I’ve been wanting to run Killington since I can remember. I had no idea it was over 6 1/2 miles to the summit (on the trail I was taking). Knowing that I only had about an hour and 15 minutes one-way I came to the realization that I was only gonna make it about, well…to where I was going to make it.
As my run progressed, I was very focused on getting my legs and feet used to boulders and rocks again since I’ve been doing so much dirt road running lately, I came across a thru-hiker coming down off the mountain. He moved off to the side to let me pass. Come on through I said kiddingly, “I was kind of hoping that I was going to get the rest.” He gave a little laugh and looked down. I asked if he was thru-hiking?
He said, “Yeah.”
“Do you need anything?” I’m not an avid hiker. I’m just getting into it actually. But I do know this: it’s not just kindness, but good etiquette to offer thru-hiker extra of what you have on you, because you don’t know how long they’re going to be out and you do know how long you are.
He said he was fine, and thanked me kindly. I asked again, “Are you sure? ‘Cause I know I’m gonna’ be down in about an hour.” He tried to say yes, but his voice started to crack. I tried to figure out what I might’ve said or done wrong. He started to apologize. I said it was fine and asked him, “What’s going on?” I watched him struggle to make up his mind whether or not he actually wanted to tell me. I could see it on his face and hear it in his words. I said, “Well I hope it wasn’t a Lara bars, because God knows if I eat enough of them I cry too.”
This seemed to loosen him up a bit and the laughter seemed to dry the tears. “It’s my dog,” he said.
“Did she pass?” I asked.
“No, but she was sick before I left.” I could see he felt shame and was clearly struggling with whether or not to continue with the story, so I prompted, “Does she have a chance to make it?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, almost like a wilted flower.
“Will you be able to finish your thru-hike?”
“I don’t know. My wife still has to contact me. I haven’t heard from her…” and as his voice trailed off I remembered then that, in the right-hand pocket of my running jacket, I a rosary. I reached in while he struggled for the words, folded it up in my hand and, when he was done, I just said, “Hey…” and I extended my fist out to him. He sniffled a bit and extended his arm and gave me a fist bump. I said, “No…” and I extended my fist out to him again. He fist bumped me again and I laughed.
“Put your hand out,” I said. I put my balled-up hand in his open one and said, “I’m not an exceptionally religious person, so I hope you don’t take offense to this. I have no idea where you stand, you could even be Jewish.” He laughed a bit at that. Then, he opened up his hand and saw the rosary. I could feel the connection between us at that moment. He was genuinely moved. I think it was because I genuinely cared.
It is a rarity for sure for two strangers to share that kind of intimacy or connection, but I for one was grateful that he allowed for it. We can all use each other’s help, and to be honest it feels just as good to give it does to receive it.
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