By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
Imagine a race that you can start at your leisure, any time between 8am and 9:30am. There is no starting horn or gun, lest they disturb the natives. There is no Start Line, just begin running whenever you feel the urge.
Imagine a race where you can choose the distance. You can run one mile or eight miles, or anything in between. You can decide how far to run depending on how you feel. You can walk whenever you wish to enjoy nature or just to take a deeper breath.
Imagine a race where you choose your own course. You can run the trails if you enjoy their soft bounce and tricky roots. You can run roads for their safety and comfort. Or you can mix and match to your heart's desire.
Imagine a race that takes you through Onondaga County's oldest park. Enjoy the serenity of three thousand acres of pine and hardwood forest, and explore the beauty of twenty miles of well-marked running trails.
Imagine a race where time stands still. There is no starter. There is no timer. There are no mile splits. There is no finish line clock. You can time yourself if you care, or you can run without a watch. In this run, you do not race against the clock.
Imagine a race that ignores the weather. It provides no water stops. Fresh snow is common fare. Heat stroke is not a threat. Runners wear plastic grocery bags over their shoes to keep their feet warm and dry.
Imagine a race where you can leave the children with the race director. While you get lost on your trail of choice, Uncle Ed takes the children on a nature walk to look for turkeys and flowers, navigate ponds and streams. He usually brings them back in time to watch you finish.
Imagine a race that allows you to take the children on horse drawn hay rides or sleigh rides, clean mountain sides for tremendous sledding, and an alternative to mall Santas on the last Saturday before Christmas.
Imagine a race that does not give you another 50 percent cotton, 50 percent polyester T-shirt for your closet. For that matter, it does not give you anything to take back home, except for the mud and blood that you collect on the run.
Imagine a race where the aroma of fresh coffee and the smell of fresh pancakes await you at the end. The Pancake Queen greets you with a big smile and a thick stack of fresh cakes floating in a sea of New York State maple syrup. Eat all you want in the warmth of friends and runners.
Imagine a race that has no age groups. For that matter, it has no awards, no first place trophy, no middle-of-the-pack prize, no hats or socks for the stragglers. Just food and friends, Christmas cheer, orange juice but no beer, and lots of muddy socks.
Imagine a race where your license plate matters more than your age. If you do not return by day's end, the race director goes looking for you. His record is still good, but he is getting older. He finds most lost runners before the spring thaw.
Imagine a race where the entry fee is $3. Run all you can and eat all you want for three dollars. For this price, many skip the run and come for the food. To top it off, children can join for half the price.
Imagine a race that does not offer race day registration. The volunteers are too busy mixing, pouring, flipping and serving pancakes to collect entries. Any way, pre-registration permits ordering enough food for the runners.
Now stop imagining, and call Uncle Ed at 443-4370. This is your last chance to enter the Last Chance Trail Run and Pancake Breakfast at Highland Forest, in Fabius, just southeast of Syracuse.
Kamal Jabbour has flipped many pancakes in the Community House in past years. This time, he plans to run the trails and enjoy the late coming of winter. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at email@example.com.