A Florida woman attempting run her first half marathon failed to cross the finish line after getting lost and going missing for 12 hours.
Melissa Kitcher was hoping to complete the 21.1-kilometre race on Sunday, but believes she ran an extra five kilometres in total after following unmarked paths at a nature reserve during the Trail Hog Half Marathon in Sarasota County, Florida.
It wasn’t until the path took her nearly 11 kilometres off course that she realized she had made a mistake.
“When I hit the power lines I said, ‘yes I’m definitely way of course,'” explained Kitcher. “I’m lost.”
Kitcher was left stranded without a phone or a way to call for help.
When race organizers realized Kitcher was missing they began a search for her.
Race organizer Thierry Rouillard called Kitcher’s situation “the worst nightmare” for a race director.
“I love what I do and want everyone to be happy,” Rouillard told NBC 6.
Park officials located Kitcher at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. She was thirsty but uninjured after being stranded in the reserve.
“She was happy when we found her,” Rouillard said.
“That was her first half marathon. That was her first trail run. She learned the hard way.”
Rouillard joked he intends to send her a gift package with racing goods along with a finisher’s medal and an “award for the longest Trail Hog Half Marathon in the history of the event.”
Despite friends and family telling her “no more races,” Kitcher already has her sights set on her next run.
“There’s the Sarasota Half Marathon on March 19. I already have that in my head,” she said. “I’m lucky this one’s on the street.”