“Bless your uneasiness as a sign that there is still life in you.” – Dag Hammarskjold
What if your next marathon was your last? What would you do differently?
The first time the thought of my final marathon hit me was after the 2007 Philly Marathon. My body felt more beat-up than it had in previous marathons, particularly my legs. I had never considered the toll that knee surgeries, osteoarthritis and forty years of pounding long distances had levied on my aging body. Giving up a part of my life that had been with me for decades was scary; the reality of not being able to run another marathon was unsettling.
When the 2008 marathon season rolled around, I had an empty feeling, like something was missing. I decided I had to run one more, only this time I’d run it like it was my last. I began running soft surfaces a few years earlier and found it easier on my knees, so I figured a trail marathon would be best. The Northern Central Trail Marathon in Sparks, Maryland was the answer.
I ran the Northern Central Trail Marathon like it was the last dance at the prom with my girl. I communed with the other runners like I never had in the past. I talked with fellow-runners along the course, especially the ones who struggled through the “six miles of truth” at my side. I took in the incredible surroundings of the rustic trail along the Gunpowder River and savored every step. Rather than go through the motions, I was mindful and thankful of every mile. I was grateful for my health and the ability to run long distances for so many years. It is hard for me to imagine there was once a time I took lacing up and running 26.2 miles for granted.
I am a lucky man again. Since I started running shorter distances on softer surfaces and cycling more often, my knees somehow don’t bother me as they had and now, four years after my final marathon, I’ll get another chance on November 18th. I found a local trail marathon and I saw it as a sign. The Bucks County Marathon course along the scenic Delaware Canal in Bucks County, Pennsylvania is an idyllic and serene course on a soft tow path along the canal. It is the perfect setting a second chance.