we were driving out to north dakota, it was getting late and i had yet to get in my run. i needed to finish my run before 12:00am MST. at about 10:30 we found a days inn in oacoma south dakota that had vacancy and offered free breakfast in the morning, if you dare. we paid the night clerk and quickly moved in. i grabbed my running clothes first and changed into what seemed like appropriate clothes. usually i forget something, but somehow i was prepared enough to pack my headlamp. i put it on, quickly gave my wife brief heads up as where i was going (which i really didn’t know) and what time to expect me.

i took off down the dark highway about 10:49pm. as the cars passed with their high beams on, i felt increasingly uncomfortable since i couldn’t see where i was stepping. off to the north were some beautiful rolling hills covered in grass and dimly lit by the almost full moon. this was very appealing but the hills were behind a very tightly strung barbed wire fence.

i debated the idea of jumping the fence for a couple of seconds, because it seemed like private property (actually i knew it was private property), but i was more worried that it was not the route i had told my wife i was running. what if i fell in a well…or got trapped under a large rock?? no one would find me… I found a sturdy fence post that looked like it could support me. i leaped over the top careful not to rip my clothes…and just like that, i was on my way. i ran along the some double tracks, that looked like they were recently made from a vehicle, that rolled in and out of the pale moon light (note: i’ve always wanted to use the phrase “pale moon light” so there!). it was so beautiful. the weather was perfect and trail was smooth and easy to find. and where it was not easy to find, the terrain was smooth enough that i could just break new trail. my headlamp was superfluous at this point, and I chose to leave it off, besides i wasn’t quite sure where i was and didn’t want to bring attention to myself. i ran along for only a mile before i came to a point where it slopped down into cliff-like darkness and seemed just a little bit risky (all of a sudden i am now into risk management). for all i know it could have been a strip mine or a sink hole….something!

i turned around and retraced my steps back to the road. i found it slightly difficult to see exactly where I had come from. i went off course a bit to the west, to the point where i found myself on the top of a little hill. it was a little brighter there and seemed ok. it wasn’t completely ok because i was still a bit nervous about being behind a fence, running in the dark, and the occasional bear-looking shadow.

as i was running along the top of the hill i suddenly started to hear some running hoof-like noise nearby. in fact it sounded like more than one thing running. holy shit! i stopped and turned on my headlamp and quickly panned the adjacent hill towards where i thought the sound was coming from. i could see that the dark shadows were actually black cattle and they were all running away from me. i had started a stampede, and now i was worried. i don’t know if you have ever started a stampede in the middle of the night on private property or not, but i was doing it for the first time and i was extremely worried. i imagined them running off a cliff or into the barbed wire fence, or into the road… anything could happen i thought. they were running full speed toward the road and toward the fence. i tried to quickly get out view so they would calm down. i ran down the hill and headed into the darkness hoping the stampede would fizzle out once they noticed i wasn’t around anymore. it seemed like it was working because i could see the cows in the back had broken into a light jog.

i wasn’t quite as worried but kept running to the other side of the hill that had separated us. i just wanted to get the hell out of there. i was hoping that they would soon relax stop running, and everything would be good. except that after running down the hill for a few meters, i looked up and low and behold the stampede was coming over the hill just above me…heading right at me. i froze in my tracks, and wasn’t sure what to do at this point. i shined my head light up at them, and all i could see was the silhouettes from their ears and glowing eyes. in an ironic twist, i was scared that i was about to be trampled by a very worried herd, that i had scared in the first place. they saw my head light and slowed down once again. i think this time they realized that i wasn’t an animal, and they were in fact chasing me now. not something they wanted to do i guess. they slowed down and turned away from me, till they came to a stop.

i kept running however. i didn’t stop. i got to the fence, found a place to hope over. almost ripped my clothes this time, but managed to unhook my shorts before they ripped… and my adventure was over.

i got back to the hotel, logged my 411th day of running in a row at 11:55pm MST.
thanks for reading.

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