Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

NYC Marathon Bookend Days

Destination marathons, and even home town marathons, have a before and after. Taking on 26 miles requires your mental space. That may mean a day-before get together with friends who will patiently listen to you second guess your training plan. It may mean sitting quietly with yourself for even a short time, a moment to focus physical and mental energy. The closing bookend may be a day back at the office where the mind wanders to the previous day’s accomplishment and while your  body reminds you that, yes – you really did do that – again.IMG_0978

With New York, there was a before day to gently roll into that weekend and an after day of soaking up some post-marathon activity before a mid-day departure.

Our threesome took the ever-convient Amtrak in, with a window of time to discuss running, catching up on other miscellany, and more running talk.

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With running friends Carol and Becky. My green bib is a giveaway that they are speedier runners.

With a mid-day Friday arrival, we dropped our bags at the hotel and off to the Expo shuttle bus for the Javits Center. From the start, there is the distinct international feel to this marathon. We had ample time to pick up our registration bags, check out the running gear and with an extra day before the marathon, we dared to taste test the myriad of sample energy products on display.

There are items I know after a brief scent or a bite are not for me. Others I’m willing to try. I brought samples home to experiment with as I begin my next cycle of long training runs. I’ll let you know how they work for me.

Large selections of running gear did not tempt me. I seldom buy gear at an Expo. Well, there was the time in Boston when my luggage took another route, but aside from emergencies I’m more likely to ponder my selections until its too late. It’s a great way to save.

After a few hours of browsing time, the crowd was growing and we exited the Expo for an early dinner at Joe G’s, a Manhattan favorite for me, located below street level with a grotto feel and deliciously seasoned Italian.

Saturday started with an early shake-out run from the Da Vinci Hotel, a boutique place chosen for its proximity to the NYC Marathon finish line. The friendly, helpful staff were a bonus.

2-DSC00768 A cold rain fell and by mid afternoon the wind was picking up. It was a relaxing, do your own thing day. We could easily have fit in a show, but kept things unstructured,  rendezvousing for a few meals. I particularly liked the Bread and Honey market neaby,image where we restocked on snacks and bananas and enjoyed a hot cup of soup. A quick stop at the Westerly Natural Market (more samples in my cache), then a late lunch/early dinner was nearby at the Ivy Bar. It was time to call it a day.

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A gracious Meb signs autographs

Our closing bookend day had a great start, thanks to Terri, my running friend and fellow blogger at  See Jain Run. From her, I learned about a post-marathon day presentation and information session on a product I have yet to try (another sample I’m saving for an upcoming long training run. I’m looking forward to trying the product  – more on this later). IMG_0997There we had the opportunity to hear Olympian and winner of earlier Boston and NYC Marathons Meb Keflezighi  offer comments and insights on running  and competing and life, and some nutrition information from running coach and author Greg McMillan as well.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

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Whoever invented the rolling suitcase, thank you.

Off to catch the train with no time to spare, the bookends fold and marathon weekend is complete. Great marathon, great city, nasty weather. We’ll be back. Maybe.

 

Travel Theme: Arches

Let’s do a Travel Tuesday and join the folks over at Where’s my Backpack? as they explore the shape of the arch in all the forms it appears to us.

Photo Credit: Scott D. Welch/Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Scott D. Welch/Wikimedia Commons


On this Veterans Day in the U.S., I will begin with the Pacific Arch at the World War II Memorial.

 

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From the East Coast of the U.S., we move in time to the Middle Ages and across the Atlantic to a Baltic port city and this arch in Old Town Riga, Latvia.

 

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Then north on the Baltic and a bit inland to an arched walkway through a building near the Täby Kyrka in Svenskakyrkan, Sweden.

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Off to Northern Ireland and Belfast’s City Hall. In addition to the beautifully arched stained glass window, at least three other arch shapes appear in the photo.

 

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Continuing east across Asia and into the Pacific Ocean to one of our westernmost states, we found an arch of holiday lights surrounding one of many homes, vehicles and driveways located in this historic Oahu neighborhood at the foothills of the Waianae Mountains. Decorations are ready for the Makakilo Christmas Light Spectacular.

 

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Back to the U.S. mainland and in Niobrara State Park stand a lovely couple centered in an flowered arch overlooking the Missouri River.

