A real runner would have a running buddy and wear a watch and map a route and follow a strict training schedule and beat a personal best. But, I'm not a real runner.
Somewhere around 6:30 pm tonight (to top off a beautiful day of wonderful things), I laced up the Brooks my generous Pops gave me when I got back from Honduras last June. Somehow, it seemed fitting that these same shoes would accompany me today when I set my sights on 10.5 miles.
I had a plan, kind of. Not being completely familiar with Ames (and knowing my tendency to detour), I wrote out reminders on my hand of where to turn and street signs to remember.
I won't say I was excited, but I will say I was determined.
Right around mile 4.5 (give or take), I was wishing I had more written on my hand. I knew I meant to follow a river, but didn't remember on which side. I spotted a bridge over the river and a forest beyond. Based completely on the aesthetic (and not at all on the yellow signs surrounding the bridge that seemed a bit superfluous), I decided to cross over.
The trails were magic and I was mesmerized. I kept giggling to myself that I'd found such a gem - curving around, climbing up, and carrying me around loop-de-loops under the thick, green forest cover. I was in the movie Bambi and Lion King and Robin Hood all at once and running with the perfect amount of breeze at my back.
And, then the trail looped and curved and ... ended in a field. No bridge, no road - just field and field and field as far as I could see. This just sent me into a more delirious state of giggles because not an ounce in me wanted to turn around. I reasoned that all fields must border a road at some point - I farmed with my uncle, you see, so I know these things.
I carefully directed my path between the wee rows of soybeans and curved along the edge of the field, noting the distance between the rows. All I could think about was my Uncle Craig, so I took mental pictures to share what I project to be the above average yields in central Iowa.
Suddenly, I realized that (the way farmers use technology these days) there might be some sort of satellite camera monitoring the fields. I wondered if I looked like a crop scout or maybe a spy. I wanted to let the satellites know my good intentions, so I started removing the dead limbs from the soybean rows. Just so you know, Mr. Farmer, you have some dead limb problems and I did what I could but you might need to bring your burly son out to get the big ones. Also, Mr. Farmer, there were some large rocks that might cause you problems - just in case your satellite didn't pick that up. Also, Mr. Farmer, there is a family of deer that seem very comfortable on your property. I'm just saying.
Somewhere, in the middle of that field, I thought, "Maybe this was a bad idea."
But, I kept running. I decided the treeline would be a good place because there was either a river or a creek or (hopefully) a road somewhere beyond it. What there wasn't was a path.
I high-kneed it through what might have been poison ivy and happened upon what was once a creekbed. I ran along the creekbed over the deserted houses of beavers and the former hideouts of foxes. I realized two things at this point: I could get attacked by a wolf and/or shot by a suspicious farmer. Somehow, laughing still seemed the best response.
Running, running, running.
I finally spotted something very un-foresty just above the treeline and thought, "This will be awkward, but it might save my life." I planned to run up to the old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere (which is where I was SURE I was), knock on the front door of Farmer Joe and Wife Edith and say, "I know this sounds crazy, but I got lost running through the back of your property and I just wanted to let you know I'm not trespassing. And also, could you point me in the direction of Ames?"
I had practiced interrupting their nightly tea and the prime-time cable feature, but I was completely unprepared for what appeared when I finally topped the ravine: a mansion. That's right. I was smack dab in the backyard of Ken and Barbie's dream home. I ran, stuttered, and then decided knocking on a mansion's door to let them know I wasn't trespassing was not a good idea. I tried to put my best "young-girl-lost-in-the-wilderness-don't-hold-it-against-me" look on my face and made a beeline for what sounded like traffic.
Once I hit that highway, I knew I would live. No farmer would shoot me and no millionaire would sue me now. I meandered my way back to the little city I call home and every other racing step was accompanied with laughter.
This would never happen to a real runner. But, I am not a real runner.
As it turns out, I am someone who can run 13.36 miles unintentionally - trespassing through multiple properties and finding it the most amusing end to a most wonderful day.