Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

In Praise of the Small Marathon

I’m giving some thought to a Fall marathon (or two). Oddly, my last two marathons were at opposite ends of the marathon experience. Earlier, I posted a blog on the New York City (NYC) Marathon, the largest marathon in the world. Let me tell you about a follow-up to the New York Marathon, a wonderful early March small race about 5 hours south of New York. The Lower Potomac River (LPR) Marathon isn’t the smallest marathon in the world, but it’s close.

Sunrise start during mile 1 of LPM - Photo credit: Jeanne Larrison

Sunrise start during mile 1 of LPM – Photo credit: Jeanne Larrison

I hesitate to spread the word about this small gem for fear of losing out on registration another year. I’ll take that chance and share my large/small marathon comparison:

Entry Fee (depending on registration date/details):
NYC: $255
LPM: $50

Transportion to Start:
NYC: 2.5 hours approx. Subway, ferry, then bus to Start
LPR: 5 minute drive to start/finish at Paul Hall Center from the St. George Inn

Start Time:
NYC: 10:30 a.m. – 3rd wave
LPR: 7:30 a.m.

Women and Place in F65-69 Age Group:
NYC:121 in AG, 6th Place
LPR: 3 in AG, 2nd Place

Finishers:
NYC: 53,000
LPR: 180 (Race caps registration at 200) 

About as crowded as it got on the course. Photo credit:  Crystal Rapp

About as crowded as it got on the course. Photo credit: Crystal Rapp

Fantastic Women Race Directors:
NYC: Mary Wittenberg
LPR: Liza Recto

Personal Finish Time:
NYC: 4:28
LPR: 4:39 (I’ll save the excuses)

Scenic:
NYC: through portions of 5 boroughs, over Hudson River
LPR: along Potomac River, past lighthouse, horse farm, riverside cottages

Weather:
NYC: High Winds, cool & crisp
LPR: Clear, crisp, minimal remaining roadside ice and snow after a tough winter

Photo Credit: Jeanne Larrison

If you enjoy hearing early morning bird calls and the wind in the pines, this race is for you. If crowd support is a must, maybe not. Photo Credit: Jeanne Larrison

Time Change on Race Date (how odd is this?):
NYC: To EST – gained an hour
LPM: To DST: – lost an hour

Race Photos:
NYC: 3-Image Download, $49.95
LPM – Courtesy images at request from on-course photo-joggers of  Chesapeake Bay Running Club.

Perks:
NYC:
    Large Expo
    Seminars
    Photo Ops with Elite Runners

LPM:
Waterside dinner with local runners at the
                  Ruddy Duck steps away from Inn
      Indoor Bathrooms at Start/Finish
      Post-race Showers available in the Spa
      Buffet luncheon (no charge for runners) during awards

How do your large and small marathons compare?

Pre-race Dinner at the Ruddy Duck with local runners. Photo credit: Crystal Rapp

Pre-race Dinner at the Ruddy Duck with local runners. Photo credit: Crystal Rapp

Does the convenience and hospitality of the small marathon trump the celebrity, expo, and crowd support of the mega-marathons – or not?

Freddi’s Different Marathon

Are you one of us who go through life completing milestones in a slightly different order than most? If you veered to an alternate route somewhere on the map of your life, you will find a like mind in Freddi.

I first heard the name ‘Freddi Carlip’ in the early ’90’s when I joined my local running club. Freddi was a well-known runner and Eastern Director, then President of the RRCA. You may know her as the publisher/editor of Runner’s Gazette.

Miss RM

Freddi – Miss RM (Road Manners)

I found Freddi to be a kindred spirit when I read her recent column. Although she moved on from our Age Group 65-69, she will complete her journey to become a woman later this month. She shares her journey below.

On the Verge of a ‘Different Marathon’

The image of a woman I used to know is burned into my mind. She’s the foundation upon which my life has been built. She helped me get to the starting line of the run that has become my life. Let’s see if I can describe her…

She entered college as an Elementary Education major in 1962 at Temple University. The joke on campus was that any college girl studying Elementary Ed was really going after her MRS. Degree. Her parents thought teaching was the best plan for the girl’s future. She really wanted to be a writer.

The young woman’s life was mapped out by her parents, by the Northeast Philadelphia Jewish community in which she grew up, and, of course by Doris Day and Donna Reed.