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Across the Missouri on the Dakota side, the river forms its own gentle arch.

 

20130720-10kroadrace-tj-001jpg-7c79ed43a5447f89On to Cleveland Ohio during a downpour prior to the 2013 Senior Games 10K where a runner attempts to stay dry employing an arched plastic bag overhead.

 

IMG_0611Finally, we have circled the globe and made our way back home to one of the many bridges with arches spanning our beautiful Susquehanna River.

Thank you Where’s my Backpack for this great suggestion.

 

 

 

 

Windy, Wild NYC Marathon

With more than 50,000 NYC Marathon finishers, there are as many stories. Here is mine. A long and tedious path from a half marathon qualifier in 2012, cancellation of NY 2012, 2013 tumble down a ski hill, defer to 2014. The wait was worth it.

Any marathon the size and reputation of NY has a before and after the main event. That will wait. Today, its the main event. The decision early on was do a tourist run, enjoy the sites and finish time be damned.

View from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo Credit: Carol Varano

View from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo Credit: Carol Varano

Race day we’re off – subway to Staten Island Ferry, buses to athletes villages, most runners carrying bags of throw-away clothing for warmth in the 40mph winds at the start.

Hugs and goodbye, good luck to my faster friends Carol and Becky off to their starts. I keep walking to the green village where my corral will begin the gauntlet of wind on the Verrazano Bridge, first mile uphill – second mile downhill.IMG_0988

High over the Hudson River, I tried my best to stay in the middle of a group of runners. Instead, those runners were being buffeted about while I was blown to the right into the barricades, then bouncing back into the group, hopping across layers of clothing abandoned as runners exit the wind swirls on the bridge and enter Brooklyn.

The relentless wind moves from broadside to a headwind. I search the crowd for a bigger person running my pace, fall in behind a young man clicking along at about a 9:40, slightly taller and wider than me. I give him a couple of feet of space and soon a small woman cuts in at his heels. How unfair, slipping in and stealing my windshield. Off to find a replacement.

And there he is, about 6’6″ with a wide torso, wearing either halloween devil horns or a Viking helmet, not sure which. I draft behind him for a full mile before he stops to talk to his cheerleaders. I take solace and energy in James Brown’s music blasting from the sideline.

IMG_0981I miss the sign coming into Queens (subbing a photo from the Expo, featuring Senior Runners from Queens – my kind of people).

Around Mile 20, we enter the Bronx for a mile or two. An enthusiastic group of live musicians welcomes us. IMG_0990No lip-synching here as they perform on a raw morning. The wind is again straight on as we enter Manhattan. Anything for survival, I see runners scooping down to pick up outerwear abandoned by earlier runners, protecting their chest and thighs. The city skyscrapers have caused my GPS to go wacky. As I pass the Mile 24 sign, my watch is reading Mile 25, a cruel trick. Up the last hill in Central Park and crossing the finish line into a slow, slow craziness, photo ops, bite of the apple from the finisher bag, man with a German accent attempts to chat with me but my mouth is too frozen to respond, move through the barriers to exit the park, and receive the lined marathon cloak. Thank you, NYC Marathon.

Two block walk and the warmth of the subway is welcome.

Walk of the Marathon finisher zombies. Photo credit: Rebecca Cover

Walk of the Marathon finisher zombies. Photo credit: Rebecca Cover

Time? 4:28 and change. What does it say that I do nearly as well goofing my way through a marathon as I do in all-out efforts? I’ll end with a cheer for my fellow senior women runners in F65-69 AG – 121 of us still runners and NYC Marathon finishers.

 

Pacing (OK, Chasing) Amby

 

I’m feeling a bit like that retro cartoon character, Mr. Magoo.

Credit: www.gopixpic.com Gonzales Pacon

Credit: Gonzalo Pacori

How is it possible to be in the running vicinity of a celebrated runner and not see him – twice? 

We’re talking about Amby Burfoot, a man who won the Boston Marathon in 1968 at the young age of 21 years. Since then, he has authored several books. I’ve seen his photos over the decades appearing with his columns offering advice and education on all things running for runners at every level. You would think I would recognize him.

My first known close encounter with Amby was at the 2014 Boston Marathon. It came to my attention after the race that we had been assigned the same corral. Granted, we’re talking hundreds of people in that corral, so yes, that I didn’t see him is understandable. Our finish times weren’t close, about four minutes apart. Still, we were likely in the same vicinity at the same time somewhere along that 26.2 mile stretch. But, I did not see Amby.

