Saturday, October 15, 2011

Worst Run Ever

This afternoon, at around 4:30, I had just made plans to get some dinner with friends at 7:00 that night. I was kind of bored and I wanted to work up an appetite so I figured I'd go run for about an hour, shower, get dressed, and then be right on time to meet my friends. So, after getting a snack, I headed out around 5:15.

The run started out ordinary enough. It was kind of hot out, but there was a drinking fountain along the route, and the sun's been going down earlier lately as it gets closer to winter (obviously, we don't get snow and icicles in Tempe, but the solstices and the, changing amounts of daylight that lead up to them still apply). The plan was to do my usual six mile loop, but skip the turn and add a few extra miles before heading back. Seems like a pretty good plan, right? Maybe not, but I was stubborn, cocky and determined to upgrade this route. Anyway, I passed my usual turnoff point and ran an extra mile or so with no issues until I ran into a park. I didn't really want to participate in the open-air Zumba class that was going on (I'm not actually sure what the event was, but that's my best guess), so I decided to bypass the park and resume my route on the next major cross street. I found a decent street and ran a few more miles until I decided it was time to start heading back. I found a nice major road that I thought would intersect with the street that my apartment is on so started booking it back towards home. This is where my troubles began.

What looked like a nice, big major road actually took me straight into a neighborhood. Being the confident young lad that I am, I was sure I could find a way back to a main road despite the "not a through street" sign (it didn't sound so stupid at the time). After about ten minutes in this neighborhood, it was apparent that I was not going to find a good way out of there. It was at this moment, when my confidence was beginning to falter, that I spied a bike path. The path was in the wrong direction, but I decided to follow it anyway (for some reason, bike paths just seem trustworthy). The bike path did, in fact, end up leading me to a major road... it just wasn't a familiar one. This is when I really started to get worried. My surroundings were starting to look less urban and more rural; There was no sidewalk, and there were lots of farms and ramshackle barns all around me. Also, some lady in a pickup truck told me I need to "putt some f***ing clothes on!". That's not really relevant, but I thought it was funny.

After what seemed like an eternity running on the side of this country road, I finally saw a familiar road sign. The only problem was that this street didn't have a sidewalk either, and it still looked like the middle of hickville. Whatever, it's better than nothing. I started down this road and all was well. A couple dogs were barking at me angrily, but no biggie. That's why people have fences... except not everyone has a fence. One particular dog raced out of an unattended front yard straight for me. Now I wouldn't consider myself a dog person. I can function around well-trained dogs (I actually pet-sit on occasion), but I'd much rather deal with humans. Given this uneasiness with dogs in general, staring into the face of strange scary dog without an owner to protect me was terrifying. I froze for a moment while I tried to think of what to do. I could go all alpha male on him? That would be cool. No, to this dog, I probably looked like a giant scooby snack or a moving pile of bones to chew on (I'm certainly no skeleton, but I'm pretty damn close). Before I could think of more stupid solution to this problem, I heard, "Run, Ni**a, Run!" from one of the distant houses. Ordinarily, I would have at least stopped to consider whether to take this as a racist comment, but I was in a life or death situation (as far as I knew) so I had to let that one slide. I made a break for it. I wouldn't say this was the fastest I've ever run or anything (I had already run six or seven miles by now), but I started to open a gap between the dog and I as I swerved through the nearby fields. During this mad dash, I tried to hop over a thorn bush, that actually turned out to be a thorn pit. Needless to say, I fell in, but just kept running even though I looked like some kind of backwoods acupuncture patient. It's amazing how unimportant certain things seem when you're in danger of being puppy chow.

When I finally got off of this street (and away from the dog), some kind of mine or something blocked my path. There were signs saying, "hard hat area" and "restricted", but I was too tired and lost to care. Unfortunately, there was a big body of water at the end of the mine so, after weaving between bulldozers and pits of gravel for about fifteen minutes, I ended up getting even more lost and coming out on some strange side road. Also, it was dark out by this point... just so you know.

After leaving the mine, I ran across several dark and sketchy bridges. For some reason, I kept expecting to see scraggly old dudes crapping in the bushes or people waiting to steal my keys (If I had actually brought along things worth stealing like money or a phone, I could have ridden the bus back or called a friend for directions. Even Hansel and Gretel brought candy to drop. I seriously fail at packing for adventures.). Fortunately, I encountered no such characters, but that didn't make me any less lost. Eventually, I went into a little convenience store to use the bathroom and ask for directions. The bathroom was pretty bad (no door handle and no light), but the owner did give pretty good directions... but I kind of zoned out when he was talking so I couldn't remember them that well. Because of this, I ended up asking some scary looking guy outside of an apartment complex for directions. He was actually really helpful and he re-assured me that I was going the right way. Still, I chose not to turn in the direction he said to because it seemed counterintuitive. But, after about four blocks in the wrong direction, a lady at a bus stop informed me of my stupidity.

After this, it was fairly smooth sailing. I pissed a lady off by quietly walking by her (not intentionally, I just wasn't aware that I was supposed to announce my presence when approaching ladies at night), and I made did an awkward sprint through Taco Bell to use bathroom in the back of the restaurant. I also went a few blocks in the wrong direction on my next turn, but a friendly man confirmed my suspicions before I went toooo far that way. Besides that, it was just a long, straight walk/jog to my apartment. According to the internet, it was only 4.65 miles from taco bell to my place (you could probably round it up to about 5.5 miles if you include going in the wrong direction and then re-tracing my steps), but it felt like so much more.

From start to finish, this was probably a three-and-a-half hour ordeal, and , besides a few splinters, a missed dinner, and a very sore legs and hips, I'm no worse for the wear. Looking back, I made a lot of stupid decisions along the way, but being "in the moment" has a way of clouding one's judgment. So... yeah, that's all. I'm probably going to sleep for about ten hours now (as long as the little thorn splinters in my legs and hands don't bug me too much). Check ya later.

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