Written May 22, 2015     
 

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© 2015 Bob Lonsberry

 
 
A RUN TOMORROW IN THE WOODS

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Tomorrow morning early I will stand with a group of others at a trail head in the woods and set off on a 26-mile footrace.

It’s the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon and, as I’ve done on five previous spring Saturdays, I’m going to give it a try.

It will be my 40th marathon and I hope when it’s done to be one of a group of five or six who’ve completed each running of the Sehgahunda.

It’s my annual physical, a test of body and mind and determination carried out in the dappled sun of the hills of home.

But this year is different. The race and the roots and the ravines will be the same, but I, turned 55 since last I ran this way, may have changed. For the first time, I am frail.

Last fall, between Marine Corps and Ridgewalk, my right Achilles tendon went out of whack. There was a burning when I walked, then there was a burning all the time, and when I went to have it checked out they shook their heads and looked grim.

It turns out you get old.

Not you, specifically, but me. I get old. And apparently a body which has worked without a hitch for a half a century and more may begin to come apart on you in time.

And tomorrow I will learn if now is that time.

From the first time I went to the doctor, I said that I had one priority – this race. I said that there was a trail marathon in the spring, on single-track trail up and over several score ravines, that I wanted to run, and every bit of rehabilitation or recovery was to focus on that run.

Part of it has to do with that last-man-standing contest that has implicitly commenced. If tomorrow morning there will be five of us who have run each outing, I want one spring some years from now to be the only one there who has run each outing.

Maybe that’s competitiveness, maybe that’s tradition, maybe that’s just plain stupidity, but it’s how I feel.

And I told the physical therapist and the nurse practitioner and the orthopedist and the podiatrist that whatever magic they worked, I wanted enough Achilles tendon to do 26 miles in the spring.

For six months I have worried, and that worry has risen to a crescendo in recent weeks as the race has neared.

The tendon never did get 100 percent better, and my hips and feet have slid into a near daily fog of ache and limp. I am stiff and sore, I walk like an old man, I wonder if this is what old age brings.

And tomorrow’s the race.

The best advice I got was from a nurse practitioner who thought that less might be more in terms of preparation for tomorrow. Better to gut it out on race day than to wear it out on training day.

So I’ve not done any trail work, and I’ve not run any hills. If you’ve only got so many trail miles in you, you should save them for game day. And if running hills is going to flare the tendon back up, maybe you better make it worthwhile.

I come into tomorrow worried and unsure, about 15 pounds overweight, and with a body which is not acting like my own. I’ve not run much more than 10 miles at a time, I’m hurting in places I’ve not hurt before, and all I want to do is finish before they close the course.

I can be last, as long as I finish.

I’ve never quit a race, and I’ve never had a course close before I got done. I am a weak runner, slow and ungainly, but I am an adequate runner.

At least I have been the last 40 years.

What remains to be seen is if I will be adequate tomorrow. Because none of yesterday’s runs apply to tomorrow’s race. It is a one-day diagnostic, a testing of body and soul.

And for the first time in my life, uncertain at the potentially advancing infirmities of age, I don’t know if my body will take it.

I can’t know until I am on the trail.

I have proven many times over that, in normal circumstance, I can take whatever comes, I can push on and simply not quit.

But tomorrow I race as an old man, or at least a man with the hint of old age beginning to break forth. If the body holds, I’ll be fine. If it doesn’t, that will be new territory, and I will have to search for a passage through.

I will either find it, or I will break down, and hike out to the road for a ride home.

Tomorrow morning early I will stand with a group of others at a trail head in the woods and set off on a 26-mile footrace.

I hope a few hours later, at the other end of the course, I will stand with that same group.


- by Bob Lonsberry © 2015

   
        
   
 
    

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