Prelude to Change
On February 29, Emaad and I sign up for the Philly Trail Marathon scheduled for Saturday, April 18, 2020. Little do we suspect that it will be 34 weeks, not seven weeks, before we run it, and in Gaithersburg, Maryland, not Philadelphia.
A Pandemic Changes Everything
At the end of February talk of a pandemic has begun, but how bad things will get are not clear. I ran the George Washington Birthday Marathon two weeks earlier and there was no mention of the corona virus. Emaad and I register for the race on the last day of February before entry fees increase.
But it doesn't take much longer for virus concerns to surface. On March 7 I run the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail 50K, and rules at the aid stations are in effect due to the virus. Later that week my wife and I drive to Florida to spend a week, but we return home after only four days. Many public facitities are closed and supermarkets are sold out of essentials. We become concerned that may not be able to return home if we wait any longer. On the drive home on March 18, fast food restaurants have closed their indoor dining and are only doing take out or drive-thru sales.
|Dos Amigos (post race).|
No Training? No Worries!
Because of a serious automoble accident on July 10 that left my wife confined to a wheelchair for months, I cannot be away from the house for any significant duration. That largely means that I have to run on the streets in my neighborhood, frequently doubling back to the house to check on her, initially as frequently as every 15 minutes. Long runs are not possible.
As the summer turns to fall, and she can start to use a walker, my runs lengthen, but not into double digits. Frequent daily 3-5 mile runs enable me to hit 100 miles per month, but just barely.
As she strengthens and begins to use a walker and the days get shorter into November, I suggest to Emaad that we aim to run the virtual Philly Marathon on December 12. He agrees, but insists that we need to get a couple of long runs in. Two weeks prior we run 13.1 miles in the neighborhood, coming back to the house once to check in. The next weekend we do a 10-miler from the house, again looping back to the house in the middle of the run.
I arrange for our two children to spend time with their mother for significant parts of the eight hours that I figure I need to get to and from where we will run and the time for the run.
|Seneca Creek north of Route 355.|
No Plan Survives First Contact with the Enemy
It is a pleasant day for a run and early on there are not too many other people on the single track trail. We move along unhurredly, as there is no cutoff that we need to beat, nor other runners to overtake. Familiarity with the trail makes reminiscing about races we ran, and people we ran with, on that section of the trial easy. We get to Brink Road and decide to go on to Huntmaster Road, maybe another mile further. At Huntmaster we figure to go another 1.5 miles, to get to 6.55, so that wene we return, we'll have have the race done. But the day is nice, the trail is easy, the scent of horses (never seen) is in the air and we keep going. Only when we reach the spot at mile 7.1 where we would have to ford Seneca Creek to keep going on the trail that we decide to turn around.
We retrace our steps in good spirits. I take a picture of my Garmin when we reach 13.1 miles (at 2:59) and SMS it to my wife and children so they can see my progress.
|The CSX bridge|
|Emaad crosses the feeder stream |
approaching Riffle Ford Road.
We pass thru Seneca Creek State Park on Long Draught Trail, catching a whiff of a cigar from someone sitting on the bank of the creek, then pass under Great Seneca Highway with the scent of sewage from vents of the WSSC sewage pipes in the area. We pass the disc golf course and the players on the course. Then an easy hop over the stones across a small tributary to Seneca Creek and we shortly arrive at Riffle Ford Road. I touch a symbolic toe on the pavement and we retrace our steps northward. Even before we reach Great Seneca Highway, the Garmin reads 20 miles (and 5:03) and I take another picture to send home announcing my progress.
The northbound journey is not particularly hurried. We ask a couple of fisherman have they have been faring ("nothing" and "a few small ones") and have to dodge some family groups, particularly in the park or near roads that provide parking for trail access.
Back at the 355 parking lot we only need less than 2 miles. To avoid retracing our steps we decide to try to go south on the side of the creek opposite the trail. But what looks like a trail quickly peters out and we give up trying to be creative and simply head north. Peculiarly, my arithmetic ability is still functioning after 25 miles, and go just far enough out so that the return gives us 26.24 miles in 6:46:26.
The Best Present
I eagerly tear open the bag from Uberendurance Sports, don my newly earned shirt and proudly hold up the medal and the bib.
Oh, December 12 is my birthday. And December 12, 2020 was my 70th birthday. Who could ask for a better 70th birthday present than running a trail marathon with a friend, and getting a medal for doing so? (Although my age goes in the offical records as 69, the age I was had the race occured on the originally scheduled date.)
|Swag: shirt, medal, bib.|