"Ford, you're turning into a penguin. Stop it."
— Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
The signs were there. It was so obvious once you knew what to look for.
It explained why Cliff insisted on marking the trail beforehand with 40 lb cannonballs. And why Rajiv felt it was okay to run a 100 miler in a tutu.
They had Canal Fever- the disturbing mental state from running too many winter miles along the Erie Canal.
Some say the ghosts come right out of the water to greet you as you pass mile 50.
Baba watched the meltdown of his life long running buddies and smiled.
Perhaps this race was winnable after all.
“Baba, I need your opinion,” Cliff said, wild eyed, at mile 53. “I’ve been seeing ghosts for the last couple of miles. They want me to swim in the canal with them. Do you think I should?”
“Sure,” said Baba “If you can’t trust a ghost, who can you trust?“
He watched Cliff do an Olympic somersault dive into the icy canal and float away.
As Rajiv and Baba continued down the trail, Rajiv looked worried. “Hey Baba," he whispered. "Can I ask you something?”
“Sure Raj. What's up?”
Rajiv ducked from a forty foot imaginary bird flying overhead. “It’s that damn pterodactyl,” he said. “I can’t seem to shake him."
Baba nodded knowingly. He pointed to a few cannonballs Cliff had planted at mile 54. “Why don’t you run with one of those. You can throw it at the bird if it gets too aggressive."
Rajiv looked at Baba as if he were a genius.
“Thanks,” said Rajiv, adjusting his tutu as he picked up one of the cannonballs. The weight of it gave him a feeling of safety. “Maybe I should take two. Just in case.”
“Good thinking,” said Baba as he ran ahead, leaving Rajiv to struggle with his balls.
There was a gurgling sound from the water. “Hey Cliff,” Baba shouted as he ran by. “This isn’t a triathlon, you know. but have a good swim anyway.”
"Gurgle, gurgle, aaaaahhhh," said Cliff with a great deal of emotion.
“Only 42 more miles to go,” Baba thought, laughing aloud. “And I still feel pretty damn good.”
Up ahead a giant drooling mule waited for him, gnashing her sharp, jagged teeth.
The clouds seemed to be forming words -
“Beware the Canal Fever.”
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