Less understandable is the near miss siting a few weekends ago at the Runner’s World Half Marathon. Upon approaching ArtsQuest the morning of the race, I saw the aging stacks of Bethlehem’s steelmaking past lighting up in the pre-dawn sky.

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Bethlehem PA pre-dawn skyline

But, I did not see Amby.

I did see a number of neighborhoods and a number of challenging hills. A beautiful long downhill at mile 12 let me stretch my legs for the best mile pace of the race.

I can attribute part of my lack of spotting other runners, be they friends or those who fit in the celebrity category, to a tunnelvision sort of focus  that automatically occurs as I run. 

That was the case when Keith, a Runner’s World staffer, pulled up beside me about a mile from the finish. I recall asking if we would be in before the 2 hour mark. He talked me through that final windy mile, pointing out the 2-Hour Pacer just ahead. My clock time was 1:59 39, chip time 1:58:49.

After the finish, I enjoyed the post-race festivities with my husband, chatting with other runners we met throughout the morning. Still, I did not see Amby.IMG_0976

Upon returning home, a friend emailed with a question. Did I realize Amby Burfoot finished six seconds ahead of me? Well, I did after looking at the results. Comparing clock times and chip times, surely we were again in the same vicinity at the start, probably near the runner who did a terrific job as the 2:00 Pacer. But, I did not see Amby.

When the race photo email arrived, I took a look through the selections for my bib number. The photo company watermarks made it difficult to see detail, but I guessed and finally took a flyer, ordering the magazine-style finish and hoping for the best. That’s me, third yellow shirt to the rear, wind jacket around my waist.13521552_1

I expect if we both continue to run,  (I’ll hold up my end to the best of my ability) my path may again (almost) cross with Amby Burfoot. My powers of observation are unlikely to improve and although I may not know it at the time, I will still be chasing, not pacing, Amby.

 

 

The Power of ‘Thank You’

Over breakfast recently with my friend Maura, she mentioned there are times she sends hand-written thank you notes. This is a younger friend, a technology and public relations professional who can accomplish anything online and is completely savvy with social media. stock-photo-14310278-thank-you-message-handwritten-with-calligraphy-penStill, she feels that a dinner invite or those special things friends and colleagues occasionally do for one another are worthy of a hand-written thank you.

I recalled that conversation as I looked through the journal of a long-time running friend who recently passed away. For years, Charlie Laverty could be seen at weekend runs, either racing or volunteering. In the volunteer role, he was unflappable, friendly and patient, always with a sense of humor. I loved working with him.

Charlie & friends preparing packets for 2006 Harrisburg Marathon

Charlie & friends preparing packets for 2006 Harrisburg Marathon. Photo Credit: Andrew O’Donnell

The runner journal Charlie left behind was succinct, given the many years of racing and race volunteering behind him. Some newspaper articles, a photo or two, and select race results were among the few items carefully placed in a 3-ring binder.

One item stood out and as a race director gives me pause. I pulled a small envelope and card from its plastic sleeve; a 2002 handwritten thank you note from Mike Garmin, Race Director of the Harrisburg Marathon that year. Mike’s note thanked Charlie for bringing his time and experience to the marathon and helping to make it a success.

Charlie in bib#3441 enjoying the 1996 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in D.C.

Charlie in bib#3441 enjoying the 1996 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler

These 14 years later, the note was there among the selected treasures that spoke of Charlie’s success and place in the running community.

Cherished running memories that would include PRs, news articles, and a hand-written thank you.

How will my thank yous be remembered? How will yours?

10K + Brandywine Art = Great Mini-Roadtrip

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2nd Floor atrium at Brandywine Art Museum

It’s travel Tuesday and I hope you’ll agree with me that a 2-3 hour road trip qualifies as travel. While running friends were scattered across the region at various marathons, I carved the weekend out for the Joy Hope Delaware 10-K, a qualifying race for the 2015 National Senior Games. I looked at this as a secondary opportunity to pay a visit to the nearby Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Speaking of art, there is an art to combining a day trip road race with sightseeing or shopping. It involves a dry change to street clothes, a tattered washcloth and towel from the bottom of your linen closet, a plastic bag, sunblock, and on a rainy day, a comb to run through your thoroughly drenched locks. Lotion, lipstick and mascara are optional as is a bathroom with running water.

