Plans, What Actually Happens, and What Matters

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Phil the Runner | Plans, What Actually Happens, and What Matters | Guardrail and Potomac River

Guardrail and Potomac River

It is Sunday night and the end of a long weekend.  My wife and I both had this past Friday off. Tomorrow is Monday and back to the grind.

On weekends, my wife and I normally have plans for what we’re doing each day and this long weekend was no different.  Time is precious and we don’t like to waste weekends sitting around.  We try to plan and control what we can so that we can make the most of our time off.

Much to the chagrin of my wife, our plans usually involve running.  Don’t get me wrong, she likes running; she just doesn’t like long runs that take all day.

However, we both have long races coming up.  We have a marathon planned for early November and early December.  In addition, I plan to run the JFK 50 mile race in mid-November.

As part of our training, our weekends lately often involve a long run, but we also try to plan something else enjoyable.

The key word here is plan.

First, there are our plans…

The plan for today was simple.

My wife and I planned to drive to the C&O Canal National Historic Park in Maryland.  At the park, we would both run on the C&O Canal towpath that follows the Potomac River.  It is a nice trail.  It is well shaded and scenic with great views of the Potomac River.  Sunday is our typical long run day, and today I was planning to run 24 miles and my wife was planning to run 20 miles.

The sky was grey, overcast, and the temperature was in the mid-50s.  Even though the towpath would have been a little muddy, the rain from the past few days was finally over.  It would have been a nice day for a long run, despite being a little chilly.

We also had a lunch packed so that after the run, we could have a nice small picnic along the C&O Canal while we stretched and relaxed.  This is our typical routine after a long run on Sunday and it is a nice way to end the weekend.

And then, there is what actually happens…

As you can probably guess, the plan for today didn’t work out exactly as we had envisioned.

To get to the C&O Canal park for our long run, we have to take a short drive on I-495 from Northern Virginia to Maryland.  This is a route we drive almost every weekend.  As mentioned, the C&O Canal towpath is a great and scenic place for a long run.

Today, we were on the I-495 bridge passing over the Potomac River.  We were almost to our exit, so we were in the exit lane next to the guardrail.

And that is when our plans for the day were changed.

For some reason, there was a large metal ladder in the middle of the lane on our left.  I saw the ladder a second before the car in that lane drove right into it.  I thought, this won’t be good.

After they hit the ladder, the driver lost control of their car.  Their car spun left, slamming into the car in that lane.  That collision spun their car back into our lane.  I slammed on the brakes, but it was too late.  They hit our car on the front and left side.  We were then knocked into the concrete guardrail of the bridge.

All this happened in less than a second at 60 miles/per hour.

Thankfully no one in the three cars were hurt.  And somehow, I am not sure how, it was only just the three cars.  And thankfully that guardrail was solid concrete, otherwise we might have been knocked a few hundred feet into the river.  I may question the wisdom of some road planning decisions (like why doesn’t I-66 have more lanes), but the thickness of that guardrail is something I will never question.

The police came and eventually the tow truck arrived as well. In total, we had to sit in our car on the side of the busy interstate for a good four hours.  My wife thinks this is ironic because this is about how long her run today, which she was dreading, would have taken in the first place.

We both agree the long run would have been better.

In the end, I am not sure if our car is salvageable or not.  The repairs may very well cost more than the car is worth.  We purchased it new over 9 years ago. It had a lot of miles, but it was in good condition and we planned to drive it for another 5 years or more at least. The adjuster will come tomorrow and let us know.

And finally, there is what matters…

Despite all the plans we make, despite all that we try to control, in reality there is only so much we can control.

But that is okay.  Because plans, cars, and long runs are not what matter.

Sure, it is frustrating. It is frustrating to miss a long run. It is frustrating to be thrown off our training schedule.  It is frustrating to have to deal with car repairs or replacement.

But in the end, none of that matters.

What matters is that no one was hurt.  What matters is that my wife and I can come home to our dog, Ricky.  He was so happy to see us, despite not knowing what happened.  We took him on an extra long walk this evening.

Despite all the plans we make, there are things that we can’t control.

But what matters is that we can run another day.

Thanks for reading.

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