I have this uncanny aptitude for getting myself into situations. I don’t know how it happens… it just does. So here is a little story of what happened on my run Wednesday night. It took me a few days to have the time to write about it, but that is probably a good thing. If I had written this recount right away I probably would have filled the whole post with four letter words.
So here is the deal. I went to a park I really like for my daily run. (I use the hashtag: #runenvy when I just have to share the beauty or fun of a run). I’ve been running at this park off and on for as long as I’ve been running. I like it because it is pretty, the scenery changes frequently, and the paths are wide and not too rocky. I also like that there is a long path so I can run as far out as I want without having to circle back through the same part. Sometimes the can be a bit buggy, as there are swamp-like conditions off to the side, but this was a windy day so I wasn’t expecting too many bugs. I hadn’t been to the park too much recently. In fact, this would be my second time this year, so I was really looking forward to it.
My plan was a 3 mile run. I wasn’t going to go too fast, because I really wanted to hit 3 miles, and I’d been struggling around 2.5 for a while. I had just enough time before dark to pull of 3 miles and a nice cool down 1-mile walk, I thought.
Everything started out well. It was windy, which meant that early parts of the run were a real struggle as I ran straight into the wind, but I figured that I would benefit by running downwind on the way back. As I was hitting about the 1.25 mile mark I noticed a small path off to my left that I hadn’t noticed before. It was much narrower than the path I was running on and parts of the path had wood slats, presumably to deal with the soggy earth. Sometimes the path would wander out of my sight, but then it would come back. I wondered to myself why I had never taken that path before?
This thought kept coming back to my mind as I ran, and when I turned around to head back, I decided that I would try the little path… the road less traveled, if you will. If it didn’t work out, I reasoned, I could always come back to the main path at any point. These, it turned out, were famous last words.
The place I switched over to the little path required me to scoot up a small hill, and I reasoned that it was a good thing I wasn’t working on time, because as I started the little trail it was much thinner and rougher than what I was used to, so I was going to have to slow it down a bit. It was a lot of fun, at first, being on a new path that I didn’t know by heart. I enjoyed ducking under the tree branches that popped up and jumping over rocks and other barriers. Exciting. At first.
The first time I realized there might be a problem was when a part of the path was completely covered in water. It was one of the parts of the path that had wooden slats, so I reasoned this is a part that usually gets a bit soggy, and today was a little soggier than usual. I debated turning back, but decided a little mud wouldn’t kill me. I edged around the sides and managed to get past the water challenge. (My siblings all do these “Mud Runs” and I never would, but I thought how funny they would think to see me now!)
I was fine after that for a little bit, but the ground was damper than I expected and my sneakers were getting a little muddier than I would have liked. And then I hit another submerged section. I again debated turning back, but I could see the boardwalk on the other side so I again, gingerly picked my way around and continued on. My time, at this point, was completely screwed up, so I figured as soon as I saw the main path again, I would switch over right away to finish out my run. But I never saw the main path. Ever.
I kept on the little path, but it was getting more and more impassable. At this point turning back seemed foolish. I was too far in and it had to get back to the main path sooner or later, didn’t it? A few times I considered braving off path to go through the sticker bushes to find the main path. I checked my GPS to see if I was anywhere close, but somehow I had gotten myself deep into an uncharted part of the park and the path seemed really far away. And the thorns seemed really really thick. And, I began to notice, it was starting to get dark.
And every time the path submerged under water, I considered just turning around. I hate turning around, but this path didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. But I had come so far and the main path had to be close, so I kept pushing ahead. Until I couldn’t anymore. At this point I had turned off my running app. I wasn’t even trying to run. I also gave up on keeping my feet out of the mud. My sneakers were covered in mud up to the laces! And then I got to an impasse.
It wasn’t just that the path was submerged. This time there was an honest-to-goodness stream running through it. Yes, the lovely little side path I was taking led straight into a running body of water. Um, really?
There was no going around this one. There was no way to go around. And there was no way to push through the forest without a machete. So I did what I should have done way way way before. I turned around and headed back. This time, I needed to move quickly. I didn’t want to be anywhere on this non-path when the sun set, so I rushed back much faster than I had come. I worried a lot less about avoiding mud and even water, so I got even dirtier and wetter than I had been before, but finally I made it back to the main path.
My shoes were squishing, and my toes were getting cold, and I was a good 2 miles from my car, wet, discouraged, and in the dark. Boo hoo me. I walked at first, but I calculated how long it would take me to get back walking, and I was starting to shiver, so I decided to run back. Not a fast run… it was dark and I didn’t want to trip, but a nice, easy jog to keep my body warm and get me back a little bit faster.
So, yes, I lived through my ordeal. When I got back to my car I took off my sneakers right away and drove home barefoot. I don’t have a washing machine, so I stopped off at my mom’s house to beg her to wash my shoes (Which she did! They came out great!) and recount my tale of woe. She also runs at this same park and has never had any experiences like this. No, it is only me who gets sucked into these adventures. (sigh)
So, my instinct is to try the road less traveled, but this time it just didn’t work out for me. Will that mean I won’t be so adventurous next time? Probably not. I will run the straight and familiar path for a while, and then I want to try something new. And when you try something unknown, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but that is what makes life interesting.