Venturing out on a trail that I’ve run before but only with a friend who knows it well is exciting… and a little scary. Portions of the trail that seem short when I’m with someone and chatting can often seem too long (am I on the right path?) when I’m alone. There’s the chance a wrong turn will send me home too soon, take me someplace I don’t recognize, or send me far enough in an unexpected direction that a long run turns into an even-longer run. A sub-1000 foot elevation gain can quickly become a 1300+ foot climb.
Ellie and I have run a loop on the Fort Valley Trail system a few times together. On Tuesday morning I paid close attention when I ran the loop with Ellie and David and mentally marked turns and twists in the trail so I could run it solo Friday morning. Since I wanted to put in about 12 miles I ran a few in the neighborhood before heading out into the woods.
At first, all was well. Two turns were successful and eventually I reached a place where I was 100% confident of my location. A little while later I reached another. It seemed like I was going to “nail” this loop! Then I came upon a sign where there are three choices about how to continue: one I was certain was a wrong turn, one was the trail Ellie, David and I took Tuesday (correct!), but the trail I chose was neither of the above. And so began my ascent and adventure.
I wasn’t in an unknown town on a new-to-me trail. There are ways for me to stay “not-so-lost.” I veered to my right whenever possible to try to reach Shultz Pass (SP) road and I had a general idea about what types of terrain I’d cross in the mean time. I took any variety of “heading down” trails that didn’t turn me away from SP. Though I didn’t know exactly where I was… I wasn’t truly lost. What an amazing view I encountered as well…
After some time I finally connected with SP. At just over 10 miles into my run I knew I would easily exceed 12 miles for the morning. As I ran downhill I also realized I hadn’t ever ventured quite this far up SP. Since SP is where I do many 10 mile out and back runs it dawned on me that I still had more than 5 miles left to go! When I finally arrived home exhausted, stinky, and dirty this was waiting for me in the kitchen:
The lesson (in my humble opinion)? Any time you learn to do something on your own there can be self-doubt and apprehension and embarking on something new can be lonely. New journeys sometimes take unpredicted turns: send us back to square one, take us places we’ve never been, and can turn out to be longer and more grueling than we anticipated. If we trust our instincts and use what we know (about ourselves, lives, others) to keep us from getting “too” lost or off-track we can end up experiencing something exhilarating and well worth the effort.
What lessons do you learn when you run? When you try something new?