Getting Lost in a Run (Literally)

Yesterday, I awoke and eagerly read with pleasure a literary gem from my friend Jennie Saia. Her manipulation of words to invoke such powerful images and sensations is a craft I dream about honing. One of the greatest roles in our society is that of the storyteller. There are many who covet such positions, but overall, many fail. Only a few rise above the masses and cause us, the readers, to feel both exposed as individuals yet strangely connected and safe within the confines of words. In other words: read her blog.

I thought about Jennie’s blog post as I started on my six mile run yesterday morning. It was not the ideal conditions for outdoor adventures: foggy, damp, and the misting Seattle-esque rain casting a lingering chill. Donning my headlamp, I headed out at 6:45, determined to find solace and rhythm within my pace.

Sans street lamps and sun, the first part of this journey was shrouded in a sense of unease tinged with the excitement of the unknown. The first leg took me down the American Tobacco Trail where I encountered several others pounding the pavement, driven by something greater than good sense. The silence of the morning apparent until my louder-than-necessary “Good morning!”, the vocalization to console feelings of safety and also invite any sense of camaraderie.

I knew these paths, and I knew this roads. Whether it was the haziness of my surroundings or the early morning cessation of sleep from the feline choir performance, I found myself – lost. I had turned off the trail and was making my way through Woodcroft. After cutting through part of the Greenway system, I exited on a street that I did not immediately recognize. How could this have happened? It’s not as if I had traveled miles in an unknown place: this was home. I pressed on, determined to identify recognizable landmarks. The funny part is that I knew the street names, but I had zero ability to conjure up visualizations for my location. It was as if my mind had been shaken like an Etch-A-Sketch, and I could not use those white knobs to doodle a map back home.

This is where one might suggest: why didn’t you use your phone to make a call or use the GPS? For shorter runs, I do not typically bring my phone. I had shared with Aaron my route for that morning and then had set off to follow it. Back to my confused state: I started to become emotional and even slightly scared. It was bizarre – I could not fathom how I became so turned around. Spotting a fire station, I ran over and asked if I could use the phone, attempting to call Aaron to give him an update. After two unsuccessful attempts, I relied on the firefighters directions on how to return home, and then, it all clicked: I knew exactly where I was. I felt like an idiot – how could I not have pieced together where the Greenway had spit me out?

I double-backed to where I had made my mistake of turning left instead of right, and continued pressing on toward home. The damp air clung to my clothes. While the puddle had initially invoked pleasant memories of childhood mischief, I now viewed them with contempt as my shoes turned from mildly wet to soaked. In my voice messages, I had told Aaron where I would be running with the hope he would be able to scoop me off the street, and I could curl up in a warm tub (or even just crank on his car’s seat warmer). With the sound of each approaching car, I snapped back to attention, scanning for his vehicle. This went one for over three miles until I was completing my final ascent to the finish. Honking and waving, Aaron drove by, looking concerned yet relieved. I signaled that at this point, it would make the most sense to meet at home.

Walking in to our home, I learned that he had never received my voice messages but grew fearful when he saw the missed calls, dialed the number, and heard a voice message for a fire station. Needless to say, I made it home, safe and sound, with a long(er) run under my belt to kick off the first training weekend.

Have you ever experienced something similar, being in a place you know quite well but realizing you, in fact, don’t know where you are? (This could be taken as a metaphorical journey into one’s self, but I’m focused more on the literal lacking of direction, not the “I don’t know what to do with my life” phase)

2 thoughts on “Getting Lost in a Run (Literally)

  1. Oh, I could feel how disoriented you were. The fog, the frustration of being so close but just not getting it… I’ve been there! I once got lost on a trail in the woods that I’d led groups through dozens of times. Being alone and confused makes you feel so vulnerable. And I too had that moment where I finally pieced it all together and couldn’t believe how simple my mistake had been.

    Katie, thank you so much for your kind words about my blog! They mean a lot, because telling stories that touch people, and thereby making them bigger than just one-time events I lived through… that’s why I write. And you are a vivid storyteller yourself! The line about the Etch-a-Sketch brain was just perfect, and I’ll think about it next time I’m jumbled.

    • Thank you. Jennie, for validating my disorientation! I have driven through that section of Durham several times since the run, and each time I just shake my head in disbelief over my total confusion. I will fully admit that my runs since then have been either out-and-backs or on a circular track! 🙂 Thank you also for your compliments as well. I’m engrossed in your latest reflections and will eagerly devour more this morning. Have you written or do you have dreams of writing a book?

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