Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Discovering Zoomer

You never know what you will run across when traveling. My gem this week is a magazine titled Zoomer, Unknownleft behind by the traveler before me. Thank you, unknown fellow traveler, for the introduction to this energetic read. Zoomer is a Canadian publication, into its sixth year and, to my thinking, slightly edgier than U.S. publications I’ve read that seek the Boomer audience.

I further explored the Zoomer  online presence. It professes to serve as a lifestyle website customized for the discriminating 45-plus demographic. It succeeds, offering a cross-section of online news and feature topics on lifestyle and health targeting women and men from their forties through their 90′s. There may even be a couple in their 100′s that I have overlooked.

Boston is ever on the runner’s mind this week and the Zoomer connection jumped out at me. An on-line column that is frank, interesting and speaks to our health and wellbeing “This is What 70 Looks Like” is written by Boston Marathoner and first-in-her-age-group multiple times   (F65-69 and F70-74) Dr. Jean Marmoreo.dr.jean_ I’m saving the link to read more of her articles. I don’t know that they will get me to her Boston finish time of 3:48:57, but her advice and inspiration on other facets of life can’t hurt.

The online content of Zoomer covers the gamut from money to travel to the arts, all of which lead me to a life planned for exuberance and action, at whatever level we can play.

Now, the dilemma: Do I take the left-behind magazine with me to continue reading articles on my travels, knowing I will not find a copy on the newsstand at my destination? Do I return the favor of the previous traveler by leaving the copy as I found it (with a few of my scribbled notations inside) for the next traveler to discover and enjoy? Hmmmmm



A Stage at a Time – One Run for Boston

It seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, it was a very good idea. Three creative and organized event planners from the UK envisioned a fundraising mechanism for victims of the Boston bombing. For more background, here is a link to their story.

photoSo, yes it was actually a fine idea brought to fruition. It was just a few second thoughts about my participation as I tiptoed out the door into the 3:45 a.m. darkness to meet friends a half hour away at a car park. One by one, we arrived, Emily, Stacey, and the dynamic duo, our leader and organizer, Jeremy and Caryn Hand. Before our 4:30 a.m. departure for another hour drive north, Caryn laid out a home-baked cake-style oatmeal on the Jeep hood. With those morsels of nutrition, we were on our way to take our place with One Run For Boston(ORFB). For his part, when Jeremy isn’t arranging details for a ORFB stage, he is running ultras and directing a race to support the Millersburg Ferry.

Our quintet of runners was headed north to Stage 290, Selinsgrove to Stonington PA, 11.8 miles with a 6:40 a.m. start. Arriving at the Stonington Fire Company, where we met up with Lindsay and with Barry.  Leaving a vehicle at Stonington, like a bunch of school kids we lumbered into Barry’s van for the drive to the Selinsgrove start. Barry is a local runner and Boston Marathon veteran. At our start, we met Mark, another Boston Marathon veteran, 25 Boston races under his belt as well as a coach (irunicoach) who did some wonderful fine tuning at the local level for publicity and preparation for our stage.  His wife, Robin – no stranger to marathons herself, provided welcome support along the route.

As we saw the Stage 289 runners approach in headlamps and reflective IMG_8364gear it was applause and greetings all around. They had been running through the night, since 3:15 a.m on a brisk 30 degree morning. We chatted for a few moments, wished each team of runners well and they were off to their day as we were off to begin our stage. The Sunbury Police gave us an escort through the heavier morning traffic as we entered the street to the Shikellamy High School  where cheering students  had erected an arch for ORFB runners to pass through as we headed out of town.

photoLeaving the mostly flat terrain behind us, we were soon progressing through a series of hills. I believe there were four, but at some point you just stop counting.  My Boston training held me in good stead, only feeling a serious calf burn on the last, and what seemed like the toughest, hill.

As we approached the finish of Stage 290, a deer peaked out of the woods to greet us. That greeting was followed by cowbells and cheers coming from runners signed up for Stage 291 of ORFB, ready to take on more of Pennsylvania’s hills in the journey east to Boston.


Mingling with Stage 291 before we cheer them off

There, our vehicle awaited us. We said good-bye to Stage 291 as they enthusiastically continued down Route 61. We gave our thanks to super support Robin, and good-byes to Mark and Barry, both of whom are headed to Boston in a couple of weeks.

As I push the button to publish this post, the ORFB torch and more than 25 runners in Stage 308 have likely crossed the New Jersey/New York border.

There is still an opportunity to be a part of this crazy-how-could-this-possibly-work event.  Go to One Run for Boston and click on the yellow half-moon icon on the left of the page that reads “DONATE.” Nothing can undo the pain and loss, but we can all share in doing what we can to ease the load.




Lost in Amsterdam

To avoid the Capital 10-Miler post-race wrap-up chores, I’m indulging in wanderlust. Helped along in that quest by Cirsten’s blog, My Writers Block, where she explores the history of Amsterdam’s residents and buildings, my memories wander to my own brief exploration.

After my sister and I finished a river cruise through Belgium and The Netherlands, we took an extra day or two to explore Friesland


Heeg Harbor, Friesland

and spend a night on dry land. An option for our last day was to stop in the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum down the street from our hotel in Amsterdam. 

