Yesterday I wanted to run for an hour. Not 59 minutes. The difference is psychological but real. There’s comfort and completeness in that extra minute.
Sixty minutes means thirty out and thirty back.
Our home is surrounded by forest and trails. I have many options, but one favourite – a short jog down the street and I disappear into the woods, unlikely to encounter anyone in a world of silence.
I climb, and descend, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, usually somewhere in between. Yesterday I checked my watch, once or twice, determined to turn around at the thirty-minute mark.
Twenty-four minutes into my run, on an isolated hilltop that overlooks our neighbourhood, I sensed where the run would end. I have been running long enough, decades now, to have a feel for pace and distance. It’s almost instinctual.
The tree. I would finish at the tree.
There are tens of thousands of trees within miles of our home.
There’s one that stands out.
Pictures don’t do it justice. My pictures at least. But it is wide and thick and towers above everything around it. It’s a special tree. The kind of tree that protesters would chain themselves to, if a logging company ever threatened to cut it down.
What are the chances? What are the chances that tree, my favourite tree, would be exactly thirty minutes from my home, along my favourite route.
It got me thinking. About something that happened two weeks ago. I ran a trail race, with a friend. “Trail’ doesn’t do the event justice. Almost twenty miles long, with 4400 feet of elevation, it’s a never-ending series of ascents and descents. Nothing is flat. Nothing is easy. Everything burns.
About four hours in, my buddy was in pain – run stopping pain. He moved to the side of the trail and stopped moving. He’d been hurting for awhile but had never stopped. He’s not the kind of guy to stop. Ever. So, I knew he was in agony. And just then, at that very moment, another runner came by, her palm open, salt tablets in her hand. She offered him a handful. He swallowed them. And almost instantly his pain lightened. His legs loosened. He was moving again. What are the chances? We’d been on the course for hours. He’d been stopped for seconds. At that very moment, in his time of need, another runner, carrying exactly what he needed, came by.
He and I talked about that moment. We talked about God and chance, about life’s profound moments and what lay behind them.
I work in a unit that investigates homicides. Fortunately, on the island we live on, they are relatively rare. Relatively is a relative term. Because our plates are full. There is no shortage of work. Even though sometimes months pass between murders. Months.
Until a few weeks ago. When there were two murders within hours. Over a hundred miles separated them. Only minutes separated them. What are the chances?
I don’t know. Perhaps there are answers. Maybe none exist.
Sixty minutes. Salt pills. A hundred miles apart.