While running toward the west last Saturday morning, a tall, relatively lean figure appeared just in front of me on the road.

I kept running but couldn't quite catch up with him, even though it seemed I was close enough to give him a flat tire if that were possible. But for minutes, we — the thin dude and the still-pudgy guy — just matched each other stride for painful stride.

I don't normally tailgate people on the road, but I couldn't help it this time. That's because the fit-looking figure ahead of me was, well, me — a taller, darker, thinner version of me, but me nonetheless.

What struck me about seeing my shadow on the road ahead — and enjoying a brief glimpse of what my body could possibly become (minus the tall part, unfortunately) — was the symbolism of the moment. My eyes were focused on a more appealing version of me, and my body was chasing that vision as fast as it could go at the moment.

Truth be told, it wasn't very fast. But that's OK. I'm not in a race — at least not to reach my target weight goal.

That fact has seemed pretty evident to me lately — and that's not necessarily a good thing.

Perhaps in an overheated state of exhaustion and delirium, if not hallucination, while participating in my fifth triathlon this summer, another analogy popped in my sweaty head last Saturday during my run.

It happened in Riverton on a secluded road called "Lovers Lane." The quiet, tree-lined street has an out-in-the-country feel (minus that certain aroma, thank goodness), but it's certainly not flat. When you first get onto it, the road has a welcome dip for a couple hundred feet. Of course, that dip turned into my own personal Mount Everest on the way back.

No, it wasn't really THAT steep. And, no, it wasn't really THAT tall, either.

I'm just being a bit dramatic for the column's sake.

Several people walked up the hill, and I can't blame them. I decided to trot it out. My jogging pace, however, slowed down. A guy named Molasses even passed me. Exhausted physically and a bit strained mentally toward the end of the triathlon, I wondered if I could really make it up that small climb without walking.

But I kept going. Sure, it hurt, and my legs screamed loudly at me. My body felt like taking a break or knocking on one of the Lovers Lane doors and asking what was for breakfast, but I kept going.

Until. I. Reached. The. Top. ... Finally. Ugh.

It only took probably a minute to run up, but it seemed longer than that, and my legs were fried.

Back on flat ground and soon with the wind at my back, I finished the race. It was my best 5K in a race and my fastest triathlon, actually.

This was surprising because, honestly, I'd been a slacker for a couple of weeks — in exercising and eating. I'd lost some motivation, gained a few pounds and was wondering if I was on the verge of The Dreaded Big Regain.

My recent weight-loss journey, in other words, mirrored Lovers Lane. After cruising for a while, I was suddenly fighting an uphill battle.

But I'll keep on keeping on. I've got to. I have a thin, fit-looking shadow to catch.

Sports writer Jody Genessy, who has still lost 155 pounds overall while chasing shadowy figures, writes a weight-loss/fitness column. E-mail: [email protected]