An aside: She had no interest in anything athletic, except her hometown sports teams. She was forever being told she was terrible at sports…and she believed the words she heard. Her classmates laughed when she had to run during gym. She was always chosen last for neighborhood pick-up games of any kind. She laughed when the kids laughed, but she hurt inside. She dreaded gym the way most kids dread calculus.

All proceeded according to plan – engaged in here senior year of college, married a month after she graduated, taught school, pregnant, first child, second child…Stop!

Here’s where life’s plan, as arranged by everyone but the young woman involved, had a mid-course correction, thanks to the Running Boom of the 1970s.

You guessed it. That non-athletic Donna Reed wannabe is now an athletic independent woman of – wow – 70. She has developed into the person I’ve become; a person I never dreamed I could be.

Freddi in 1981 - Run for the Diamonds with Andy Anderson

Freddi in 1981 – Run for the Diamonds with Andy Anderson

Running has given me the opportunity to explore my limits, to test my body, and to push myself. My running roots are planted in the first Boom. They’ve grown deeper and stronger over the years.

Through running I experienced the joy of my body in motion; I felt the sweat drip and reveled in it. It’s a cleansing, cathartic experience. I learned courage; courage to take risks, both in races and in life.

Our runs give us time to connect with friends or time for some much-needed solitude. We can look in the mirror and say to ourselves, Look at me. I’m strong. I’m fit. I’m ready for anything.

Ready for anything…I’m on the verge of a different kind of marathon which will take place on May 23.It all begins with the first step. Once we conquer our fear of that first step we are ready for anything. The life mapped out by my parents included going to Hebrew School and studying to become a bat mitzvah at the age of 12. A bat-mitzvah ceremony is similar to a bar mitzvah. It’s the girls’ version and, although it’s common now, it wasn’t when I was a kid. That was one stop on my parents’ map that I chose not to visit. My parents were disappointed, but didn’t push me.

Fast forward to maybe 10 years ago. The wisdom of age softens how we see the past. My parents were gone and the thought of a bat mitzvah played in my mind. I never followed up. The dream became dormant…until last summer. That’s when I began my “marathon.” This one, though, was about taking the first step—learning Hebrew, one letter and vowel at a time. It was as scary as committing to running 26.2 miles. As with all training, we proceed slowly, learning to run the distance a few miles at a time.

I can now see the finish line. I’ve learned the Hebrew alphabet (aleph-bet), the vowels, and the prayers I need to know. I’m now working on my Torah portion and Haftorah (accompanying reading).

It’s been difficult at times. I became frustrated when I would stumble or forget the letters or vowels, and when I lost focus. Then there were the times I would read the prayers almost perfectly. My rabbi and teacher, Serena Fujita, a dear friend, has been understanding and patient. We meet once a week. I study almost every day.

Sometimes the thought of standing in front of friends and family, leading prayers, and reading from the Torah overwhelms me and I can feel anxiety kicking in. Other times, I revel in how far I’ve come and how close I am to making this dream come true. Anxiety and excitement—I felt that for my first marathon in 1983. I’m now preparing for a different kind of marathon. There’s a saying that when a boy becomes a bar mitzvah at 13, he becomes a man (“Today I am a man”) in the Jewish tradition. When I finish my “Bat Mitzvah Marathon,” I’ll become a woman…at 70.

Running is what prepared me to go after my dreams and conquer my fears, for all the marathons of my life.

(Credit: Freddi Carlip, Runner’s Gazette March 2015)

Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run Rave Review

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Photo credit: Bill Bonney Photography

A perfect morning for a 10-mile run. Cherry blossoms freshly in bloom, barely perceptible wind and mild temperatures.

With heavy traffic on this beautiful weekend, we arrived in D.C. just in time to pick up my packet for the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run and catch the Q&A portion of Joan Benoit Samuelson’s presentation. She has that ability to take all the technical jargon out of running and bring it down to common sense. She is a treasure.

Sound advice from Samuelson at Cherry Blossom Expo

Sound advice from Samuelson at Cherry Blossom Expo

Race morning we skipped the metro and did a combo walk jog to the race start, getting a little warmup in on our way. Enroute, we happened upon a friend of elite runner Aliphine Tuliamuk (3rd place woman finisher this year) who came into town to support Aliphene. We chatted about running and about life in Kenya. As we arrived at the start, she went to find her elite runner friend and we parted company.

