Taking the Long Way Around

So, I decided to start running outdoors again. Yeah, I know: been there, done that, got the washed-out Nike t-shirt (actually it’s a tank top, but whatever) to prove it.

If you’ve been reading this blog since God was a teenager, however, you’ll know that I don’t tend to have much luck with running outdoors. Or even just being outdoors. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say my last experiment in this area was a complete and utter failure. You see, I was afeared. I was scared in that way that I think most women are when they find themselves out in the middle of nowhere, on their own and with no-one to hear them scream should something bad happen. “What if someone tries to kill me?” I would think, as I plodded up some lonely woodland trail or other. “I bet they wouldn’t find my body for YEARS out here!” And so the fear drove me away from those pretty woodland trails and towards the streets near my house, around which I would circle endlessly, passing the same, suburban scenes over and over and over again, seeing the same people multiple times, and getting the same looks of shocked disbelief from them every single time. (If someone’s running in this town, it normally means the police are after them…)

This got very boring, very quickly. Eventually, it got SO boring that I headed back to the gym, and the treadmill. At least people don’t stop what they’re doing to stare at you on the treadmill, you know? Well, not ALL the time, anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the treadmill. It’s my “thinking” time. And sometimes it’s my “not thinking” time, where I just put on some good music and let my mind go blank. Or blanker than usual. Other times, though, it’s my “Damn, but this is BORING!” time, and when that started to be the case more often than not, my mind once again turned towards the idea of running outdoors.

This time would be different, I thought. This time I would not be afraid. I would run where I wanted to run, and I would ignore the incredulous stares. It would be ace!

So, one fine day in July (it was literally the ONE fine day in July, seriously), I pulled on my running shoes and headed out into the great outdoors. What could go wrong, I thought? I had a phone with GPS on it. If I got lost, all I had to do was pull up a map, and I’d be found. (Also, it’s a PHONE. That you can use to speak to people on). And if someone tried to kill me, why, I was a RUNNER! I would RUN AWAY. Fast. Or I would poke them in the eye with my keys. It would be fine!

And actually, it was fine. Our town didn’t really exist before the 1960s. It was one of the “new towns” that were built in Scotland around then, and it has a very 1960s look to it: lots of concrete, buildings like boxes, strange bits of “street art” that have long-since become so thickly coated with graffiti that they’ve actually started to look better than they originally did, in that grim, urban kind of way. There is, however, also a river, and the area around the river is rather lovely. Lots of woodland trails that make you feel like you’re out in the country, even although you’re smack-dab in the centre of town, water rushing, birds chirping, flowers, er, flowering… I even saw a group of bunnies, people, and what could be better than that? (Oh, and every now and then, dotted in amongst the foliage, will be some graffiti-coated concrete edifice from the 60s. It’s awesome, seriously.)

Well, I finished my run, and I LOVED it. I actually don’t know this town very well, or not on foot, anyway. In the car, I could take you anywhere, but I’ve never really walked around it, which is a shame, because there are so many little interesting footpaths and trails that it was like a little adventure. I was converted. I was going to be running outside ALL THE TIME from now on, I decided. It would be my “thing”. I would be Fearless Adventurer Amber! I couldn’t wait!

A couple of days later, then, I set out again, with the adventuring. Once again, I headed to the river, and I was having a fine old time. So I ran on. And on. And on. It was great. The trees! The river! More bunnies! And then, in the middle of nowhere, under a random bridge… a tramp! Um, OK. I stopped at this point. The Fear returned. It seemed obvious to me that this man would try and kill me. I mean, why else would you be hanging out under a bridge in the middle of nowhere, if not to kill the next random runner girl that went past? Well, no problem, I thought, I would just double back a bit, and pick up the trail further along the river.

You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? And I’m glad YOU can, because I certainly couldn’t see where I going. Leaving my country trail, you see, I found myself in a network of streets. This town is full of such networks. You get into them, and you can wander around for weeks, until someone stumbles across your poor, emaciated form and takes you in. Ironically enough, I knew exactly where I was. It was a part of town I’ve been to many times in the car, and a couple of times on foot, although on those occasions I was with Terry, who is a native of the town and knows its many secrets.

So I knew where I was: I just didn’t know how to get from there to where I wanted to be. Not on foot, anyway. If I’d had my car there, I could have driven straight home. That route, however, would take me along busy main roads, and wasn’t one I really wanted to take on foot, so I turned and plunged back into the woods, determined to work it out. Well, I ran and I ran. I ran for about a mile, and then the path I was on returned me abruptly to the same street I’d started from, having apparently taken me in a large loop. I turned around and set off again, this time taking a different route… which took me to slightly further along the same street I started from. Hmm.

