If you read this blog, you’ll know by now that I have never actually led a running event, but I have run some very small events, and one of those taught me a lesson about being ‘leader of the pack.’
The Grand Valley Marathon (Palisade, Colorado, is wonderful, but tiny. In fact, one year I ran it, there were a total of twenty-seven finishers. Even considering there were a few more folks who DNF’d, spreading that few people across 26.2 miles means a lot of empty course and so, for several miles of this out-and-back, I got to experience a bit of what a Lead Dog must feel – nothing but open course from my nose to the finish line – and I have to admit I was enjoying the fantasy.
My big lesson came at mile 23 though, when the road we’d been following forever (at least it seemed like forever at that point) reached an intersection and for the life of me I could neither find a race sign nor remember with any certainty which way we’d entered this same intersection twenty miles before. Fortunately (I thought) the road heading off to the left rose up onto a bridge across the Colorado River, giving me a clue: starting about mile 2, we had followed the river’s bank for a mile or more, so I picked up my stride and headed down the road that seemed destined to hug the river, only to find myself, several minutes later, in a neighborhood I was sure I had never seen before.
You can guess the rest – I’d picked the wrong road, and by the time I was certain of that, I’d gone half a mile off course. And by the time I’d stood around being angry with myself, despaired at what this would do to my hoped-for finishing time, actually quit and started to walk back to my car before my left brain finally convinced my exhausted right brain that the morning would be better spent if I finished disappointingly-late than not at all – and made my way back to the intersection, where I immediately observed another runner not making the same mistake – I’d eaten up a good fifteen minutes. All because I’d been out there with no one ahead of me!
Not getting lost – one more way in which the view can be just grand, when you’re not Lead Dog!