Columbia, Mo. — Kate and I spent Thursday and I spent Friday in this quintessential burg two hours east of Kansas City and west of St. Louis.
Our veterinarian last week found malignant melanoma in Sally’s throat. Dr. Schrock, himself a Mizzou grad, encouraged us to get a second opinion at the M.U. Veterinary Clinic. Our 11-year-old Labrador/Border Collie mix was evaluated Thursday, and university surgeons performed an involved four-hour surgery Friday.
We’ll know whether the surgical team got all the cancer next week. In the meantime, keep Sally in your prayers.
During our lunch break Thursday, Kate and I visited several of our college haunts. We ate at the Heidelberg, our favorite Columbia dive. We splurged for potato skins, a Berg specialty, but thought twice before ordering burgers and instead chose a vegetarian wrap and grilled chicken salad.
Ah, the joys of life’s fifth decade.
Then, like the health-conscious 40-somethings we are, we decided to walk off our noontime feast. What better place to do it than Mizzou’s picturesque Quad?
We crossed Ninth Street and accessed the quadrangle through the J-School’s new Don Reynolds Journalism Institute. From there, we walked past the spot where the park bench on which we studied together once sat. Then we cruised by the columns and strolled past Jesse Hall.
Next, it was back to the M.U. Veterinary Clinic, where we learned Sally could undergo surgery Friday. We scheduled the procedure, jumped in the car and headed home for our full evening of activities.
I was behind the wheel heading back to Columbia at 6:30 a.m. Friday. The attending surgeon said her team would begin sedating Sally at 8:30 a.m. and encouraged me to arrive before then if I wanted to spend time with her.
Anticipating a long day, I did my homework Thursday night and learned runners can access the MKT Trail from Hinkson Creek Park in downtown Columbia. I saved the park’s address in my BlackBerry and packed my running gear just in case a window opened up.
One did. I was asked to leave after spending 15 minutes with Sally and learned the earliest she would be out of surgery was noon, so I ducked into the bathroom, donned my running gear and headed for the Hinkson Creek/MKT Trailhead.
What an amazing run! You can review the Hinkson Creek Trail website at http://www.gocolumbiamo.com/ParksandRec/Trails/Hinkson and see my route by clicking the “Route of the week” link on the right.
For starters, the weather was perfect. It was 40 degrees when I hit the trail in my cold weather running gear, so it felt like 60 once I got going.
Moreover, the Hinkson Creek Trail is amazing! The first mile heads south on concrete. It snakes under bridges and winds through urban Columbia.
Thereafter, it connects to Columbia’s MKT Trail, which covers nine miles of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad line. It’s a piece of the 240-mile Katy Trail, the United States’ longest rail trail.
The MKT section I ran was two miles of flat, straight, tree-lined gravel. It’s surely among Columbia’s and Missouri’s most beautiful spots.
The perfect setting sparked a strong performance. I averaged 8:41/mile, a great pace for this 42-year-old.
Three miles in, I turned around and headed back toward my car. I wanted to keep running but wanted even more to check on Sally.
I passed several people I’d gone by on my way out. They waved and smiled, an affirmation of the unspoken compact among runners everywhere.
One woman ran with her Poodle. A man strode haphazardly alongside his chocolate Labrador puppy. It was fun seeing and waving at those I’d passed earlier.
Although I was running by myself, a familiar Columbia surprise awaited me as I rounded the final Hinkson Creek Trail curve and approached my car: a parking ticket. I’d only had enough change to buy 10 minutes of meter time, and the police nabbed me.
I should’ve known they would. I drew my fair share of parking tickets during my four years at Mizzou, though I got away parking in “unofficial” spots more times that I got caught.
Some things never change. And I’m happy to pay the $10 fine for yesterday’s infraction — a small price for such a great experience.
I hope you’re getting in some memorable late fall runs. The weather is perfect, so lace up your shoes and hit the trail.
Kansas City Runner