Once again, I set off into the woods. There are lots of different routes through these woods, I discovered. You set off down one track, only to find it splitting into three more tracks a little way along it, with no clue where each of them leads. If only I’d been prepared, like the Famous Five, and brought a ball of string to unwind as I went, I might have had even the slightest clue where I was going, but alas, no.  I knew I’d gone wrong again, when I encountered these:

What was disturbing about this was that I took this photo with my phone camera, which means I was just as close to those sheep as it looks. I was in a field with sheep! Sheep were in a field with me! This was ALL KINDS OF WRONG, and by now I was starting to get a little annoyed, mostly because it was getting close to lunchtime, and if I didn’t get home soon, I’d miss Neighbours. That right there tells you all you need to know, really, doesn’t it?

Well, I turned round and I retraced my weary steps. Arriving back, once again, at the street I’d started from, I encountered a woman in a car, who slowed down and asked me directions to the mall. “If I knew where I was, I might be able to tell you,” I said, which was actually a total LIE, because I am absolutely useless when it comes to giving people directions. I couldn’t direct you from my front door to the bottom of the driveway. I can’t read maps, either, which was why I now realised that when I’d come up with the whole “I can’t possibly get lost because I have Google maps on my phone” thing, I’d obviously been smoking crack:

The map, then, was no good to me, and time was a-wastin’, so I decided to admit defeat, call Terry and ask him to come and get me. This would be humiliating, sure: I mean, I was “lost” in a place I knew well, and which I could have driven home from in a matter of minutes, but I figured walking back along that route would be a) dangerous and b) time-consuming, so I sucked it up, got my phone back out…

… and it had no credit on it. OF COURSE NOT.

This has long been a bone of contention between Terry and I. When I got my iPhone, you see, Terry insisted we go for a Pay-as-You-Go tariff, his reasoning being that as I never, ever phone anyone anyway, it would be a waste of money to pay a monthly fee for it. “You could put £10 worth of credit on the phone and it would last you all year,” said Terry, little knowing that I would burn through three times that amount in the space of ten minutes at Gran Canaria airport just a few short months later.

We argued about this for a while. My fear was that, with Pay-as-You-Go, I would always run out of credit at the exact moment I most needed it. It was inevitable, I said. AND WHO WAS RIGHT ABOUT THAT, TERRY, HUH? HUH?

So I had no credit. I couldn’t phone Terry, or, indeed anyone else. And I had no money. Of COURSE NOT. Because when you go running in the middle of nowhere, you don’t take anything with you that could conceivably be of any use, do you?

So I sent Terry an email. The phone allowed me to do this, luckily. (Actually, the more I think about it, the more grateful I am that emergency calls are free on these things. Because if they weren’t, and I got into an ACTUAL emergency, I’d have to send the police an email saying, “Help! Am being attacked!” And, knowing me, because I really detest text speak, and can never bring myself to use it, I would type it all out totally correctly, and then spell-check it before hitting send.) Unluckily, however, Terry is not like me, and doesn’t spend all day hovering over his email like a giant bat. So it took him ten minutes to read my message, during which I had decided to embark upon the long road home, using the only route I knew would definitely take me there, and not send me back to the sheep.

Now, imagine you get an email from your wife saying that she is lost, and needs your help. What do you do? Do you call her, say? OF COURSE NOT. You simply send her an email in response, and you do this because YOU DO NOT KNOW HER PHONE NUMBER.

No, Terry and I do not know each other’s phone numbers. In fairness, we don’t really need to, because we have them programmed into our phones. This is of no use to Terry whatsoever, though, because when he got my email, his phone battery was dead. OF COURSE IT was. Terry’s phone is almost always dead, and when it’s not dead? It’s lost. He’s not big on the whole cellphone thing, either, you see.

Just to recap, then: my phone has no credit, his has no battery life. He doesn’t have my phone number, I don’t have a brain. WE FAIL. At everything. GOD.

To bring this lengthy story to an end, though, I emailed Terry my number, he called me, and a few minutes later, came to my rescue. And all the way home, he pointed out the routes I COULD have taken. Which is really the story of my life.

(I now take spare change with me when I go running. Terry keeps his phone charged, and I always have credit on my phone. Not all of these statements are true…)