This year I applied to the Cherry Blossom through the seeded runner category. Finding myself in a corral with elite runners gave me a brief case of the nerves. A had a vision of every other runner taking off ahead of me, while I was out there at the tail end, running solo until the next corral caught up. My husband behind the barricade reminded me of Joan Benoit’s advice the previous day: “Run your own race.” Excellent advice. I did just that and held my own.

At the Memorial Bridge turnaround, I hear the voice of a young friend from my local running group as she flies by with her 7-minute mile. Always good to see a familiar face, however briefly. The course was beautiful with the cherry blossoms lining the road for miles, the Potomac sparkling in the sunshine.

Although there were 18,000 runners on the course, I had plenty of room with no need to zig or zag through runners. Only in the last mile did it become a bit congested. I crossed the finish line with a net time of 1:23:27, third in the Women’s AG 65-69.

The 10-mile run may be my favorite distance. I direct a smallish 10-mile run in late March, so I’m always on the lookout for a 10-miler to actually run. In addition to enjoying the run, I’m watching as well to learn what I can about how other races manage and operate. In this case, the Cherry Blossom staff had a very short timeline to determine how to work the course around a road emergency. The race was decisive in determining there wasn’t time to remeasure but clearly informed runners of the change in distance and where the mileage would vary. (The course was later measured to be 9.39 miles and results provided an estimated 10-mile finish time as well as the actual clock and net time.)

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Photo time with fellow River Runners from Central PA.

Thank you Cherry Blossom Race staff and volunteers for a wonderful run, a safe route and a great way to see almost ten miles of D.C.

It was a pleasant walk back to the Renaissance Hotel (great location and wonderful staff) from the finish. Tourists were now out on the streets en masse and unlike the course, here we did need to zig and zag among other pedestrians. We had talked beforehand about taking in a few museums before leaving town, but already on our feet since 5 a.m. we decided to do a post-shower exit and head for home.

Which brings me to my favorite food recommendation for the weekend. A mid-trip lunch stop in Timonium, Maryland took us to Jason’s Deli. A casual, cafeteria-style restaurant with fresh, beautifully seasoned dishes, it was the perfect post-race meal. I chose something called a salmonwich, sockeye salmon with guacamole and several fresh vegetable additions along with a side a fresh fruit and sweet potato fries. My husband ordered a bowl of gumbo with a huge green salad. I looked for Jason’s Deli on the web and learned this is actually a chain. Hey, Jason’s – please locate a deli in Central Pennsylvania. You will have a couple of regular customers.

A wonderful but brief weekend stay in D.C., a well-orchestrated and scenic race followed by delicious food as we were homeward bound. A weekend worth repeating sometime. Until next year’s blossoms …………….

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Photo credit: Bill Bonney Photography

Travel Theme: Energy

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The white geothermal pipeline snaking through the ruggedly beautiful countryside captures steam that is processed and provides much of the needed energy for the Reykjavik region.

 

My friends in travel over at Where’s My Backpack? have sparked memories of steaming streams, fumaroles and geysers. I’m flipping through photos of a beautiful, energy-efficient land. It’s a timely topic.

 

PENTAX Image

Those of us living in the Northeast United States are growing weary of deep-freeze temperatures, comparing notes on fuel prices, watching the electric meter click away, and taking a deep breath before opening the utility bill.

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Here is my solution: Move to Iceland. Your energy bill will be $0 (or, um, 0 kr). The land under their feet and the technology aboveground sustains their energy needs. Here, no one will ask you to turn down the thermostat or hit the light switch as you leave a room.

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In a more low-tech and time-tested method, the energy from streams fed from the underground heat will bake your bread and cook your lunch.

 

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Finally, get on your feet. Use your personal energy and take a run or a walk in the Laugarnes area on one of the interlinking paths around Reykjavik. It will take you from the Videy Ferry Terminal toward the City Center and link in with other trails as well.

 

Riverfront Path = My Cheers

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And, sometimes it occurs to you out of the blue,  this is it – your ownUnknown

A strip of running path bordered by grass mediums, trees, picnic tables and sculptures,

photo credit: flikrhivemind.net

photo credit: flikrhivemind.net

the river and a lower running path to my right, and wide one-way Front Street on my left, this is my Cheers.

photo credit: peace.maripo.com

photo credit: peace.maripo.com, this is my Cheers.

