Friday, December 02, 2005

In a Darkening Wood

By the time I headed out on my 6-mile run yesterday, about 5 p.m., it was already dusk. I don’t know what I was thinking. The chilly 35 degree weather nibbled at my exposed neck and face as I set off at a trot down the heavily-wooded Capital Crescent Trail. The trail was devoid of people, except for an intermittent cyclist silently peddling by.

My footfalls were muted on the leaf-strewn trail, and my breathing seemed loud in the still air. Within 15 minutes, I could barely see the paved trail ahead. The naked branches of trees were barely discernible against a dark violet sky, and the cool, blinking lights of a radio tower in the distance was the only illumination. I was completely alone.
I pressed on. "Damn it," I thought. "I need to work off all that chocolate I ate."
By the 2.5 milepost, the velvety darkness had completely enveloped me. I seemed to be in a dark, dense wood, like in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Every once in a while, I heard an animal (or at least, I hope it was an animals) rooting around in the underbrush. News briefs on people getting attacked on trails rolled through my head. I realized I didn’t have any ID with me.
Slightly spooked, I turned around and headed back, quickening my pace. I couldn’t see the ground beneath my feet, and I prayed I wouldn’t slip. After another 5 minutes, I almost ran into a man in a puffy parka and hat was walking down the trail. I didn’t see him until I was about a foot behind him.
"Sorry," I muttered.
He didn’t say anything. I ran faster.
At milepost 1, I crossed a bridge over a 4-lane road, and ran by a McDonald’s. I never thought I’d be glad to see fume-spewing cars and fast-food joints. I ran into the heart of Bethesda, whose boutiques, businesses, and even trees were gloriously lit-up with holiday lights.
I ran to the office, and finished up my run on an incumbent bike, pedaling furiously for 10 minutes, before calling it a day.


  1. Geeze, do you have a death wish?!?!

    Although I must say, I've WALKED that same trail in pitch black after a night at the movies. Scared out of my wits (mostly that some biker would run me over). Strosniders has a cute little tossaway flashlight that fits on a key ring--now I carry that when I'm walking. I run in the a.m., so dark is not a problem these days for me, yeah!

    But no ID?? Yep, I do that all the time too. One of these days, we'll learn ... won't we??

  2. Ya know, this is one of my fears. I just can't run in the woods alone. Talk about heart racing. I used to not be able to run in the dark at all. But lately I've managed some early morning runs that don't terrify me:) I just want to scream at myself: GET OVER IT

  3. I know what mean about getting spooked.....I didn't ever think twice about it when I was younger and not responsible for other I'm so cautious and if I'm not someone else is always around to remind me to be safe, it 's well intended, but geez it can be a bit of a wet blanket!) Better safe than sorry though!

  4. scary--I learned my lesson after one run in Rock Creek after dark. Nothing bad happened, but it still wasn't pleasant. I still run after dark, but I try to keep on lit residential or commercial streets. May be a false sense of security, but it makes me feel better.

    Anyway, I'm glad you're running again--sounds like you picked up right where you left off before your injury.

  5. Did you file that story? It was written as if you were doing a feature on some weird wacky hallucinating nut who likes to go running in the deserted dark crevices of mankind.

  6. "Damn it," I thought. "I need to work off all that chocolate I ate."

    I hear ya. :)

    And don't go running in scary places anymore, Bex. No need risking you life to get healthy, ya know?

  7. I can relate, I did a few runs in the dark out on the country roads since daylight savings time. Those deer scared me every time, I need to invest in a headlight.