Sunday, February 05, 2023

The Front Row with BILL BULEY April 30, 2010

| April 30, 2010 9:00 PM

Question: Why would a runner take a wrong turn in a race when he's 99 percent sure he is, indeed, going the wrong way? Answer: It's easy. Because the runners in front of him went that way.

Question: Why would a runner take a wrong turn in a race when he's 99 percent sure he is, indeed, going the wrong way?

Answer: It's easy. Because the runners in front of him went that way.

That's what happened in the Spring Dash on Sunday when I was in the final mile, charging hard along Lakeshore Drive approaching Tubbs Hill. Suddenly, a few runners just ahead turned right and headed up a steep hill on 11th Street, past the orange cone.

Questions flashed in my beleaguered brain.

What the heck? Did they change the course? Why are we going this way?

The guy near me knew, too, and pointed back to indicate we should have kept going straight.

A gal running strong yelled out, "What are we doing?"

Another guy said, "Where did this come from?"

"We weren't supposed to turn there," I finally said to anyone willing to listen.

But none of us turned back. We were committed, wherever this ended up.

When we reached Mountain Avenue, we took a left back over the correct course. A few minutes later, frustrated and flustered, I finished and found my son Nick, who had been ahead of me and also took the wrong turn.

We muttered about how much time that cost us and later, drove back and twice measured the distance of the right way, and the wrong way. We came up with almost a tenth of a mile extra.

I quickly calculated at a 6:20 per mile pace or so, that was about 38 seconds. Add the big hill we went up, and it's more than 40 seconds we decided to deduct from our finishing times. We both felt much better.

Nick, as it turned out, not only got off course - strike one - but was listed as "Mick" Buley in the results - strike two - and also ended up in the wrong age division. Strike three. Oh well. That's what he gets for having me fill out his entry form.

I SHOULDN'T have been surprised at the Spring Dash misadventure. Making a wrong turn is nothing new for me. It's not always my fault. Organizers sometimes don't exactly mark the course clearly, and seem to believe that we'll just know by instinct which way to go.

You should have heard Kent Eggleston's directions when he explained the new Leprechaun Scurry course this year at Lake City High School. "OK, start here, then turn left up by the building. When you get to the other side, go left again, and then run to the sidewalk. Follow that all the way until it loops back. From there, you'll take a right at the grass, another right at the fence, then follow your way around field and go right to the track."

Well, it was something like that and we all laughed. Fortunately, the leader got it all. My good friend and running buddy, Keith Erickson, however, managed to make a wrong turn near the end. Ever since, he's complained it cost him 15 seconds. C'mon Keith. Pay attention next time.

Then, there was a 5k run years ago that started and ended at the Bonner County Fairgrounds. Somehow, in a frenzied, mad dash near the finish, I went straight where I was supposed to go left, and found myself in a field. No finish line. No people. No medal. Embarrassed, I walked back to the course and kind of meandered in. My wife later said she saw me and wondered where I was going. Thanks.

Then there was another Sandpoint race in one of the worst marked courses ever. We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere when a few of us came to a fork. Left or right? There was no sign, no arrow, no way to know. We guessed left. Wrong. We were more lost. Eventually, we jogged back to the finish. I didn't win, either.

But once, someone going the wrong way paid off for me.

In the final mile of the Aspirin Rally Run that was part of the Lost in the 50s celebration in Sandpoint, I was in second place, chasing a guy in front by a few yards, when we approached the last turn. We had to cross the street, then go left. Only, he kept going straight. Two thoughts flashed in my mind: One, wait for him; two, keep running. This was a no brainer. I kept running. I even cut the turn short and sprinted. Yes! I won! I still have the plaque to prove it.

And in case you were wondering, no, I don't feel guilty. That guy should have known where he was going.

Bill Buley is city editor of the Coeur d'Alene Press. He can be reached at (208) 664-8176, ext. 2016, or

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