 

I hear someone call “Hey, Mar…” and see a waving arm out the window, recognizing the vehicle with marathon placards on the tailgate. Several minutes later a light tap on a horn and a wave, my husband on his way to a meeting or, depending on the day, off to pick up the Sunday NY Times.

Approaching from a block away, another runner is calling out “Mary Lou.” I recognize him by his gait. Moving in opposite directions, briefly we share a few words and we’re off again.IMG_0813 - Version 2

Everybody knows their names: Becky and Carol on a marathon training run.

Everybody knows their names: Becky and Carol on a marathon training run.

A trio of young women emerge up a ramp from the lower path. I’m acquainted with two of them and we exchange information on surface conditions on the path.

The cast of characters on that much loved sitcom covered a wide demographic. Runners at my Cheers include surgeons and mailmen, bureaucrats and politicians, fitness instructors and educators. Although many that I recognize along the path and who recognize me are in their 30’s and 40’s, there are plenty of us much younger and much older.

Not everybody knows my name. Like Cheers, there are the background characters. During a mid-day run, I make my way through a tag game among children and teacher out for recess. On a Sunday morning, a few couples walking arm-in-arm to one of the nearby churches. Almost anytime during the day, I will pass the occasional homeless folk. 

They along with a few downtown workforce taking a bag lunch and a break in the park, are not the main characters but are a backdrop to my Cheers. I know their faces, they know mine. Add to that tourists who flag me to take their photo with the Susquehanna in the background and the stage set to my Cheers is complete.

I didn’t expect a slice of riverside land would weasel itself into the fabric of my life, but there it is. A place where almost everybody knows my name, and I know their name, their gait, their pace and their friendship. IMG_1240 - Version 2Sometimes it takes a frigid winter morning to know you are at your Cheers.

 

And you, where have you found your Unknown

 

 

Sketched-Out Running Plans on a Frigid Morning

As expected, dawn on this last day of January brought single digit temps, drifting snow and a windchill well below zero, I’ve rescheduled my long run and taken to the keyboard. It’s about time, since the draft version of my 2015 running plan is stale and outdated.

With the nagging ache of a 2-year old ski injury, I’ve taken a few pie-in-the-sky running adventures off the table for this year in order to concentrate on strengthening my knee and working on alignment, doing what I need to do now to assure that I can continue to say that I am still a runner.

So, what is left for the year? I plan to honor the races I have already registered for, but run them simply as training and enjoyment without a concern for time. By mid-year, I expect to be back full-throttle. In the meantime, here is a scaled back list of possibilities:

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Lakeside Trail Pinchot Park January 2015

February: First up is the Squirrely Tail Twail Wun, a 1/2 Marathon in the woods. I impulsively registered after a January trail run/walk tagging along behind a fellow race director and his cohorts mapping out the HARRC in the Park fall 15K trail race on some of the same trails. Conditions for Squirrely Tail were notoriously bad last year and this year will likely not resemble the snowy but reasonably passable trail of January. This may be a scratch.

March:

Lower Potomac River Marathon, a low-key, low cost Maryland marathon limited to 200 runners. I selected it as an antidote after running New York, the largest marathon in the world, a few months ago. Originally, I also selected it for the likelihood of a good finish time. Now, I’m planning to just take it easy and make it through.

Capital 10-Miler – a run for the Arts On March 29, I will be race directing the race but I love the course through the Greenbelt and across the Susquehanna bridges and will be running it with race committee members a number of times before race date.

Capital 10-Miler, mile 6 along the Susquehanna

Capital 10-Miler, mile 6 along the Susquehanna

 April:

Hmm, seems to be a drought here. A good time to continue working on corrections and rest. I will likely pick up a few 5K’s and 10K’s and find some trail runs or hikes in preparation for ……

May:

Dirty German 50K (really) I signed up for my first ultra, a well-established run and the course is a figure 8. If I decide a 50K is beyond my ability, this may be downgraded to the 25K. We’ll see.

June:

My big plans for June are scuttled by better judgment, with hope for that adventure next year. I’m sure I will find something to fill this space.

July:

National Senior Games in Minneapolis, MN. I will be racing the 10K on July 4 and the 5K on July 6. Qualification for national games is at the state level in even-numbered years. If you’re interested, take a look at your state – or surrounding states – for the competition schedule in 2016. This is a great opportunity to meet and watch some outstanding senior athletes in action. With a minimum age of 50 years, there will be 12,000 athletes attending and competition in more than 20 different sports.

