On a hot August morning I follow Mia into her greenhouse after our morning run. We move past knee-high kale, spent poppies, and cucumber trellises. She plops an enormous heirloom tomato in the palm of my hand, then finds me a cucumber and a fistful of basil. Outside we throw a frisbee for the dogs to chase up and down the hill. Or, more accurately, Meg chases the frisbee and Lewie chases Meg. They soon forget the frisbee and go into wrestling mode, tumbling over each other and love-snapping in each other’s faces before coming to rest, panting hard in the shade of a lilac.

Mia and I are catching up, our soggy feet in the grass. Chickens and sheep meander around looking for food. I’m filling her in on the half marathon trail run from the day before — it was a thing I signed up for back in early July when I could feel the completion of the Catamount Trail looming close and I desperately needed a “next thing” to look forward to on my calendar.

I tell her about the pine needle covered trails that switchback endlessly up and down Ascutney Mountain and how much she would have loved it. She laughs as I fill her in on the people: a mile or so into the run I find myself on the single track woods trail behind Yellow Shirt Trips A Lot — handy for me as he serves as a continual warning of roots, rocks, and other trail hazards, saving me (mostly) from discovering them for myself. Mia raises an eyebrow as I describe Gray Tank Top Hill Beast who looks like a good person to pace with — someone who eats up the hills that usually slow me down. I tell her about the confusing signage and small clusters of runners debating at intersections about which way to go and how when I see Confident Headband Guy blowing by them I leave the debate and fall in behind him. A good choice, it turns out, as he paces me up, down, around, and back up to the peak. We cruise over rock faces and through open hard wood forest on seemingly endless serpentines all over the mountain. Eventually after we crest the peak for the last time and begin the long descent, he slips out of sight for good. For the next hour or so, it’s just me and Earbuds Loud Foot. His footfall is heavy and fast and he pounds away right behind me all the way down (and across and up a little and then down again) the mountain. I navigate the curvy switchbacks, hopping over roots and rocks through the hard wood forest, up and over stone walls while he lets me pace him all the way to the finish.

Sounds fun, she says as I wrap up the story with a description of the after party: live music, local brews, food trucks. We agree that we’ll run it together next year, maybe get the kids to join us too. When I get home I cut up that heirloom tomato from Mia’s greenhouse and think about how it’s time to make sure there’s another “next thing” on my calendar.