I had only managed a couple of brief runs during our cruise (unless you’re counting my many laps around the ship’s upper deck).

Is this the track?

Is this the track?

While my sister enjoyed an early cup of coffee, I opted for the outdoors, letting her know I’d be returning in an hour or so. The front desk directed me down the street to Vondelpark.

Entering the park through a beautiful gate, I ran under an overhead walking bridge and took a look back to identify landmarks for my return. The park path appeared to be a circle, a circle of beautiful old residences, inviting outdoor restaurants, people walking dogs, more people riding bicycles.  Bicycles loaded with children on the handlebars and on extra seats, bicycles with business riders – briefcases stashed in their pannier, bicycles with spandexed riders.

After admiring some of the wildlife in the park,


Blue Heron enjoying breakfast in Vondelpark

I noticed I was seeing the lovely homes and inviting outdoor restaurants a second time. How had I passed my landmark exit with the beautiful gate?  I turned around, backtracking. How does one get lost on a circular path? One more time around and still no gate in view.

O.K. Now the panic begins.  Is my sister looking at her watch wondering why I haven’t returned? Will I find my way out of this beautiful but perplexing piece of land in time to make our flight? Am I feeling a little panicked? Do I pick an exit and hop in a cab back to the hotel?

I spotted a park diagram posted nearby. While trying to identify my exit, an Amsterdam native out for a run and speaking fluent English asked if I needed help. Oh yes, I need help. Please point me to the ornate gate with the park name. We jogged together back to that somehow hidden gate, comparing running histories, families and travel.

Why hadn’t I seen the overhead walkway or the gate? Well, my entrance was not  actually on the circle, but was a dog leg leading to the circle.images

Waiving good bye to the kind stranger, I returned, once again passing under the overhead walking bridge and through those beautiful gates. I returned to find my sister packed up and dressed, relaxed, reading a magazine with no idea that my outing had been a bit adventurous. She looked so calm, it would have been unkind to share.

If you must get lost, Vondelpark is a beautiful place to carry it out. I had eaten up extra time for a museum visit, but sometimes running in a beautiful

Vondelpark gate

Vondelpark gate

park, even in a state of panic, trumps a museum.

Hilly Half in Chambersburg

The Chambersburg (PA) Half Marathon has been around for 35 years, yet somehow I avoided running it. Friends talked of this race and I had heard it all: Chambersburg is hilly, it’s hard, it’s cold.  So of course as perverse as my running friends are, they return multiple times. course_map_half

The Georgetown 10-Miler was on the list in my Roughed-Out Race Schedule and was also scheduled for this weekend. I made the switch to Chambersburg, mostly to take on a tough course as a final test that my knee is ready for Boston‘s hills. It was also an opportunity to take along some registration applications for the Capital 10-Miler scheduled at the end of March.

And hilly it is at Chambersburg. What everyone describes as a “monster hill” greets runners as they climb several hundred feet beginning before mile 3, only to tackle that same hill on their return around mile 10.

It was refreshing to participate in an old-school race; no chip on the shoe or the bib, just an experienced and accurate team with a clock at the start/finish and an efficient crew pulling bib tags as you move through the finish line.

What I saw on the 13.1 mile course is beautiful farm country, cattle and barns so close to the road you can almost touch, deer running across the distant hills. It is a race open to road traffic with volunteers posted at several locations. However, it is a course where all of a runner’s senses must be engaged. Traffic isn’t heavy and drivers were patient and considerate, but dips between hills makes it difficult for vehicles and runners to see each other from any distance. 

Having scheduled a long run earlier in the week, my legs were not ready to give me a strong half-marathon time. I made the decision early in (even before the monster mile) to pace myself to run at goal marathon pace, using the race as a day of my training plan.

River Runner friends did well in AG awards and even one 1/2 PR.

Some of my running tribe – River Runners did well in AG awards and even one 1/2 PR.

Outcome? 2:06 & change and I did manage to place in the 55+ age group (as a senior runner at age 66, I should make that 55++). 

Not surprisingly, race officials prohibited strollers, dogs and headphones from the course, both in writing on registration applications and again verbally prior to the start. What was surprising was the officials’ swift action to disqualify runners who defied the prohibition and ran with listening devices. As a race director, I know it isn’t easy to enforce rules that may have runners deciding they won’t be back to your race. It was refreshing to see Chambersburg holding tough on this for the safety of all runners.

If you plan ahead and are into a hilly country course, Chambersburg has a race application for 2015 on their website, linked above. UnknownJust leave your music at home and bring your love of country roads.

How was your weekend running?

Coping through the Cold

Where I live, we have raised the art of parking lot running to a high art. There was progress through this week.  We are now moving deep snow previously covered in a frozen ice coating compliments of an ice storm preceded by a snowstorm. 1891084_10151970828057945_1734138868_nWhere I live, temperatures finally rose above freezing, sending rivulets of water across the roads and trails only to refreeze, leaving drivers and runners in for unpleasant early morning slippery surprises.

