I don’t know why I was compelled to run another marathon. After two knee surgeries in 2009, I thought I’d never run another. I had been on a roll for several years after the new millennium, running two a year; one year I ran three. Not that that is such a great feat. There are runners who run a marathon or more a month; and there are runners who run marathons in all fifty states, one who didn’t run his first until he was fifty. But it all came to a screeching halt in 2009.
It might have had something to do with reaching the lucky number thirteen, after being stuck at twelve marathons the past few years. Or maybe it was my stubbornness, remembering when my orthopedic surgeon told me I should stick with shorter distances, maybe 10K maximum. Yeah, good chance that had something to do with it–that was like a double dare.
I always admired the senior runners I met at distance races. Their vigor and vitality was contagious; their passion for life. They’d have that glimmer in their eye that was unmistakable. It’s the kind of stuff I wished I could bottle and store in a drawer for whenever I needed it, or give to a friend. I never figured out how to do it, so I had to get some of my own.
So yesterday was the day, and the Bucks County Marathon was the venue. If there were ever better conditions for running a marathon, I can’t remember them. It was sunny, perfect fifty-degree temperature, a soft trail, and a canopy of trees with the Delaware Canal on one side and Delaware River on the other in scenic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The race director capped the field at five hundred. Down the road in Philly there were thirty-three thousand at the Philly Marathon/Half-Marathon. I love Philly—love Philly. I run in Philly at least once a week; ran there this morning at 5:30. But yesterday I chose serenity.
A marathoner has a lot of time to think, and with my finishing times slower than they once were I had even more time to think than in the past. I thought about how fortunate I am to run the distance at this stage of my life, and I know it. I’m thankful for my health. It’s easy to take your health for granted when you get up every day with no impediments to do routine things, like go to the store, or work, or take a six-mile run. It’s a gift.
I’m not sure when I’ll get the itch to run another marathon. Maybe next year—maybe not. But I have a suspicion I’ll be tempted to run one in my sixtieth year, which isn’t that far off. I got talking with a guy after the race yesterday who had just qualified for his tenth consecutive Boston Marathon. I was on my fourth piece of pizza; he was sixty-three years old. Yeah, I can see that fourteenth marathon out there on the horizon. Like I always say, never say never.