November 15, 2014
Delaware is a nail-biter. An epic tale. A hero’s journey. Actually, it’s just a time I made a poor choice and almost got lost. Still, a story nonetheless.
Picture it, Annapolis, Maryland, the second to last day of a week’s vacation. Four states in the books, two to go. The next day’s Maryland run would be easy: I could walk out the front door with two friends and do a simple jog. Today was not so simple. I awoke beneath my cozy covers in my cozy private room with the less than cozy thought that if I was ever going to run in Delaware, today was the day. I peeked outside. I must have been 30 degrees, if that. My friends were still asleep in their respective rooms. I really didn’t want to get in my rental car, drive and navigate for an hour to anywhere in the state of Delaware and run 3.1 miles. Yet when else would I have this opportunity? Delaware is a hangnail of state that I couldn’t foresee ever travelling to again. I had been running for days. What was one more? I got out of bed. Put on two pairs of running pants, a turtleneck, borrowed sunglasses and a borrowed knit cap with skulls and crossbones. Grabbing a piece of cold pizza, I walked out the door.
It would be at least an hour to cross the border, starting with the four-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Winds tried to toss my little car around but my gloves gripped the steering with resolve—I was doing it now. There was no going back until I ran in Delaware. But, finding my way to Delaware—or a rather a place to run in Delaware—could not be done with sheer willpower. I’d rolled onto a smaller highway and kept checking my phone’s Google Maps to indicate I was in Delaware. Finally, that blue dot had nudged over to the right. Now I just had to find a place to pull over and run.
After my experience in Pennsylvania running on the side of a busy road, I really couldn’t run just anywhere. It didn’t have to be picturesque but it did have to be safe. So I kept driving until I pulled off on a road that wasn’t too busy and wasn’t (I hoped) a private drive. After parking and taking the requisite photo I started to run alongside a field. “Look at how far I’ve come” I thought. The idea of getting up early on cold fall morning and leaving your friends at the house to drive across a bridge to run anywhere in the state of Delaware sounded crazy. But to me, in that moment, it made perfect sense. By plopping myself in the middle of nowhere to run I was doing something. Then I noticed a “Private Property” sign. Whether I was within the private property or not, I could not be sure. And really, there was nowhere else to go so I pressed on. The run was going ok. Running back and forth across the same road, passing your rental car and a “Private Property” sign is a less than desirable way to spend 3.1 miles. Still, the music was good. I was groovin’ on a good mix and looking forward to the next song, Cut Copy’s “Need You Now.” That’s when I saw that my phone was in the red battery zone. It must have been the hour-plus of navigating to Delaware! I had a choice : use the phone to listen to a 6-minute Cut Copy song or to map my way back to Annapolis from a farm in Delaware. I chose Cut Copy.
I kept running. I looked at my mileage watch. I looked at my phone. As the mileage decimals went up (good), the phone charge went down (bad). I was in the middle of nowhere in Delaware. “I know I’m running, baby, but I need you now” was my and the lyric’s desperate plea for battery charge, looping within a frantic 6 minutes and 9 seconds. The song miraculously kept on until the final .1 mile. I stopped in front of my car just as the phone screen went black. It had happened. I was standing in an empty road, on an empty farm with a dead phone and a piece of cold pizza. I climbed in the car and looked at the pizza in the passenger seat. Like the “Wilson” volleyball in Cast Away, it seemed to glare back. I gnawed off a bite in retaliation. I could do this. How did people find their way before iPhones? Maps. I didn’t have a map. What about before maps? They retraced their steps. They tried to remember the way they had come.
I thought of the Regina Spektor lyrics: “I’m the hero of this story, don’t need to be saved.” I was the hero of this story. This was my story and if I wanted to get saved I was going to have to just figure it out. I drove back out of the farm the way I came. Good. Done. I turned left. Yes, I had turned right before. And so on until I found myself on that same windy, 4-mile bridge home. Rolling back into the driveway it was almost as if I could harbor the secret. I never had to tell anyone that I had chosen music over safety and navigation. I didn’t have to share that I probably should have picked a more public place to run as opposed to private farmland. All of these daring choices could stay between me and Delaware.
But what fun would that be? I love the story too much.