Written by Marshall Phares
I have had several opportunities to travel for work and explore new cities (and towns) on the run over the past few years. During the past year, I’ve made tracks through Chicago suburbs, Portland and Flagstaff dirt trails, small-town Indiana and the burgeoning metropolis of Manhattan.
When exploring a new area, I attempt to look at a map the night before and write down some key streets or search for parks with trails. Unfortunately, my system is not foolproof as I tend to find myself lost or adding on significant mileage due to a wrong turn. I’ve been lost in Boulder, CO; Philadelphia, PA; Chicago, IL; Irvine, CA; Dubuque, IA (in subzero temperatures), West Des Moines, IA (when I was a resident), and Boston (I managed to turn a 4 mile shakeout run into a 5.5 mil run the day before the marathon).
This past week I found myself in Ft. Lauderdale, FL where I set off for a jaunt early one morning to a park approximately two miles away. Based on my analysis the night before, the park had a safe and convenient 1.5 mile loop (minimizing the opportunity for a wrong turn). However, upon arrival at the park about 6 a.m. I found the gate barred.
Not to be deterred, I proceeded to hop the fence. After all, there was a perfectly good running path on the other side, and it is my civic duty to ensure it does not go to waste.
I ran unencumbered for 2.5 miles, before a small park vehicle approached and the driver said “hello.” Since I was not going to outrun or maneuver the vehicle, I came to a halt. The jolly gentleman bluntly inquired how I entered the park. I truthfully stated that I hopped the gate. Confounded by my response, he asked “what gate?” I’m assume the appearance of a shirtless, skinny kid who appears to lack the strength to hop any form of barrier stunned him (especially given the early hour). I pointed towards the gate on the other side of the park.
At this juncture, he proceeded to inform me that I was trespassing (apparently the park opens at 6:30 a.m.). Now, I did not see any signs at the gate or within the park regarding hours/no trespassing signs. I pleaded my case that I was from out of town and was looking for a safe place to run. Thankfully, he let me off with a verbal warning, letting me carry on with the rest of my run, and adding some parting advice to “stop hopping fences.”
As a went on my merry way, I contemplated all of the barriers, no trespassing signs, and road/trail closed signs I’ve blatantly ignored over the years. Heck, I even ran around a certain employee only track in Portland (wearing Asics!), but this was the first time I’ve ever been ‘caught’ or reprimanded. I’m still unsure if I did anything wrong, but the park employee was just doing his job, so I will not hold a grudge. In the future, I may need to recognize and heed certain warnings.
Anyways, as I attempted to exit the park, the gate remained closed (even though it was 6:35 a.m.). As a result, I proceeded to ignore the man’s advice (I was trapped otherwise) and hop fence.