Melissa Kitcher had full intentions of completing her first half-marathon Sunday, but it's safe to say she pictured it ending a little bit differently.
Kitcher went missing for nearly 12 hours after running off the trail during the Trail Hog Half-Marathon at the Carlton Reserve near Venice in Sarasota County, Florida.
"I kept thinking to myself, 'Wow, how do people run these trails? I can't even walk them,'" she said. "When I hit the power lines I said, 'Yes I'm definitely way off course. I'm lost.'"
But how did she manage to get lost?
Kitcher said there was no marking to indicate or properly direct her. “The website says you're supposed to be on Jeep trails. So when I came out there was a Jeep trail and I figured that was the path I needed to be on," Kitcher explained.
The runner ended up six to seven miles off course with no phone — it inconveniently froze up two minutes before the start of the race, she said.
Race director Thierry Rouillard had this to say about the situation: "It's the worst nightmare for a race director. I love what I do and want everyone to be happy. That was her first half-marathon. That was her first trail run. She learned the hard way.”
Kitcher ended running over 16 miles before the park’s department located her in the reserve about 7:30 p.m.
She was uninjured. Thirsty, of course, but just happy she could go home.
“She was happy when we found her. I'm going to send her a gift package with racing stuff. A finisher's medal and award for the longest Trail Hog half-marathon in the history of the event," Rouillard joked.
Despite going a little off course, Kitcher already has sights set on redemption.
"There's the Sarasota Half Marathon on March 19th. I already have that in my head," she said. "Everybody keeps telling me no more races, I said I'm lucky this one's on the street."