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Hill Country Living

Yea, Though I Run Through The Valley Of Death…

By Coulter Fussell


It’s a good thing that typing is done with our hands and not our feet because otherwise this week’s column would not get written this morning. A few Water Vallians decided a really fun thing to do would be to come down here to New Orleans and run a half marathon through the city. One of those Water Vallians was me. And when I refer to ‘me’ that also includes my feet. In fact, today it mainly includes my feet because after running 13.1 miles yesterday my feet have never made their presence quite so known as now.
I thought since I trained in the hills that I would be over prepared for this flatland run. I was thinking “Oh, 13 miles through New Orleans on the city street? Please. I’m a hill country runner. Delta land will be a breeze. Flatland runners are wimps. Give me hills or give me death!” Well, careful what you wish for because I was almost given death.
In all my months of hill training, it never really occurred to me that a hill is not all uphill. There’s the other side of the hill. Yes, there are two parts to a hill: the side that goes up and then, most importantly, the side that goes DOWN. Yeah. I really missed the downhills during the race. I’m going to change the name of this column to ‘Downhill Country Living’ because I have never been so thankful for the hills as I was at about Mile 10 yesterday when I was looking into the flat distance at a four mile stretch of Espla-nade Ave. and not a downhill in site. Oh, the humanity.
It’s also hard to run your best when there isn’t a pack of wild dogs chasing you. My many months of training in Water Valley have taught me that the threat of a potential rabies-ridden mauling brings out my best running pace. Two Sunday mornings in a row, a pack of church dogs have run the length of Railroad Ave. from their perch underneath the Spring Hill North Missionary Baptist sign to make sure I don’t get near the back of Valley Tool. I don’t know what’s behind Valley Tool on Sunday mornings that they are guarding so fervently but whatever it is, it’s theirs. And they can have it.
They’re a hodge-podge gang of five mutts in various sizes but they’re terrifying and, I’m pretty sure, contain DNA from every single canine breed that ever existed and will ever exist. When I run from these dogs I feel the usual fear for my life, the usual ‘Alright, time to gallop because here we go again’, but I also feel humiliation.         While running from the church dogs I am acutely aware that there is some dignity in death-by-pitbull or death-by-doberman…not so much in death-by-one-eyed-Chihuahua-with-furless-tail-and-a-limp.
I’m also a little disappointed that all those people going to the various six churches in that 100 yard area just rode by staring blankly at the girl running like a lunatic from a pack of crazed, circus freak dogs. While I was thinking, “…For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me…[Psalm 22:16]”, I would have thought that one of you church goers would have thought, “Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. [Psalm 82:4]” WWJD? Give a Sister a ride, that’s what. Because, at that point, we are all praying people.
And congrats to Mickey Howley, our Main Street director, and Joli Nichols, part-owner of Yalobusha Brewing Co., for finishing the New Orleans half marathon as well! Big fun, y’all!

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