The day’s 10K and art trek were equally successful. 6.2 rainy miles through neighborhood streets and rolling hills, slowing a bit on the uphill through Mile 5 and feeling the chill come on during Mile 6 ended with a finish time 55:08, meeting the National Senior Games qualifying time for W-AG 65-69.

Credit: ahungryrunner.com

Credit: ahungryrunner.com

After finding a corner of the crowded church bathroom, removing mud from my calves and practicing the art of the discreet wardrobe change, I found my way to the post-race food. I thanked the well-organized Delaware Senior Games volunteers, and chatted with some fellow senior  runners. I look forward to running with them again at the National Senior Games in 2015.

Through damp runners and spectator umbrellas, I made my way to the parking lot. A short drive took me past upscale outlet stores, Whole Foods, and a Trader Joe’s. I was tempted, but continued on to the nearby chosen destination for the day: Chadds Ford and the Brandywine Museum. The indoor/outdoor feel in the atrium welcomes the natural beauty that still abides in this valley.

Bucolic landscape and sculpture

Bucolic landscape and sculpture

The work of one or more generations of the Wyethe family is always found on display here, along with several temporary exhibits.

This is an art museum where you could spend the day, take a lunch break in the on-site restaurant (although the use of plastic dishes and utensils seems so at odds with the natural setting), enjoying a view of the Brandywine Creek through floor to ceiling windows.

Dining with a view

Dining with a view

A nicely kept secret, this nature and art stop-off can be found when driving near the Greater Philadelphia/Delaware area. From major highways, its easy to pop in, stretch your legs for an hour or so and be on your way, revived by the art, the natural setting and the sense of history.

Or, you can take a shorter break by simply walking down one of the many nature trails on the property. I did both.

Creekside Trail

Creekside Trail

If you have any tips on doing a road race day trip with other activities, please share. 

 

Hoofing it through Helsinki

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Nearing Helsinki’s harbor through Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea

It’s Travel Tuesday. Our cool autumn weather feels like an overcast Spring morning in Helsinki, Finland. The ship arrived in port and this traveler was oh so ready to set feet on the pier.

Helsinki is the perfect port for a traveler in need of room to breathe.  Three wonderful days of museums and magnificent buildings in Saint Petersburg, escorted by our guides and surrounded at every stop by dense crowds, those days of claustrophobic gilded beauty left me ready for some personal space.

A variety of day tours were available as well as a shuttle ride into the city. Me, I was hoofing it. A solo walk was on my personal itinerary. Besides, how much trouble could I find in Helskinki?

Out the gangway, I simply began a fast walk, assuming the view of steeples on the hill would take me to the old city sites. IMG_0392I assumed correctly and a 45-minutes walk found me at Market Square, again surrounded by other tourists and the downtown harbor.

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I crossed paths with a local runner, one of the few Helsinkians on the streets Ascension Day.

The town was quiet with many shops closed. We had arrived on Ascension Day, an official holiday in Finland. Fortunately, outdoor markets dotting the square with local foods and handicrafts were open with tourists giving them brisk business.

Around the block and the corner was Senate Square where I spotted a Hop-On Hop-Off bus stop. A couple of the outlying locations I wanted to explore suddenly seemed possible, especially since the buses ran until 5:00. I rode the Hop-On to the Rock Church, the Temppeliaukio Lutheran Church where architects had designed IMG_0409a building carved from the natural rock.

After a day mostly on foot enjoying a city full of parks and open space, I briefly visited the statue of Finnish Olympian Paavo Nurmi before engaging in my own run, a sprint to the last Hop-On bus scheduled. It was 4:00 p.m. when I learned the Hop-On bus was no longer going near my terminal. In fact after it dropped current travelers at Market Square, it wasn’t going anywhere. As it turned out, the claim that it was “running until 5:00″ actually meant that all buses would be returned to the barn no later than 5:00. Quickly throwing in with a couple of other travelers returning to the same ship terminal, we flagged a cab and made it back well before ship time.

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Nurmi photo taken on the run

A day on my own did wonders for my psyche. I was back aboard ship, ready to move on to the next port enjoying the company of my fellow voyagers.

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