I almost died on the Central Lakes Trail.

It happened a few weeks ago and I still consider myself lucky to be telling the tale.

I was on one of my typical 10K training runs, running west on the trail near Lake Brophy. I checked my watch and saw that I was reaching the halfway point where it was time to turn around and head back home.

It was a beautiful spring morning and I was surprised there weren't that many people out enjoying the trail. It was as if I had the trail to myself.

That was probably my first mistake.

As I made a tight U-turn to go in the other direction, out of nowhere, I saw a tandem bicycle barreling straight at me. It apparently had been zipping along behind me and was now on the left side of the trail, in the process of passing me.

Only a few feet separated us from disaster.

Time seemed to stand still.

I remember seeing the glint of the bike's handlebars, hearing a surprised cry - a high-pitched "aaahhhh!" - from the bike's driver, and I remember thinking, "Wow - are they going FAST!"

In the next fraction of a second, I could see, in flashes, how this was going to play out. The bike was certainly going to crash into me. There was no way to avoid it. I would be sent flying into the ditch with broken bones, all in a bloody, bruised heap.

The tandem bike riders, who were both luckily wearing helmets, would go careening into the woods to the left of the trail, either from the collision or when they tried to avoid hitting me. They'd be knocked off their bike and would also suffer serious injuries. I could envision ambulance lights, sirens, paramedics.

So much for that idyllic spring day.

But miraculously, the driver made a lightning fast adjustment at the exact time I took a startled half-step in just the right direction.

We missed hitting each other by mere inches.

The bike sped off into the distance.

I, however, needed a little time to recover.

My heart was beating so hard that I thought for a few seconds I may need that ambulance ride after all. But after only about a minute, I was OK and started running back home - with a lot of thoughts running through my mind:

I should have looked over my shoulder to make sure it was safe to turn around.

Maybe I should have made a hand signal.

Most importantly, the bike riders should have said the one thing you always say when passing someone on the trail, "On your left." It's not just a courtesy, it can prevent a bad crash.

I urge all bikers on the trail to remember those three words - on your left - when you are about to pass a walker or a runner. Say it loudly and proudly. For added safety, ring a bell if your bike has one. I know a local bike group in town that shouts to me - in a friendly way, "On your left, Al!" - every time they come up behind me on the trail.

I've always appreciated it. And now, I'll appreciate it more than ever. Almost dying has a way of doing that.

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"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.