trains in our area, I knew the wait could be 15 minutes or more.

Still fuming that my fear got the best of me that morning, I ran back home and finished up on the treadmill.

All of us have real fears with faces, mean barks, and menacing plots to attack us. In my case, they have fur and a tail too.

Fear is obnoxious and persistent. It doesn’t stop with its gnarly growls until we’ve sprinted out of sight. Sometimes it’s successful in its attempts to derail our dream. Fear assumes it owns the road and that revealing its yellow teeth will intimidate us enough to turn back for good.

But we keep returning. We know that fear comes with the territory of becoming our fullest selves, running free and unfettered, and we stubbornly refuse to let it dictate our demise.

We might come armed with mace, a pointy stick, our friendly face, a brave buddy, or maybe a dog bone, but we come and come again. We hear fear baying out across the valleys of our soul, “Go back to where you came from,” it wails, “you can come no further this is my area.”

Fear, like the neighborhood dog, can bite us and leave a scar. It can intimidate and keep us stuck inside on our couch, too shaken to take a step.

Or we can let fear can push us to keep putting ourselves intentionally in its path, and keep running down the road where we know it lives.

Name your fears.

Describe them-familiarize yourself with their personalities.

Try your best to greet them every morning.

Whether you run by or not, is up to you, but please don’t stop practicing.  

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