Jason was overweight. He’d delayed buying running shoes so he didn’t have to run. He taught health and physical education to 7th graders and like doctors who smoke two packs a day, he was guilty of endless coffee drinking and a sweet tooth. At this rate he’d be a diabetic by 40 and dead at 45. Oh well, live in the Now, Jason thought. He’d been listening to Eckhart Tolle. That was the problem with self-help; it always seemed to help him eat more. Jason drove to Cougar Mountain. The first 15 meters of running weren’t bad, but when he passed the 100 mark, he had difficulty breathing. Nothing would allow him to take one step farther. All he could hear was his exhaustion; then the wind whispered through the trees, and the birds sang. All was quiet.
Jason felt he wasn’t alone. He looked down the trail, but it was empty. “I’m just being paranoid,” he said. He started to run faster. He couldn’t hear anything behind him, but something was there. He was moving deeper into the woods now and the path went downhill. Jason ran around a corner and there were three girls jogging towards him. They were all wearing sports bras and yoga pants and just for a moment, Jason forgot his fear. “Morning,” he said. The girls giggled and kept on running. Jason relaxed. There were people on this trail. He ran farther up the mountain and sensed there was still something behind him. Jason turned around.
A cougar stared into his eyes; it was searching for fear, in the way an alpha sizes-up prey. It saw a terrified school teacher who had spent too much time eating in the teacher’s lounge and it was hungry for sweet meat; the kind fattened by donuts and coffee. It took two steps closer. And Jason ran. He only had a couple seconds and the lookout was 20 meters away. The cat swiped at his leg and slashed his Achilles. Jason knew about the iron ladder bolted to the cliff-side. He grabbed it and swung down. All he could see were two-inch claws swiping for his jugular above him.
When a search and rescue helicopter attached a steel cable to his vest and he swung out from the cliff-side, Jason noticed the cougar eyeing him from the bushes. It looked how he felt when the last apple fritter is taken. And in that moment, Jason vowed to buy a treadmill.