Saturday, July 25, 2015

Lost in Frankfurt

It all started on Thursday afternoon, I received a wrong number call from another senior missionary who ended up telling me about a special Pioneer Day 5K walk or run the next morning.  It was being organized by the Senior Missionary that is a doctor and included some of the office employees as well as senior missionaries.  Anyway, not knowing many details, I (Tom) agreed to participate.  Debbie agreed to help with the logistics, beverages, fruit, etc. and to be at the finish line to welcome me.  A map was sent out to me that evening by email.  I didn't understand much, since I don't know my way around yet, but I understood where to meet to get started which was a block or two from the Church office building, which is next to our apartment building.

To not lose our daily routine of walking/jogging in the beautiful cemetery, we started our Friday morning out there, with a shortened walk so that we could meet the others at 6:45 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. start time.  There were about 21 individuals participating including 2 young elders.  I made a mental decision to not be so competitive and just to  have fun, but I was determined to not just walk.  The course went up the side of the street (where we were beginning, then turn left into a neighborhood, continue to the end of another street return to a park which we would circle two times and then return the way that we came.

As we started, it became clear that most of the individuals would be walking.  But the doctor, the two young elders and another senior missionary that runs marathons were running, so I started out running with them. To maintain my non competitive nature, I let them get ahead of me and kept my own pace, making sure to stay close enough so that I would know where I was going.  All went according to plan and as we entered into the park, I was clearly in 5th place, behind the other 4 runners and far ahead of the walkers.  However, the other four were getting a little further ahead of me, which was just okay with me.  I felt that all was well under control, I expected to finish the 5 K in a little less than 30 minutes. 

As I left the park, with probably 4 of the Ks already completed, I looked forward to running through the neighborhood and then turning right onto the original street and finishing in a blaze of glory for my 5th place finish.  Who knows what might happen if I gained a little speed in the last 1,000 meters.  Somewhere in this process a strange thing happened.  I made my turn onto what I thought was the main street and started returning, when I found that the street was turning into residential areas that ended up in a dead end.  I thought that I had turned to early so I retraced my tracks and tried to find the correct street.  At this point, I knew that I would not advance in the race, but should still finish far ahead of the walkers.  However, the next street I took also needed up in a dead end.  This experience repeated itself over and over until I found myself totally lost.  I remembered that one of the streets started with an M and had found one, but it didn't seem to work.  I kept hoping that I would come out of the streets somewhere near to the finish line, perhaps even coming from the other direction, but to no avail.  I had not taken my phone with GPS, emails, maps, etc., since it would get in the way of my running (perhaps still a little too competitive).  I knew that eventually I would find myself, but worried about Debbie and the others worrying about me with no way for them to find me, since I was obviously no longer near the charted course.

All the time I am still jogging, knowing that I needed all of the time possible to get to the destination in good time.  Finally I found a major street with train tracks (there were train tracks near the original starting spot), so I gained courage.  However, these tracks were a major train line, running on the side of the street where I should be running.  By know, I wasn't sure which direction I needed to go, so I started running north (I think).  Things started looking even less familiar, if that was possible, so I turned around and started running south.  Finally I found a bus stop that had a map on it.  I could find out where I was, but I had no idea of where I wanted to go, at least on the larger map.  Then I found in the list of the future bus stops, I saw the M street, with the correct name that I could now remember.  My thought was if I can find that street, perhaps I can figure out where I am.  I then had to approach individuals on the street and ask for help, hoping that they could speak a little English since I can't speak or understand German.  My first attempt gave me minimal direction that didn't feel right.  She was telling me to go underground or something, I think to a subway station.  I tried another, who finally suggested that I go back to the train street and turn right for a few more blocks.

Without any other options, I tried this and found the street with the M name, actually it is Marbachweg, and felt that I was getting closer.  As I continued down this street, I was overjoyed to see a large fire station, for I had remembered seeing this fire station last month when we drove from the Church offices to the hotel.  I finally knew where I was, which was no where near the 5K race course, but at least I knew how to get back to the starting line, perhaps another half mile away.  As I finally approached the Church office building, I saw the controller and his wife (who were the slowest walkers of all) in their car heading home.  He saw me and said, "you are in trouble with your wife".  As I finally arrived at the finish line from a completely different direction, Debbie, the doctor and a few others were still there wondering where I could be. It was now well after 8:00 a.m.  It was a great relief to find myself and the finish line and we all had a good laugh.

Obviously, I did not finish 5th, I was dead last, but I was the only one to run 10,000 meters or more in a 5K race!

I have since tried to drive the course to understand where I went wrong, but most of the course were on walking paths, where cars cannot enter.  I have not yet tried to follow the course again on foot.  I have found that most neighborhoods have streets entering into them and ending in dead ends, where most of the residents park their cars.  Apparently, I had crossed the main street in a bridge over the street without being aware that I had done that. So when I turned, I was already off the race course.  As I kept trying to resolve my situation, I just got further and further away.  Probably not a great experience, but a safe ending, even though my legs were really tired.  It has now helped me to understand our neighborhood much more, after the fact.  I had been commenting to Debbie that driving by GPS is very dangerous, since I have a need to understand the overall geography by a map, rather than just running when the GPS tells me to do so.

No photos, because I didn't have my phone, but a lesson that will never by forgotten.

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