Diary of a Newbie Runner: Crazy Resolutions and Lost in a Strange City

{by Ellery Sadler}

Smart people stick to conservative New Year’s resolutions, ones they know they can keep, or refuse to make them at all. Me? I like to go for the daring, the amazing, the unimaginably scary resolutions… such as sign up for a half-marathon! Yep that’s right: I, a timid runner, sane, and normal person just signed up for that crazy thing only crazy people do. And what’s more – I’m telling you about it. Now I can’t back out.

A week into my training plan we went down to South Carolina. I, hoping for a leisurely vacation, was surprised when my older sisters and mom enthusiastically prepared for a run that Saturday morning. What’s more, my dad was going along too. Determined not to be outdone, I grudgingly laced up my running shoes, grimly shoved in my earplugs, and covered my face in sunglasses. I love sunglasses – if they’re big, they can cover enough of your face that even if you’re hot and tired you can still look good. I glanced in the mirror and saw a super-fit, chic, marathon champion staring back at me. Ok, this was looking good. 

As we headed out it was decided we would try a new route, a small gravel path along the marsh that our friends had told us about. They said it was only about three miles. Did that mean three miles there and back? Or three miles there and three miles back? I warily eyed the winding path through the woods. I’ll bet it was three out and three back. The path had large, southern-style houses and woods on one side, and a beautiful marsh on the other. It really was quite scenic but I wasn’t going to be taken in by its beauty. I’d had a scenic six-miler before and almost died.

We ran. And ran. And ran. I was beginning to be in pain. My mom, the athletic running-machine, was encouraging me and my dad to keep going, Hailey was up ahead jamming to her music, Brittany kept sporadically reminding me of how ‘beautiful!’ and ‘gorgeous!’ the scenery was. It didn’t look so great to me. This trail never ends. I caught up with Hailey and voiced my concern in a low whisper. What if this trail literally went all the way up the South Carolina coast? I could already see the headlines: “Family Lost on Scenic Run Leaving Two Children and Three Guinea Pigs Stranded in Strange City.” It was looking pretty bleak.

We passed a young couple, a large group with a few dogs, and a dad with a toddler and they all seemed to know where they were going. We did not. We just kept running. The problem I’ve found with scenic places is that it all looks the same and it’s very easy to get lost. How do you tell one tree from the next? Did we turn at the big tree? Or was it that other big tree? I looked at my watch in desperation – we’d been out for forty-five minutes and counting. I whispered in a low tone to Hailey “I think we’d better go back.” She agreed!

But not my mom or Brittany. No, they decided that we should go back on the actual road and not the little path. We were forty-five minutes down a trail and they wanted to cut across the road and head back through a complicated neighborhood. Now, it is well known in my family that I have no sense of direction whatsoever, so if I ever say go one way everyone goes the opposite… but I could tell that neither of them knew where we were or how to get home either. This was looking even bleaker. We turned left down a pavement street. And left again. And again. Yep, we were lost. I could tell by that depressed feeling that came over my soul. I would have to run miles and miles to get home…if we ever got home at all.

But to my surprise after a few more turns we were right back where we started and Brittany, with a triumphant smile, headed around the lake for a victory lap, feeling too good to come home with us quite yet. I breathed a sigh of surprised relief and headed back to the house. A narrow escape. Sure death of either starvation or exhaustion was averted once again. I came. I ran. I returned. Glancing in the mirror I saw a panting, slightly crippled, red-faced me. Hhhmm. Normal. 

One week of training down. Thirteen more to go.