Chris Nugent may be an exceptional long-distance runner, but you'll never catch him bragging about his ability to follow directions.
Nugent, the star of last month's third annual Masochist Marathon -- a 26.2-mile race organized by the Howard County Striders -- unwittinglytook the race title a bit too seriously.
Everything started smoothly enough. He quickly broke away from the pack that had gathered at the Wilde Lake Village Center. Before long, the competition had lost sight of him.
"I was coming up on 6 1/2 miles, running a close third, and Chris was already passing the eight-mile mark. He was flying," said Joe Wasserman, the race organizer.
Before long, Nugent had, shall we say, flown away. As in disappeared. We pick up the action around the 14-mile mark, westbound on Route 144, with Nugent running comfortably and way ahead.
"I was doingreal well up to that point," recalled Nugent, a 26-year-old from Silver Spring who entered the Masochist to prepare for next month's Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va.
"Then, I didn't take a left onTriadelphia Road. I kept going straight on 144 west," he said. "I thought it would dead end somewhere. The problem is, I kept going straight. I knew something was wrong when I started passing major intersections. I drove the course the night before to make sure I wouldn't get lost. I guess I missed a certain segment."
But that didn't stop this young man from going farther, and farther, west. Past West Friendship and Cooksville, through Lisbon, all the way to Mount Airy.
Finally, after going 15 miles without seeing a water station, after looking at his watch and noting he had been running for 2 hours, 51 minutes, and after a pack of dogs had chased him several miles before he'd reached Mount Airy -- "I yelled at them as loud as I could and growled at them. That took care of the problem" -- Nugent began to face the facts.
"I came up to the Four Seasons Restaurant and asked where I was. They told me I was in Frederick County," said Nugent, who then decided to call a cab to get him back to the finish line in WildeLake. "They called back twice to make sure I was still there. They'dbeen stiffed before."
When the cabbie pulled up some 40 minutes later, the driver "looked at me kind of funny" when Nugent asked for aride back to the Wilde Lake Swim Center. "He asked if I had any money. I told him it was back in my car. He decided I seemed like an OK guy."
Nugent then asked the driver to clock the mileage back to Wilde Lake. Amazingly, the ride took 26.4 miles, at a cost of $28 to Nugent, who climbed out of the cab at the finish line to the astonishment of Wasserman and dozens of other runners who had completed the course and wondered what had become of him.
The official winner of therace was 41-year-old Tom Brown, who covered the course in 3:31:31. Nugent, however, was given a championship award, a complimentary set of Rollerblades, for clocking such a fast time on what amounted to be an extra-masochistic run.
"We decided he legitimately ran a championship race," Wasserman said. "I think he became a little disorientedbecause he's unfamiliar with the course. I also think he's a little spacey."