Where I live, long runs have included sidewalks, crusted over roadways and any moderately well-cleared side street that can be found. My reroutes bring me upon some interesting and sometimes quirky sites. IMG_1545The weekend after Valentines Day, I laughed seeing these heart-shaped wrought-iron backed patio chairs, a cut above the usually plastic chairs set out as placeholders in the “I shoveled it out – it’s mine” parking space wars.

Where I live, our brief respite from the frigid temperatures gave residents and municipal services an opportunity to, well, rearrange the snow. As I did a 10-mile MP run, homeowners were out with shovels claiming the pieces of sidewalk and driveway previously sitting under ice sheets several inches thick. I dodged municipal trucks as they cleared out more spaces by moving truckloads of snow to who-knows-where.


Where I live, a sense of humor about the long tough winter is important.

Where I live, many of my boomer buddies have vacated until Spring, taking the opportunity when airports are open to escape to Florida, the Caribbean, Hawaii. I’m sticking it out. The beauty of winter is worth the inconvenience. And this is where I live.IMG_1534

The Case of the Disappearing Road Races

As I look out my window at another mid-February snow, I’m wondering what plants will survive the ice storms and return anew in the Spring.  Was this the last year to enjoy some percentage of them that will now simply become memories?

The Colon Cancer Prevision 5K will not be returning in 2014 - my first 2013 race after 3 months off from injury

A favorite, the  Colon Cancer Prevention 5K will not be returning in 2014

I wonder the same about some of my favorite road races, which leads me to muse. Do road races have a timed-out life expectancy? What happens that well organized races with strong race directors and a loyal following disappear from the current year’s race listings? Is there anything that runners can do to keep their favorites alive?

This year, at least two of my favorite local 5K’s drawing 400 – 600 runners, a good number for our small city area, will not be returning to the race list.

The same is true of two marathons where winter brings news that their doors have closed.


Mile 1 of the former Gansett Marathon

January 24th, the Gansett Marathon race director announced the dreaded news on Facebook. There would not be a 2014 race.  I wrote a post earlier about this wonderful marathon located in Narragansett, Rhode Island. This was a niche race, no fundraising entries, and requiring previous marathon times 5 minutes over the required Boston Marathon times.

I loved this marathon for the fresh sea air, wildlife spottings and beautiful neighborhoods with only a small section through a business/industrial area. Gansett had a loyal following, but apparently not large enough in number meeting the challenge of the required entry times. 

Another winter announcement came from the Mother Road Marathon. An email came to my inbox alerting me to its demise. The MRM website now reads:

We regret to inform you that the Mother Road Marathon has been cancelled indefinitely. The decision was made by the Joplin City Council due to registration declining consistently since the inaugural year. The City of Joplin is the primary funding source for MRM. We have truly enjoyed our runners over the past four years and we thank you for supporting our race.


Galena KS on the route of the former MRM and the original Route 66.

With both Boston and New York on my race list for 2014, I’m thinking my 2015 plans will include a registration and support of some out-of-the-way marathons with a local flare. There are so many beautiful and interesting corners of this country and the world, I want to explore them on foot, and preferably on the run.

I’m thankful I had the opportunity to experience the Mother Road and Gansett Marathons before their cycles of life ended.

IMG_1538I wonder how many other local races are quietly closing their doors and mysteriously disappearing from the upcoming race lists. I’m hoping my shrubbery and all of our remaining favorite races will survive the ravages of winter and time. If you have favorite races that have recently disappeared, let’s hear about them.

Runners Rules to Live By

As we’re making merchandise selections for the Capital 10-Miler, sample shirts styles have been arriving in the mail.

The back of the most recently arrived shirt includes a list of Runners Rules to Live By. Messages like this list usually cross my path for a reason. I feel obliged to share with you, so here is my shirt message:

Run Towards Traffic

Carry ID

Trust Your Instincts

Dress Visibly

Run Defensively

The heading Rules to Live By is appropriate in that they may keep you and me alive.  I do run towards traffic the majority of the time, although on roads with tight turns I move to the opposite 37906156001_2543741097001_marathon-safety-02side where the vehicle behind me has a much better view of me than the vehicle coming out of a blind curve.

I almost always carry ID. Road ID has convenient and reasonably priced products. Even a cell phone that shows my emergency information or a business card tucked in my shoe will do.

Trusting my instincts, yes, yes, yes.  Call it an inner voice, Unknownguardian angel, whatever.  When the message from the universe says to turn away from that street that is usually perfectly safe and I have run down a thousand times, I listen and turn away.

I am more thoughtful lately about dressing visibly. My family reminds me each time I reach for my running shoes.images

Running defensively is more and more important as drivers on cell phones are talking while attempting to turn across traffic. Before crossing in front of a car, I make eye contact or otherwise affirm the driver sees me.

The winter months are particularly difficult in the Northeast where any berm on the side of the road is piled high with rock-hard snow boulders pushed over by the snowplow.  As I see a car in the distance, my run turns into a brief climb to the side PENTAX Imagewhere I feel like a 10-year old playing king of the hill.

Stay safe out there. Spring is coming.


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