So maybe it really did scare the crap out of me

Posted: 02/18/2013 in Uncategorized

If you saw my post on twitter last week, the one that said:

“Yes, you run faster on an unlit trail nxt to a 200yr old cemetery all alone when zombies come to mind”

First, let me say – no, I wasn’t making that shit up just to be funny.

At group run on Wednesday night, I kind of found myself in one of those runner predicaments with no right answer.

First, and as I mentioned, I’d packed my bag badly. I had 45-degree dry clothes with me on a day that had ended up being 30-degrees and snowy. The air itself was still pretty heavy with the dampness even though the flakes had stopped coming down.

Next, the group picked a route that (in my opinion) isn’t in the best area to run at night. It’s the combination of two trails with an ugly strip of road between them. While fine in the daytime, nighttime is another story. Neither trail is lit – at all – and they’re somewhat secluded. One is part park, the other a strangely designed connector between a well-known 5-mile loop and the park. Some desolate looking houses on the outskirts of the trail, but nowhere you’d knock to borrow sugar (or ask for help). But it would be okay because I’d be with the group, right?


Oh, I started out with the group, but then that thing happened where the groups began to segregate by pace – and me, in my odd changeup of paces right now, pulled ahead of a slower group while simultaneously falling behind a faster group. Not so bad when both were still in sight – but as the route progressed, the distance between grew. I could not see the blinking lights of the pack behind me any more, and the lights of the pack in front of me disappeared around a bend, then the bend after that until they were just gone.

I was on my own.

On a path where I did not feel safe. In utter darkness.

Three choices: (1) Slow down until the slower group catches me. Keep pace with them until we are finished. This also means freezing. Now I am sweating, underdressed, and it has gotten colder out. (2) Speed up to catch the faster group, then try and hold them. Catch them, I probably can – but if I could hold their pace, I wouldn’t be in the predicament. I would’ve just stayed with them to begin with. Catching them is just going to leave me worn out to fall behind again. And (3) – well, we’ll get to three.

I write about this because I think these things happen sometimes with runners, and in other exercise as well. A plan goes awry. We set out on a course and the unexpected happens – we run out of water, we take a wrong turn to a bad place, a curb reaches up and twists our ankle. We find ourselves in predicaments where we have to weigh our health against our safety as if there was a winner on the scales.  Our common sense and self-preservation scream WHAT THE FUCK?! are you doing?

What are you doing? What DO YOU DO? You have to make choices. Which do you risk – your health or your safety?

For myself, and in this situation, I chose to risk safety – not that I’d recommend it, but if I were to risk health in such a situation – slowing down and possibly risking hypothermia – then my safety would also be at risk. In bad health, I am less able to defend myself should the need arise. For me, there was only choice (3): Stay alert and keep moving forward. With the sense of hearing being critical on a dark path, I became loathe of the swishing of my reflective vest and the sloshing of my water bottle, but I stayed the course and reminded myself that a water bottle is also a weapon. I reminded myself that I am not helpless or weak. I am strong. I am healthy. I can be fast. I know how to throw a punch and think quickly.

And I kept reminding myself of all of that over and over again as I made my way back towards the starting point –

until the point that I realized I was running along trail points between a 200-year old, waterlogged cemetary and the sewage treatment plant. It had been sunset when we’d passed through on the way out for the run. But now it was pitch black, I knew there was a cemetary there and the disgusting smell of rotting sewage permeated the air. It was at that point I thought to myself


and I started to haul ass! Because I’m nothing if not rational.

Blog peeps – have you ever had that happen? I don’t mean scared out of your wits by zombie thoughts. I mean caught in a predicament on pavement where you aren’t sure of the best course to take? Where none of your options seem all that great? Do share if you will.


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