Running up a hill A while back I was chatting with some colleagues about funny stories. One of them mentioned how some of their friends have a go-to story that they’ve heard many times over. It’s that one outrageous thing that happened: a guaranteed crowd-pleaser so you end up falling back on it. This is my story.
I am a runner. I’ve been a runner on and off since high school. I ran on the cross country and track teams up until college where I stopped for a while. I returned to running after moving to Boston and eventually decided I wanted to run a marathon.
My training plan included long weekend runs. As the miles built up I felt the need to branch out geographically, rather than circling my neighborhood. So for a scheduled eighteen mile day I decided to run from my home on the outskirts of Boston to the Blue Hills Reservation in Canton, Mass.
I carefully mapped out my route, filled a Camelbak with water, grabbed a snack, and set off at a slow jog. Everything started out beautifully. I found a comfortable pace, the weather and temperature were ideal, the route was simple to follow.
As I crossed into Milton I saw a sign for the Neponset River Reservation. From studying a detailed map at home it looked to me like this park joined up with the Blue Hills. In my pack was a not very detailed printout view of the area. I figured there was a trail connecting the two parks. I came upon a trail laid out on an old railroad bed. It appeared to head in the general direction I wished to go. Thinking it would be a short jog to the Blue Hills I set off down this trail.
Now, I will freely admit that dark alleys and remote, empty woods make me nervous. I always expect something to jump out and get me. However, I am also stubborn, so when this particular trail started to look a little remote, empty, marshy on one side, and deep-dark-woodsy on the other I knew I should have turned back, but I could not admit my mistake. So I ran along down this path thinking that some woods-dwelling axe murdered was going to appear at any moment but also convinced that the trail would be short and take me where I wanted to go in no time.
The trail, of course grew longer and longer beneath my feet and I became more and more convinced of my imminent peril. How would I escape my attacker? Could I rush into this thicket of cattails and hide? Would pure adrenaline cause me to flee at super-speeds or karate chop my assailant into unconsciousness?
Then I began to hear road noise. Perfect! I was coming up to the street that ran along the edge of the two parks and I would soon see trail signs for the Blue Hills! But the road noise remained far away and only gradually increased until I could tell this was no ordinary two-lane street. That’s when I saw the Jersey barrier ahead, and eight lanes of traffic whizzing by on Interstate 95, a distinctly unfriendly place for runners.
Not willing to return to my original route via Axe Murderer Lane, I stepped out toward the edge of the highway, hoping to spot a nearby exit that I could follow back to a side road. Thankfully there was one nearby, but I can only imagine what drivers on the road thought of this sweaty, terrified woman in running shorts and a tank top jogging along the side of the interstate.
When I reached the bank heading up to the exit overpass I had to scramble up through a patch of thick shrubs, then stumble through briers beside the guard rail. I noticed a more open area ahead and made a beeline for it. Suddenly I was in a disused highway maintenance lot, with a broken down shed, cracking pavement, and a really eerie atmosphere that I did not like at all. To add to this terrible scene, an enormous raptor suddenly lifted off in front of me carrying a five foot long snake in its claws. Great, I thought. An abandoned backlot populated by snakes. Perhaps I was meant to found a new Mexican city here, but it looked a little bleak.
I wandered through this obviously snake-infested (and axe murderer laden!) hellscape until I found a side trail most certainly filled with more homeless, axe-wielding psychopaths, but sadly it looked like it really was leading toward civilization so I had to take it. Eventually I saw Blue Hills trail blazes and figured out where I was.
Down the trail headed toward home I passed two women who I “nearly scared to death” by “sneaking up on” them, as they breathlessly told me. If they only knew of or asked about the many dangers I had faced that day they could have been the first to hear my new favorite story.