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Missing Modesto Runner Survived By Sleeping On Cliff, Warming In Bushes

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PLACER COUNTY (CBS13/AP) – A missing Northern California runner survived two days in a treacherous and snowy mountainous region by sleeping on a cliff and kept warm in freezing conditions by curling up in bushes, authorities said Tuesday.

Robert Root, 55, of Modesto, was wearing only a light jacket, shorts and running shoes when rescuers discovered him walking on a bridge on the Western States trail Tuesday afternoon, Placer County sheriff’s spokeswoman Dena Erwin said.

“I’m grateful. Thank you very much,” Root said as he was loaded into an awaiting ambulance. He was taken to Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital in nearby Auburn where he was treated and released by Tuesday evening, said Robin Montgomery, a hospital spokeswoman.

Not even two days lost in the snow could wipe a smile off of his face. CBS13 was there as he was wheeled into the hospital, wrapped in a blanket after being rescued.

His friends are relieved and elated. Root told rescuers he was tired and cold, but not hurt.

“I’ve seen him look worse coming off of a marathon or an ultra-marathon,” said running club president Chad Johnson. “You can’t even tell he’s been out there for a couple of days.”

Root, who is known as Bob, said he wanted an In-N-Out hamburger upon his release, Erwin said.

Root and a group of other runners set out on the Western States Trail at 8:15 a.m. Sunday. When they returned to their meeting spot at around 9 p.m., they found Root was missing.

Root appeared out of the woods, said a casual hello to rescuers. They asked “Are you Bob Root?” and he said, “Yes I am.”

Root’s endurance training likely played a significant role in his survival. He had some water with him and energy packets.

He ended up walking around in a huge circle on Monday, trying to keep active. Monday night he hunkered down through the storm.

On Tuesday morning, he took a different route, instead going west, where he found the trail and found rescuers.

The news of Root’s discovery spread quickly back in Modesto, said Heidi Ryan, who belongs to the same running club as Root.

“I feel like I’m still a little numb, but that’s just me,” Ryan, 54, said. “I’m still processing it.”

Authorities were especially concerned because Root was dressed for running, and ill-prepared for the drop in temperature that comes with nightfall in the foothills.

Specially trained crews had searched through the night after a storm dumped rain, hail and snow in the area.

The group was training for the annual Western States Endurance run in June. Root was not going to participate in the race, Ryan said.

The runners out on Sunday were split into fast and slow groups. Root was initially running with the slower group. When his group briefly stopped, Root decided to run ahead and join the faster group, Erwin said.

The search began on Sunday but was suspended due to darkness and falling temperatures.

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