Lost Jogger?

9/11 Update: I hope to ask rescuer Ron Eaglin for his personal take on the story some time, but he’s got a straightforward writeup on his blog about it already (with a map here).  Also, a good press account here.  I’m rethinking; there may be nothing more than has already been written.  How truly remarkable that it all came out OK.

What is the full story? This guy was lost and wandering in a small wooded area for 4 days and nights? This area adjacent to UCF is really small; its an L-shaped plot, about 1 mile wide and 1.4 miles tall. Its wonderful that he was found and rescued (by a UCF acquantance of mine in fact!) But I’m sure there is more to this story.

Eddie MeadowsLost jogger heard city life, couldn’t connect
He spent 4 days wandering through woods — trucks and UCF’s band within earshot.
Sarah Lundy
Sentinel Staff Writer

September 6, 2006

Eddie Meadows thought he was taking a shortcut through some nature trails when he got lost for four days jogging in a swampy area near the University of Central Florida.

“I’m just an old runner who went out and made a really dumb mistake,” Meadows, 62, said Tuesday as he sat in a wheelchair with an IV in his arm at Florida Hospital Orlando East.

The father of two spoke publicly for the first time about how he wandered through woods for four days until he was found on Labor Day moving in thigh-high-deep mud about 400 yards from Neptune Drive.

To survive, the 145-pound Meadows said he drank swamp water, slurped rainwater off leaves and ate various grapes and leaves, including some that tasted like cloves and wintergreen.

Meadows, who was training to run a marathon, had suffered cuts on his hands and dehydration that led to acute kidney failure.

By Tuesday, his doctors said his kidney functions had returned to normal and he could leave the hospital today.

“My hands are all tore up, but I feel great,” said Meadows, wearing a hospital gown and tan socks. Ardis Meadows, his high-school sweetheart and wife of 40 years, stood behind him with her hand on his shoulder.

Meadows, a contract employee with the U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, didn’t mean to cause such a fuss when he went out for his usual hourlong run at lunch Thursday. The Army office is on the grounds of the Navy’s training and simulation installation at Central Florida Research Park, next to UCF.

Meadows — who had eaten a cinnamon-crunch bagel and orange juice that morning — ran through the research park and up to UCF’s stadium before he headed back. He had spent more time than he had planned running, so he tried to shave some time by cutting through what appeared to be a trail.

However, it ended, and Meadows was not sure where he was or how to retrace his steps. Each attempt to get out only landed him deeper into the woods.

“You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. . . . That was my situation,” he said.

Using a broken stick, he cleared a path as he wandered for hours. At dusk on the first night, Meadows heard the UCF band practice and headed toward the music.

“Unfortunately, they didn’t practice long enough,” he said, chuckling. “They started to quit when it started to get dark.”

Later that night, a helicopter with a searchlight flew over him, shining the light in his eyes.

“But I was in such foliage that he couldn’t see me,” Meadows said. “I hunkered down and waited for daylight to come up.”

He spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday trying to find his way out. He attempted to use the sun as a guide.

Meadows knew he was close. He heard dump trucks, car horns and the UCF band again playing.

“The most frustrating thing was that I could hear civilization around me the whole time . . . You are so close to civilization, but you can’t communicate with it,” he said.

That’s why he is so thankful for everyone who didn’t give up and continued to search.

Ron Eaglin, 43, a jogger and UCF professor, is familiar with the swampy area and volunteered Monday to help search with friends.

About 10 a.m., Eaglin heard Meadows sloshing in the distance.

“Are you looking for Eddie Meadows?” Eaglin recalled yelling.

“I am Eddie Meadows,” the answer came back.

Meadows said this experience taught him about the power of others’ kindness and the importance of being able to reach help in a crisis.

“I’ll never go running again without a cell phone,” he vowed.

Sarah Lundy can be reached at slundy@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6218.

Copyright © 2006, Orlando Sentinel |

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