Rescued Runner

Saturday morning was scheduled for a 10 mile training run with the Half Marathon training team. That said, it had snowed on Thursday night and temperatures were in the 20s on Saturday morning. The cold was not the deterrent to running with the team but the location we were running in (icy sidewalks in downtown Richmond) plus a depressingly familiar and dull route (downtown towards my work and then 3 miles west on dull-as-rain Broad Street) combined to make me choose a route more adventurous. I drove over to Pocahontas State Park without much of a plan or a route, and decided to just wing it in the woods.

I had anticipated finding a park ranger on duty at the gate and scoring a trail map, but no one was on duty yet at 8:30 a.m. The Instant Classic runs in a sort of figure-eight route around the park, converging at a central point near the pool parking lot so I figured I would take the southern loop and get about 7 to 8 miles in. It wouldn’t be the 10 miles I was scheduled to run, but on a trail, the difficulty level should even it all out, right?

I parked, crossed the bridge and turned right to follow the trail Fendley Station Trail, which I recalled figured in large part into the route the IC followed. I was just positive it would loop back around to the parking area if I just stayed on it long enough.

Faith. I was running on pure, blind faith.

It *has* to loop back around to where I started. It just has too.

I saw that the direction to the Swift Creek dam matched the same directions that Fendley went so I figured the dam must be close to where I started; I was just sure of that. When I reached the dam, I realized I had no idea where I was, but I was at the water, which is where I started, so I would just keep going.

Fortunately, everything in the area is flooded and Swift Creek was topping the dam and there was no physical way to cross Swift Creek there. This is how God looks out for fools, drunks, and runners. If the conditions had been normal, I would have crossed the creek (getting only a little wet) and kept on in my faith that I was almost back to my truck and I would have run a distance LONGER than a half marathon, on a trail, which I was keenly not prepared to do.

Instead, I was forced to turn around and take stock of where I was and how would I get back. For the first time, I noticed signs on the trail for “Swift Creek Parking area” and I was less than 2 miles distant from it.

“I’m SAVED!” I declared. Two more miles and the run would be over and I guestimated I would have done about 6 miles. Perfect.

So I followed those blazes for the Swift Creek parking area, only to discover that was NOT where I was parked. It was an egress into the park from Courthouse Road, the OPPOSITE side of the park from where I started. It was also kind enough to provide trail maps, and I could identify where I was, what route I had taken, and what my options for getting back were.

I was at that point probably 5 miles distant from my truck. I was physically closer to the front door of my house than I was from my vehicle. I could have run home in less time than it would have taken to get back to the truck. I was stricken. What could I do except press on, regardless, and head back to where I started? I was 80 minutes into the run at that point, and it would easily be another hour getting back, so I best get started, right?

I turned myself back in the direction of the truck and started onward, but the distance I still had to go started to get to my brain. Holy cow, at least 5 more miles? At least? And I wasn’t sure if that was really accurate or not. I went about a mile before I stopped dead in my tracks, utterly defeated. At this point, I had gone about 7 miles total, and had 4 to 5 more to go. I was cold, getting sore, and mentally defeated.

I stood there utterly alone for a good 3 or 4 minutes, my right hand reaching into and then back out of the pocket where my phone was stashed. I have never felt such indecision in my life over something that really did matter. I didn’t want to have to admit what had happened; that my lack of proper planning had led me on a half-marathon distance boondoggle. But no matter what choice I made, I *would* have to offer an explanation as to why I had been gone for 3 hours on a run.

In the end, I pressed #2 on my phone and humbly begged for a pick up. I had gone about a mile from the “parking area”, so I logged one last trudging mile back to the Swift Creek parking lot on the side of Courthouse road, which was almost perfectly timed for Byram’s arrival. He joked that he knew he was close when he saw all the buzzards circling overhead. I laughed because it was funny.

I was embarrassed but in good spirits. It had been such a great run. I LOVED the trees, the untouched snow on the ground, the silence of the woods, the clean scented air. It was everything my spirit had needed that morning. He dropped me back off at the truck and I arrived safely at home.

For the boondoggle it became, it sure was fun. It makes me less inclined to go join the Shamrock HMTT guys again this Saturday, especially since they are running in Bryant Park and Brook Road (I have written of my hatred for those areas before). We’ll see, as they are calling for more icky white stuff on the ground late this week, and I seriously dislike the idea of running on icy pavement. I will take an ice-covered trail over pavement any day.

And when I do go back to Pocahontas, whenever that may be, you can bet I will be better armed with a map and a plan!


One response to this post.

  1. […] all smiles and fond memories as I passed the “Swift Creek Parking Are” where I had been rescued back in January after getting myself misplaced in the park. At that point, it was somewhere in between 9 and 10 […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: