It’s not every day that I share stories about my life but this is one I’ll never forget and after telling a few people, everyone said I needed to blog it. Haha. I am laughing now but I truly experienced fear on a new level last Thursday and I honestly have never felt so alone and terrified in my life. This is my story about running gone wrong.
My roommate and I went trail-running at this beautiful park about fifteen minutes from our townhouse early last week and I fell in love with it. I hate running but something about this trail made me want to go back. It was so peaceful to be by this lake as the sun was setting. I went back by myself the day after and ran the green trail that Monika and I had run. I did the short loop twice and felt great.
Then the next day I also decided to go back and again, I ran the same loop but when I finished the first lap, I saw the red trail marker and since I tend to be adventurous, I decided to do it. I started on the trail and for the next mile, everything was going great. It was the perfect weather, the lake was still in view, and Blake Shelton’s new song was playing through my headphones. I kept running at a decent pace and I was so proud that I was pushing myself to do something new. I kept going and eventually I was a little over a mile into the red trail and I noticed I was getting deeper into the woods. I had looked at the trail map a few days before and it didn’t look like any of the trails went that far away from the lake so I kept on, assuming it would pop back out by the lake after a quarter mile or so.
Not going to lie though, I did start to get a little worried. Because I didn’t have cell service, I felt a little more uneasy than I think I normally would have. But I knew eventually the trail would loop around so I pushed on — it couldn’t be that far, could it? But little by little, the trail started getting more difficult and it continued to go deeper and farther into the woods. I slowed down at this point because I had run about a mile away from the lake and something felt off. The only thing I knew to do was to pray. It was 6:30PM so I only had about an hour before sunset, my phone was at 20% battery, I didn’t have water, and I had no cell service. But I couldn’t stop because I knew time was ticking and if I didn’t keep running, I might be lost out in the woods at dark, without a clear view of the trail. I went about another mile, still with no view of any people or the lake and at this point, I’m starting to think I might not make it back in time. I’m not normally that dramatic of a person and I’m usually the one in the most chaotic, horrible situations saying, “It’s fine, it’s fine, everything will be okay.” But not having service and having no clue how much longer there was in the trail left me feeling more lost and scared than I ever have been in my entire life.
Four miles into the trail, thirty minutes of daylight left, and 15% battery on my phone is when I reached a part in the trail where I got enough service to text my roommate. I shared my location with her on the iPhone and told her I was super lost. I just wanted her to know what was going on since I didn’t have enough bars to actually call her. The battle then began of whether I should continue running or take a minute to stop and look at where I was on my GPS, assuming I had enough service to show. I had forgotten that GPS will actually tell you your location and which direction you are headed even without service so fortunately, I was able to see where I was. Unfortunately, I realized I was miles from the lake. The trail continued to take me away from where I wanted to be. I panicked. What was I supposed to do?!
By the grace of God, right as the sun was setting, I got to a part of the trail where I heard cars. I still had no idea how much was left of the trail and knew it could have been .5 miles or it could have been another five miles, so I jumped off the trail, hopped over a creek, and sprinted through a field of long grass to the road. I could tell from the map that it was the road I drove in on and I knew if I got there, I could either flag down a car, hopefully find service, or just walk back to the parking lot. I decided to just walk the two miles back to the lot and after what felt like years, I finally reached the first Walnut Creek Park sign and almost cried.
But then I reached into my running case for my phone and realized I had lost my car key on the run……….. I had no way home. This really wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if I had just had service because my parents have a spare!!! I knew I probably could have found someone in the parking lot with service to call them but I wasn’t sure anyone would still be there since the park closed not long after sunset, and it was practically that time. All I needed was just ONE bar to call my parents. It was still another half mile from the sign to my car so as I walked, I stared at my phone, hoping a little white bar would pop up. And it finally did!! I stopped in my tracks and immediately called my mom. After about ten tries, she picked up and I told her where I was and what was going on so she sent my dad right away with the spare key. It took him an hour to get there and I sat up against my car in the pitch dark, all alone, still ridiculously thirsty and without service, just waiting for my dad’s headlights to round the corner. And when he did, I’ve never felt such relief in my life.
The crazy thing is, both my parents had been in North Carolina that morning… It is seriously such a blessing that they were home. When I got back to my place, I was so thankful that I all I could think was, “I love you couch, I love you floor, I love you lamp, I love you bed.” Haha!! Moral of the story is to not go running alone on a trail you don’t know in the middle of the woods too close to sunset without service or water or a safe place to put your car key. 🙂 And there you have it…. what I like to call, “Life with Meredith.”