Running with the big dogs. In 1st place on the AG podium is Jeannie Rice, fastest 66 yr. old Female marathoner in US, with Nancy Rollins, a decorated masters runner who placed 2nd in AG at Boston this year. Keep looking to the right, to the right - and there I am in 7th place just proud to be in the top 10.

2013 Senior Games 5K in Cleveland and running with the big dogs.1st place on the 65-69 AG podium is Jeannie Rice, fastest 66 yr. old Female marathoner in US, 2nd place Nancy Rollins, a decorated masters runner who placed 2nd in AG at 2014 Boston. Keep looking to the right, to the right – and there I am in 7th place just pleased to be in the top 10 of the outstanding field of women.

My last trip to Minneapolis was to a conference where my time in the beautiful city was mostly spent in meeting rooms. This time, I plan to enjoy family, the outdoors and some of the many arts venues.

August/September/October:

Nothing big planned here, so a great time to get in distance training and throw in a couple of half-marathons. Wild card – I may throw my name in the Chicago Marathon lottery, another opportunity to tie running in with a visit to the Midwest.

November:

Harrisburg Marathon In spite of tempting e-mails from the NYC Marathon warning me I have only xxx weeks left to claim my guaranteed entry before the February 15 deadline, with only a week between the New York and Harrisburg Marathons, I’m saying no. It has been several years since I ran the full Harrisburg Marathon and I want to get at least one in while in the F65-69 AG. This is a wonderfully organized marathon with miles of scenic riverside and neighborhood running.

Harrisburg Marathon, my first marathon, 2003, on the only non-scenic mile of the course.

Harrisburg Marathon, my first marathon, 2003, on the only non-scenic mile of the course.

When I’m not running the full Harrisburg, I volunteer and/or run with a senior relay team, all great alternatives. So, NYC, I’ll see you again another year.

December:

It depends – on where or if I’m traveling. Who knows what the future holds?

Well now, I see sunshine flowing in the window and temps have moved into the high teens. Maybe I’ll get in a mile or two.  Gotta run…………

 

 

Travel Tuesday – DIY Copenhagen

Of the many ports of call during my Enrichment Voyage, Copenhagen was one of the shortest, a mere eight hours from disembarkation to ship’s time. I was fortunate to spend some time with my family in Copenhagen and Aalborg Denmark in the early ’80s. Arriving at the Lengelinie Pier for a brief port stop this time around,

Narrow walkways to mysterious private destinations

Narrow Copenhagen walkways lead  to mysterious private destinations

it made sense to avoid any of the castle tours and other sites I had distant and fond memories of. Instead, it was a do-it-yourself walking tour.

My partner in impromptu city strolling this day was Catherine, a travel-loving American ex-pat making her home in London. She also happens to be a fellow blogger who can be found over at the Blue Marble. Catherine and I became acquainted during our tour of the Baltics. Though less than half my age, we discovered one of the many traits we have in common is a preference for seeing port cities on foot. This day, according to my Garmin, we walked 8.6 miles exploring Copenhagen’s streets.

On this overcast, drizzly day, we hopped indoors to do a walk-through visit to Georg Jensen. To call this a store somehow doesn’t do it justice. Georg Jensen rises to the level of a museum where the beautiful designs are for sale. Here for me, there is no desire to buy, to own. Simply experiencing the clean lines, the aesthetic design that seems to transcend time is enough. Should you be in Copenhagen, save an hour or so to peruse the exquisite lines of their jewelry and home products.

IMG_0556With long, sometimes dreary days, the bright energy of color takes the gray edge off a busy retail street. Likewise, the bikes that make their way through traffic and line store walls offer sunshine colors.IMG_0521

Outdoor restaurants similar to this one dot the streets. Across Scandinavia, al fresco dining casually or elegantly is a way of life. I love the cozy, colorful throws that are provided with the seating, saving diners from the chill of a sudden breeze.

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Before sprinting up the gangplank, we popped into the port shopping area. The facade gives the incongruous appearance of second rate shopping, particularly after our stroll down the Strøget. Don’t be fooled. There is some excellent shopping behind those cluttered windows.IMG_0517

Departing through the harbor, the windmills make an impressive view and an impressive energy source for the Danes. IMG_0510

Coming into view was an impressive ship full of brave academy men, settled like crows along the yardarm of this wood vessel.IMG_0564

And like ocean-going birds, we too return to open waters destined for the North Sea.

 

 

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