We let our compatriot go at the short cut and kept running along the Boston Run trail. One of the three remaining members of the group said, "If we pick it up, we can probably catch her."
I kept stride with the two guys for a few minutes, but then my 23 miles last month caught up to me in the form of a side stitch and short breath. Finally, I let them separate and tried to relax my lungs a bit as I continued to glide across the rolling hills and protruding roots covered in fallen leaves.
A few minutes later, I saw my two Wednesday night running group members waiting at the top of a hill. When I reached them, they said, "We realized we're not going to catch her."
"Yeah, I realized that awhile back," I said. Back together as a group, they pushed my pace again. The hills started to get tougher as we neared the end of the trail, which finishes with a steep gut-buster.
By the time we reached the parking lot, I felt like I'd just run a 5-K race. The three-mile loop had simply devastated me. I declined a second lap and headed home.
It's been a long time since I felt the burn from such effort. Felt good. I'm already planning a follow-up this evening. My reward will be the Great Lakes Christmas Ale (aka "Christmas Crack") that my lovely wife picked up this week.