In six days I will ride the beast. That’s what a friend of mine calls running a marathon: riding the beast. It encourages me in a do-or-die sort of way.

I am not sure how I got here. I know training was involved. I know it began when there were still patches of snow on the ground. Yet, as I review all that’s happened, it’s hard to believe I was the main character. If not for the muscles on my body, where no muscles had been before, it would be easy for me to think this was all just a book I read. The blonde runner is as vivid a character as Jo March or Elizabeth Bennet.

I can picture the runner, her blonde hair tamed by a headband, choosing the roller coaster route, passing a man, being chased by a woman, Guten Morgen-ing the Nordic walker (twice), dodging manure trucks, avoiding tractors, waving to farmers, running past fields of yellow, green, gold; following, and overtaking, Pink Shirt Lady at Rothenburg; wearing her SuperSuit, mittens, rain jacket, tank top, sun hat; making war and peace with the treadmill; trotting with various assorted children on bikes, gliding  joyfully beside her prodigal brother; but mostly running alone, with only her thoughts, prayers, and imagination as companions.

I can picture the group of deer, startled from tranquility, bounding across the hills. Large, brown rabbits sit up and watch bemused as the woman runs by. A flock of crows mocks her. A lone bird hovers high above the sugar beet field and chirps like a car alarm until she passes. Cows stare as she disturbs the music of their belled collars by dashing through their alpine haven.

The blonde runner laughs at the ducks by the Main River and admires the swans. At the Brombachsee, an elderly man smiles and salutes, just as she feels like stopping. She forces her grimace into a grin at mile 15, so her children won’t see her in pain as she finishes.

I envision her legs dangling from the exam table as hope is revived with a simple roll of tape.

I can see this woman, this blonde runner, and all she has done, but I can’t quite believe it was me.

I don’t know how I will feel when the marathon is over, and the celebration, like the training, is placed on a shelf of dusty memories. I may be happy pulling it down for the occasional re-telling. Or, this marathon could be a new storyline in this character-driven series.

As in all good narratives, this one is to be continued…