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Nick Marshall

Maura Cowan

I’d see him out running, at first just down 17th street or around the neighborhood.  Later I’d see him from the car; out past the mall, down along the Yellow Breeches, way out in the country, farther and farther away.  Impossible to run that far.

Nick Marshall, our local celebrity in the very limited world of long-distance running.  He ran ultra-marathons of 50 miles, 100k, even 100 mile races, and sometimes won.  A proponent of “streak running,” he ran every day for 2,080 days straight until a hip injury took him off the road.  After a brief recuperation period, he continued to run, off and on, for over 25 years.

I knew Nick as my best friend’s older brother.  He was shy and quiet and unpretentiously brilliant. He never drank or partied, or did anything that would call attention to himself.  I remember his perfect SAT scores, his graduation from college, and his homecoming.  He was drafted a few months later.

He was a conscientious objector, claiming a moral and ethical aversion to violence.  The judge didn’t want to send this gifted and gentle soul to prison, so he sentenced Nick to civic duty.  Nick didn’t accept the easy out. He insisted on being released as a free man or be sent to jail like so many others. He spent 18 months in solitary confinement.

I’m not sure exactly when Nick started running, or why he ran so far.  He ran alone at first, then with a few neighborhood running friends.  After awhile I noticed large groups of people running with him, the fans and admirers in that world.  There were more and more, and then less and less.

Nick still lives in Camp Hill.  For years, he took care of his mother, who was dying of emphysema.  He owned the Winsor Park Bookstore, but is now semi- retired, buying and selling books through the Internet.  He hasn’t been running, since the injuries have mounted up, but he still walks great distances every day.  He tells me he still dreams of running again.

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