Monday, May 7th I will descend into the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. The date is significant because it marks the day my wife and I said “I Do” thirty-five years ago. I will likely return from the canyon depths before the woman who has tolerated my antics for all of these years begins her day. And that, I believe, is what makes our relationship work.—we’d always done our own thing.
The trail is a 12.2-mile out-and-back (in this case, down-and-up) with a trailhead at 6,785 feet above sea level. The past few months I had run a 20K at the Penn Relays, a trail run in Pennsylvania’s Berks County and worked hard on the hills in Bucks County to prepare, but twelve miles in the Grand Canyon and six thousand feet altitude will be much different. The east coast is close to sea level, and the last time I ran at such altitude was in 2006 in Frisco, Colorado. So I don’t expect to set any land speed records.
But records are no longer on my “to do” list. After I qualified and ran the Boston Marathon my goal transitioned from speed to longevity. I now appreciate every run more than the last. I get turned on more by the solace and scenery than I do placing in the top twenty percent of the field in a race. As I ascend from the bottom of the canyon on May 7th I’ll be thankful that I can run a 12.2-mile out-and-back at a stage of my life when my buddies define a workout as a round of golf, riding the course in a golf cart no less.
This will be my first visit to the Grand Miracle. My vision of the canyon was formed from books, magazines, pictures and video. Now I have to feel the stones and dirt under my feet, brush against boulders and flora, and spill my sweat on its trails. My only companions will be water, gel, digital camera and my thoughts—thoughts I will share with you after I return.
The Canyon will be our second stop on a tour that will begin in Vegas before traveling to the Canyon and on to Sedona, but there is one thing I can guarantee. I will remember what I did on my thirty-fifth wedding anniversary.