On Detours

Sunday Runday and it felt a little like old times as we plodded through busy spring trails, dodging bikes, dog-walkers, and fellow runners along the river valley trails.

A few of the run crew have found themselves in an urgent training predicament. With the local restrictions lifting quickly and thoroughly, an ultramarathon that most figured on being postponed again seems to be running. A few of the run crew signed up to do signficant distances through mountain paths. A few of the run crew need to get back to their 2020 stamina levels in the next few weeks. A few of the run crew are a bit panicked.

Not me. I’m just enjoying my minimal-race summer agenda, but I promised to train with them all no matter what they need to accomplish.

So we planned on a twelve to fourteen kilometer Sunday run.

Plans don’t always work out.

Busy trails. Improptu plans. Spontaneous pathfinding. These are the ingredients for adventure.

The first ten kilometers went without a hitch. We climbed the aphalt ascent from where we’d met and parked our cars that morning, looped through a local park as we traversed the weaving network of winding paths. We crossed the river on the sidewalk portion of the new bridge stopping for a photo. And we traced the trail to the foot of another long hill…

… where we stopped and contemplated our options.

To the right an asphalt trail cluttered with people led on a long slow ascent out of the river valley to a familiar neighbourhood. To the left a narrow dirt path ducked under a guardrail and dropped along beside the river, showing no signs of human life.

The trail was true for the first few minutes. Then deeper into the route bits of it were washed away from the spring runoff causing us to take careful footsteps along sloping, sanding ledges barely as wide as our shoes. A corner opened up into a mud pit, which we trod through with reluctance (and a few choice curse words) and led to a steep drop gleaming with a gaping outflow of slippery orange mud dropping off of a sharp ledge that fell three meters into the murky river water below.

The six of us stopped and debated our options.

We were now about half a kilometer down what seemed like either a risky or dead-end path, and the choice was to continue on and hope we weren’t further blocked ahead, or turn back and take the alternate route up the people-cluttered asphalt hill.

Detours and tracking back on your path are unfortunate side effects of taking risks in running as in life. Is it better to cut your losses and try a different approach to get somewhere, or stubborningly forge on and hope for the best?

As we traced back, climbed the hill and then found a path back into the valley that would eventually connect back up to the trail we’d lost we wondered how much our detour had cost us. I stopped my watch at sixteen kilometers as I hobbled back to my vehicle at the end of the run. It was a small bit more than I’d planned to run today… but also a whole lot more adventure, too.