I’m prone to deep thinking at precisely the time I can ill afford it: When a major deadline draws near. So on the cusp of completing a big work project, I’m now wondering what it must be like to run a race that you know is your last. This thought comes courtesy of a man named Alford Claiborne, who is giving up running marathons after this year. He’s done almost 150 of them. I interviewed him this summer for an upcoming issue of Marathon and Beyond. Since then, Al’s kept me and other fans informed of his “farewell tour” highlights. He’s a hard man to read, but I sense in those e-mails a strengthening sadness as each monthly marathon approaches, then passes.
So, let me ask each of you—you who were hooked after just running your first 5k and you who’ve done the grand slam of ultras: If you had only one race left in you, how would you run it? Where would you run it?
Would you pick the race you did first? Did best? Did worst? Or some place you’d always wanted to explore? Perhaps the place where you grew up? Or where you always thought you’d grow old?
Would you make one more attempt for a personal record or Boston qualifier? Or would you take your time and soak in every step?
Would you wear a new outfit? A costume? A message on your shirt? Or would you put on that musty singlet you saved for just this occasion? You might also run naked through the streets like they do in San Francisco’s famed ING Bay to Breakers 12k each May.
Would you listen to your favorite music? Wear a GPS watch? Or would you talk to anyone within listening range and let your body pick the pace? Would you high-five everyone with an extended hand, or would you let a flood of memories be your sole (and soul) support?
Would you smile at the end? And would it be through tears?
I’d love for you all to think about it. I’d love for you all to leave a comment with what that ideal day would be like for you. I’d also love for you all to think of Alford next month as he runs his final miles in the Holualoa Tucson Marathon. Keep him in your thoughts; someday that will be you.