I am no stranger to bird encounters at close-range— a flock of pigeons in Boston Common once orchestrated a carefully-planned mission to swoop closely overhead in the hopes of snagging my bag of chips, or one time when a brave sea gull at Revere Beach tried to peck my Kelly’s Roast Beef sandwich in hopes of getting a free meal. Bird encounters rarely phase me as they happen fairly regularly for me. However, there is one bird incident that almost resulted in a 5K PR while I was pregnant with our first child.
Rewind to 2011— my husband and I just arrived at our base in Montana with no time for the two us to explore the lay of the land together. At the time, I was 20 weeks pregnant and eager to make friends. What better way to familiarize myself with the base and local area than to go for a run! I looked at the base map and planned a route from our TLF unit, around the flight line, and over to base housing with the hopes of making a friend or two along the way. A friend I made indeed— not another military spouse or local Montanan, but a magpie! Yes, a bird!
Picture this— running on a cool spring afternoon under the vast bright-blue Montana sky that seemed limitless, the beautiful Little Belt Mountains off on the horizon, and the golden rolling plains to my left sloping down to the swift and powerful Missouri River. I tweaked my running pace to adjust to Montana’s higher elevation and dry mountain air, which was quite different than the humid, sea level environment we just left in Maryland. Running and enjoying the beauty of my new home on the nation’s Northern Tier was magical and I was on cloud 9. Enter the magpie…tweet tweet.
As I turned into base housing- 1.5 miles into my run, I noticed a magpie flying almost directly above me and moving at the same pace. I would move to the left and so would the magpie, back to the right and so would the magpie. Here I was, zigzagging down the street unable to break free from the magpie. I felt myself picking up the pace hoping the bird would move on, but it was to no avail. I finally decided to wave my arm in the air. I know how to handle the birds in the Boston area- sparrows, sea gulls, pigeons- a big wave of the hand and they fly away! Not this magpie! Instead of flying away, this bird decided to fly closely overhead, circling around and diving down at me. I got nervous. I ran faster and faster, letting out shrieks as the bird would dive down within inches of my head. At one point I made an abrupt stop and the magpie circled around and flying up and down. My planned running route had gone awry. I had no idea where I was and just wanted to make it back to the TLF un-pecked. I turned onto a road in the abandoned area of base housing, and low and behold there was a massive pine tree! I quickly made my way towards the pine tree, running underneath the sprawling branches, when POOF— the bird flew right into a giant mass of pine needles. I stopped my watch, looked up in the tree, and there was the magpie chilling on a branch. I continued my run, making my way back to the base TLF, and feeling immense relief that my feathered running partner decided to cut it short.