Where It Is Safe


This morning I hit the path of Cullen Park for the umpteenth time since last year. With the exception of two or three weekends, I have checked in at the park every weekend since the marathon in January. The park is really pretty and it provides me with an opportunity to run in nature, with the smells of honeysuckle and pine, blooming flowers, red birds and the occasional darting deer. It’s lovely. The path is also marked with mileage and provides a perfect 6-7 mile run on the weekend. Since most of my week day runs are in my neighborhood, Cullen gives me a chance to break up the monotony of the pavement and the cars and the noise.

Today will be the end of my season at Cullen Park.

I have never been an “outdoorsy” person. Prior to beginning this running lifestyle, I preferred to stay inside. For me, summer meant more time inside. Houston is hot and humid and I find swimming pools kind of disgusting. I could elaborate but that one is for another day…

It was around mile 4 that things went wrong today. This was when I started noticing flies darting past my face. This is just a part of running with sweat dripping from your face in the woods, and I can deal with this for a while. However, like our honeymoon snorkeling adventure, which started with me saying, “Oh, look how pretty the fish are!” and morphed within 30 minutes to “OH MY GOD, THEY ARE ALL TOUCHING ME!” the flies start to get to me after a while. No problem, I thought. I will just try to make myself like an animal that has a tail. They get rid of flies by shaking their tail, right? So I adopted a new form…running while flapping my arms around like two tails.

I could not keep this up as my arms have not had as much strength training as my legs over the past several years, so I had to stop flailing around. Plus, I almost knocked someone off their bike. Anyway, that was when I noticed it. A wasp. Easily the size of a silver dollar. Well, at least a quarter. It was on my tail. (Not my arm tails, but my backside.) I swatted it away from my butt and ran on. It came back for more. This thing was chasing me. I ran faster and resumed my arm tail flailing. It stayed with me. I tried to remember what people say you are supposed to do…was it run away??? freeze like a statue??? Maybe that was what to do when you see a bear. I could not recall, so I stopped and stood very still. It landed on my back. I wiggled my shoulders in terror. It flew off and landed on my leg. Clearly, freezing like a statue was not the flying insect remedy. Rats, that must have been for a bear.

That is when I lost my mind. Meaning, I started talking out loud to the wasp.

“WHY ARE YOU PICKING ON ME???” I questioned the non-speaking insect. It did not answer. (Don’t be ridiculous.) I started back up with the flailing arm tails. Then I saw two, poor, unsuspecting people on bicycles coming down the path.

I cannot imagine what I looked like. I googled “flailing in terror” to attach something at this point, but nothing comes close to the truth. Imagine a crazy lady running out of a burning barn…with her hair on fire, and you might be pretty close.

I had grabbed a stick up from the ground at this point and was whacking myself with it as they came towards me.

“HELP ME!” I screamed. ”PLEASE HELP ME!” I yelped out the details of the situation and I think I said something about it “not leaving me alone”. Anyway, I handed the stick to the man, who reluctantly got off the bicycle, probably thinking I was a homeless woman who had stopped taking her required medication.  I begged with him to please just hit it off of me. He looked all around and said calmly, “There is no wasp. But you do have a swarm of mosquitos around your legs”.

Relief flooded my soul. And then I thought, “Wait, I have a swarm of mosquitos around my legs.”

“You should probably just keep moving,” he said. That’s polite language for, “please just go away and let me finish my bike ride, crazy lady.”

I thanked him (I think) and then started running back towards the exit of the park. I felt something on my back. I swatted and yelled out loud, “I AM LOSING MY MIND!”

And everyone around looked at me sympathetically as if to say, “Lady, you are way past that point.”

I got back to the car, waved goodbye to nature and drove home where I completed the remaining miles I had committed to running today. I must confess that I halfway expected to see the wasp pop up in the back seat of the car ride home, like the zombies always do in the movies. “I’m baaaaaack!” Thankfully, this did not happen.

When I think about it, it was around last year at this time that I retired from the park because I was being swarmed by flies. I will be back once the weather cools off…like in November. Until then, I will stick with the neighborhood and its careless drivers.

You know, where it is safe.


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