Some times when you go running you get lost. I know that the idea of that makes some of you very uneasy and makes others of you very excited. But wherever you fall on that spectrum it can sometimes be a reality.
A long time ago I was training for my first marathon. I got to my last long run in my training schedule and I prepared myself for a 23 mile run. At the time that would be the longest single distance I had ever run. It was three weeks before the race and I lived in the same town so I started my “23 mile” run on a part of the race course. It was to be my last long run before the race and I was feeling pretty good.
I drove to a part of the race course where I could get on the trail. I parked my car and started jogging up the trail with a vague notion of a loop that should net me around twenty-three miles of distance. I had a single water bottle on a belt and a Clif bar and three energy gels. It was a nice end of summer kind of day and I was getting my work done.
I ran up and over a big dome and down into the woods. I kept going and going and going. At some point the light started to fade a bit and I decided it might be good to not take any longer than I had to. I was pretty sure I knew where I was and so I took a turn onto a trail I thought would take me somewhere that I could get back to the car from. I think some of you know where this is going.
The trail I thought would take me back to the road began to slowly fizzle out and disappeared altogether. I stopped and looked around. The light was fading faster and I realized I did not actually know where I was. I thought about turning around versus plunging through the forest hoping my internal compass was not completely off. I ate my last gel and drank the last of my water. Then I plunged out into the darkening wood. It took quite some time of me thrashing through the woods to find a road. When I finally did reach pavement it was sort of a relief and sort of not. I recognized the road even in the dark… and it was not the road I was expecting. It was a bit of a trek back to the car but I didn’t run across any bears or startle any moose so I think that was kind of a win.
I drove home way later than expected and ate a huge dinner, drank a bunch of water, and went to bed. The next day I took out the map, a pencil, some pins, and some string to figure out just how far I had ran the previous day on my “23” mile run. It turned out that in getting lost and galavanting all over the woods I had run over 55 kilometers… that’s a bit more than the run I had planned.
As I considered this I realized two things: one was that I had run more than 26.2 miles (which was the distance of the upcoming race), and the second was that I had really had a great time. Both the comfort of knowing I could actually finish the distance of the race in a few weeks and the experience of finding my way home after getting lost really made me feel surprisingly good. Sure, I was in a different place when I showed up on the starting line but I was also in a different place in life.
What I’ve come to realize is that getting lost while out on a run is not all that dissimilar to “getting lost” in life. It may be a bit scary, uncomfortable, and frustrating- but it really happens to us all. Now I am not going to go looking to get lost in life (although I may still look for that in running) but I do know that being lost is not the end of the world and I am going to try and take that lesson from running and remember it in the rest of my life. I hope you can do the same.