Getting lost…

It happens. As a trail runner I know how easy it is to get distracted and miss a course marking or to follow the runner in front of me instead of the flags.

My second time running the Burning River 100 I got caught up in a discussion with another runner about hydration or something, and at some point we realized we hadn’t seen any course markings in a while. We back-tracked and found a clear sign with an arrow that we had just ignored. We probably added about a mile and a half to our race. I felt discouraged, and it put me in a bad mood for the next hour or so.

The following year at Kettle Moraine my friend and I took a wrong turn. There happened to be a horse-riding event going on the same day. They had signs in the trees for the horse riders, and our race had chalk arrows on the ground. If I had read the description of course markings on the website I should have known better, but I followed the sign for the horse riders. My friend and I got deep into conversation before we realized we hadn’t seen another runner in a long time. Eventually a horse rider caught up to us and told us we were going the wrong way. We estimated that by that time we had gone about 3 miles off course, and we back-tracked 3 miles to the last aid station. This time I chose not to let it discourage me and, instead, took it as a challenge. I spent the rest of the race catching up to other runners and finished my 106 miles in 28:36. I figure at that pace I ran 100 miles in about 27 hours, which would have been a PR, but instead I finished with a story to tell and a new longest distance! In the ultrarunning community that’s called “bonus miles”.

As a race director I do my best to mark the course clearly so runners won’t get lost. I try to anticipate where runners might go the wrong way and mark those places especially well. But it happens. In almost every race someone takes a wrong turn somewhere. Sometimes others follow. As a race director I feel bad when it happens. Some runners get discouraged, upset, or even angry. Some take it in stride or even laugh about it. I understand all those feelings because, as a runner, I’ve been there myself.

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