Typical runs are done on known routes at known distances, but every once in awhile you just start running with an idea in mind and get a bit carried away. Other times you get more than a little carried away. These three running stories stick out in my memory as the extremes of the “more” side.
Back in my high school days I lived in North Dayton, a little more than three miles from the center of downtown Dayton. I wasn’t a long distance runner at the time, but I was in pretty good shape, so when some friends were meeting in Centerville to play some basketball, I decided I would just run there and have a nice longer run. But I wasn’t familiar with the southern parts of Dayton and had no real idea of how far Centerville was, but I guess I figured it couldn’t be too far since I just needed to go through Kettering and into Centerville. Didn’t know about Oakwood and Washington Township. By the time I made it to the basketball court in Centerville I was pretty tired, and only later found out I had run a little over 13 miles. Had the story ended there it would certainly qualify as unexpectedly long, but I then proceeded to play 45 minutes of full-court, one-on-one basketball. I was not only in decent shape, but I was also decently stupid. By the end of all that, it was all I could do to crawl into my buddy’s car and let him drive me home, hardly able to move.
Sometime in my late forties, the MeadWestvaco Information Technology leadership team went on an overnight retreat to Hueston Woods, one of Ohio’s large state parks. I had been to Hueston Woods many times and back in the days when I owned a motorcycle, the park was one of my favorite country destinations. After the first day of the retreat we had about an hour or so before our dinner reservations, so I laced up the running shoes and started running down the road, roughly following the shoreline of Acton Lake. I was feeling pretty good that particular day, so after I ran a couple miles to my initial turnaround point, I decided I would just keep going and run around the entire lake, figuring it would add a couple miles to my planned 4 mile route, as the lake wasn’t that big. A couple miles later the lake’s shoreline was nowhere to be found, but I knew I was going in the right direction, so I continued. A couple more miles passed, I was getting a little tired, and the roads were totally unfamiliar. But turning back at this point was certainly going to result in a very long run, so with a prayer, I continued forward. Now dusk was upon me and a little apprehension started to fill my mind. How far did I have left? Would I get there before dark? Am I really lost? Nothing worse than the fear of the unknown. Finally, and with great relief, I returned to the main road that led to the lodge, relieved that only a short distance remained. Exhausted, I went to my room, showered quickly and joined my group as they were eating dessert, having to explain my absence, but the look on my face probably said it all. I was so tired that all I could manage was to drink several glasses of water, as the thought of eating food was unpleasant. I sure had a great sleep that night.
Much of my formal mainframe training occurred in Crystal City, Maryland, located just west of Washington National Airport (now Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport) and southwest of Washington DC. One of my favorite runs was a two-mile trek over to the north end of the airport, stopping to enjoy jet planes on their final landing approach, roaring a few hundred feet above my head, with their landing gear down, wings at full flaps and the plane tipped slightly backwards to land rear wheels first. On one particular trip my friend Jim Nicholas and I travelled together, so I had my running buddy with me when we headed over to the airport. We were both in good shape and felt great that day, so instead of heading back to the hotel, we looked at the Washington Monument in the distance and figured that didn’t look too far, so we headed up to I-395 which would get us across the Potomac River and into DC. First lesson was that large objects in the distance are much farther away than they look. So when we finally entered DC at the Jefferson Memorial, we had run another three miles or more. But we were in DC and pumped up. We ran over to the Lincoln Memorial, then to the Washington Monument making a loop through the city. Then we learned the second lesson, we had to run back, and without the emotional benefits of exploration we had heading into the city. All told, our modest run turned into a half-marathon or more, but ended with one of the best running stories of our life.