Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

When is Black the New Bad?

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About 50 feet away, that’s me holding a safety light reflector (that white speck you see).

Answering my title question upfront: Black is the new bad when worn at night without reflective material anywhere there is vehicular traffic.
I’m saddened by three recent reports of people over the age of 65 killed in pedestrian/auto accidents. Two I knew personally; one a neighbor who power-walked past my home almost daily, the other a former colleague and community volunteer. To my knowledge, none of the three were runners. I don’t know the details of the accidents but I do know under any circumstances vehicles and people are not an even match. 

So why am I telling you this on a blog post primarily about senior runners? Because it dawned on me that I, and I suspect you, don’t take adequate precautions when we are are not in running mode.

Out the door for a run anytime of day or night, we are in safety green or day-glo yellow. At dusk or dawn, we are wearing headlamps, flashing red lights and those bizarre but effective neon circle lights. But dear fellow senior runner, what are you wearing when you step out during the holiday season? Is it that little black dress that you can still get away with because you are a runner and in great shape? Are you out for happy hour in bluejeans, black knee-length boots, maybe a dark fleece jacket to shield you from the evening cold? Black gloves? Uh-huh, I thought so.

At about 30 feet away, look closely, safety light still in hand, I am barely visible.

At about 30 feet away, look closely, safety light still in hand I am barely visible.

Are we as attentive when out in the evening socially as we are when running? On a run, I find I can still do a fast ditch-dive when a vehicle comes too close. My antennae are on alert. Do I have the same level of caution crossing streets when out socially in the evening?  Honestly, no.

When we walk across a dimly-lit parking lot on our way to a holiday concert, to church, to a restaurant to gather with friends, is a driver likely to see us in dark colors – before it is too late?

Probably not the driver on their cell phone, not the driver talking to soothe a tired child, not the driver hurrying to a store before it closes. Even the driver with brilliant attention and quick reflexes may not spot us in time.

About 12 feet away from camera. Would a driver stop in time?

About 12 feet away from camera. Would a driver stop in time?

I’m taking my own advice here and please join me. Black is a great evening color and without it my closet would be nearly bare, but the fatal accidents of late have convinced me that it won’t hurt a bit to keep something lightweight and reflective tucked in my purse or pocket ready to add when in dark areas.

Please be safe out there and when taking in holiday events with family and friends or when crossing a street in the evening. Use the same precautions used when out for a pre-dawn run.

We are approaching the year’s shortest day and longest night, with sunset tonight at 4:43 p.m. 

Just added to my gift list - an amphipod xinglet.  Can be adjusted to fit any size and over any coat.

Just added to my gift list – an amphipod xinglet. Can be adjusted to fit any size and over any coat.

Lighten up!

Stay safe and healthy. Peace. 

Baking Nostalgia with the Watkins Man

A barefoot 5-year old runs up the dusty, curved driveway, sprinting to stay ahead of a delivery van a half-mile behind.

 

“The Watkins Man is coming. The Watkins Man is here.” Breathless, she calls out his arrival like the spotter on a ship’s mast.

Credit: watpros.com

Credit: watpros.com

Today, that barefoot 5-year old runner is Still A Runner and still using an inherited Watkins Cookbook.

 

On the Midwest prairies, mid 1950’s farm families might go to town once a week for staples. Another source of supplies was the Watkins Man. The Watkins Man arrived at your door, never mind how rural or isolated, with orders for baking, health and cleaning goods. The item the 5-year old runner most remembers is Watkins Vanilla.

Credit: wholefoodrealfoodgoodfoodcom

Snow ice cream, a treat from a fresh snow. Credit: wholefoodrealfoodgoodfood.com

It was an essential ingredient in making snow ice cream, a welcome treat during long winters where the other primary ingredient, snow, was cheap and readily available.

Yesterday, she pulled her mother’s 1936 edition Watkins Cookbook from the shelf. 

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This year, it will be her source for Christmas cookie recipes. She will divert from her hurried life and huddle between the recipes intended for bakers of another time.

 

The instructions are succinct with information no longer than a paragraph and in no particular order. She learns at the end of the instructions that dough must be refrigerated overnight. When the book was published, every self-respecting home baker knew the temperature for “moderate oven”  or a “quick oven” so don’t expect specifics. Her cookbook bears the ravages of time and use, tape holding together torn pages, grease spots, bent covers. The Watkins Cookbook did not waste space on a shelf. It was a kitchen warrior.

