Walking our dog in the morning is like being back in field biology class looking for signs of wildlife everywhere. On a typical morning we’ll cross the tracks of numerous animals left in the snow. There are coyote and fox tracks, cottontail rabbits, squirrels, voles and deer mice, juncos, tree sparrows and cardinals, or the large padding feet of Canada geese. Also the occasional opossum trail. Always ponderous, thick and slow.
All are identifiable. But this morning I had a funny experience in finding my own tracks in the snow. The day before, I’d started my five mile down the asphalt path that passes behind our house. The snow was fresh on one side of the path so I enjoyed padding down the soft surface on the way out to the road.
Going way back to my first years in running, I read an article in Sports Illustrated about the proper way to run. It talked about pointing your toes forward rather than running splay-footed. Some people are built that way by nature and can’t point their toes for the life of them. But not me. I took that straight and narrow advice to heart. Even with a slight bow in my lower legs, I run with feet pointed straight ahead. You can see proof of that in the photo above. That tactic has carried me many miles. At least 50,000 or more.
Most days I travel with a mid-foot stride. But once in a while I let heel-strike take over. I consider that a luxury on most runs.
It was interesting to encounter my own human tracks among the dog prints and other critters we normally see on our daily walks. Lucy sniffs all of them. Her nose picks up scents that we humans never know. She’ll follow rabbit tracks into the brush if I let her. Or she’ll stop transfixed by the recent urine stain left on a snow clump by either another dog or coyote. She’ll even sniff the footprints we’ve left from the day before. I imagine she’s saying, “Huh, this smells familiar.”
Sometimes the footprints we leave last for weeks. A month ago the snow compacted easily, then it rained a bit on top of everything. Our footprints were outlined in icy relief. They became treacherous as the snow around them was scraped away. Then it began to melt. I found one of my ice sculpture footprints sitting all alone on the trail. I’d watched it change forms from the day I made it. It served as the grave marker of days gone by. All so ephemeral. Like life itself.
So I keep on running.