Butter Cookies and Brown Sugar Cookies ready for mailing to family far away.

Butter Cookies and Brown Sugar Cookies ready for mailing to family far away.

So, where is the Watkins Man now? Apparently, he – and likely she – still exist along with the company behind them, still based in Minnesota. They’ve been around over 100 years and may have been one of the first companies to promote and provide natural products for their customers.

She snoops around the Watkins website and learns their first product was a non-food item, liniment. liniment_bottleShe doesn’t recall her family using this product, but more than likely they did. Long days of physical labor planting and harvesting crops and caring for farm animals were a guarantee for sore and aching muscles.

That liniment is still available from Watkins. She wonders if any of her running followers use this product for sore muscles. Maybe she’ll give it a try.

 

When she places an order, you can be sure vanilla will be included. 11ozExtPVanWx13_os_overForget the negative articles claiming snow is no longer clean enough to eat, she’s lived this long.

Stocking Stuffers for Runners

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Credit: funny.pictures.picphotos.net

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are past and I see a stream of discount ads for running items flood my inbox. With all that, my annual suggestions for apparel shopping for your running family and friends has hit a standstill.

Looking at my post from last year, running shoes aside, it was clear I haven’t purchased any significant items in a year or two.

 

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2010 Harrisburg Mile: Apparel – navy shorts, blue piping.

My frugal nature demands I take care of what I have, and purchase only when necessary.

 

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2014 Boston Maraton – Apparel: Same navy shorts, blue piping. Maybe it is time for a holiday purchase update.

Wardrobe aside, here are a couple of items I’ve begun using that would make great stocking stuffers, or a host(ess) gift when visiting runner-friendly households through the season.

Local Craft Fairs and Farmers Markets

- If you’re looking to buy local, every craft fair I attend has products made of locally-accessed materials and farmers markets provide options of runner healthy gift food items and – one of my favorites – soap from a local goat farmer that is great for chapped hands after a frigid run.

Crafty Running Friends

- You likely have these as well in your running club and training groups. I have running friends who make and sell those crafty stretchy headbands that keep wisps of hair off my face during races. Trail running friends buy their gators from a fellow trail runner who makes them and donates proceeds to a cause. Check out your sources.

Your Fellow Bloggers

- There are a number of running bloggers who occasionally share their creations on posts and some sell as well. I’m impressed with their creativity and ability to produce what they do amid running schedules, family and work.

Fresh Wave Natural Odor Eliminator

I use their products almost everywhere, but particularly the laundry, my car and my gym locker.IMG_1044 I have a sports gel tucked under the backseat of the car and make sure there is a fresh gel when I’m doing day trips to races or doing long runs where sweaty running clothes may be stashed in the vehicle for several hours. I see they now have a sports spray and I will include that with my next order. This is a product made in the USA with headquarters in the Midwest.

 

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Sun & Earth Products

I received a sample of their hand soap and cleaner at the Runner’s World 1/2 Marathon. I’ve used the hand soap to hand wash some running clothes and it does a great job. I see on their website they have a laundry product as well. This product is again made in the USA, in Eastern Pennsylvania.

 

 

Check out your sources. How do you gift? Do you have local sources for your running and active living supplies? Let us know as it’s the season to share.

Ghosts of Gray Rocks and Britten’s Music

One of the many benefits for an aging runner is to return to locations you love and see them afresh on foot, explore the new path and revisit the old. There are times when revisiting the old escalates to a sad good-bye. So it was with the Gray Rocks Inn.

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Summer view of Gray Rocks Inn on Lac Quimet. credit: businesstravelnews.com

Located in the Laurentian region of Quebec, the inn closed in 2009 and the property deteriorated for several years. In its time, Gray Rocks was a forerunner of the active lifestyle – golf, tennis, swimming in beautiful Lac Quimet, horseback riding on mountain trails, paths that took a hiker away from any sounds but those of the forest, and of course, skiing, the first ski resort in the Laurentians. After a day outdoors, guests enjoyed a formal but leisurely dinner of regional and French cuisine.

A few days ago, the aging buildings of a shuttered inn burned to the ground. Everyone locally had memories of staying or working at Gray Rocks and my memories of several summer visits decades back came flooding in.

Of the many commentaries and memories posted online, I was most captivated by a CBC post. I learned that composer Benjamin Britten had stayed in one of the Gray Rocks cabins, preceding my family’s visit by some 40 or 50 years.

Included in the CBC post is some wonderful historical information on Britten’s Gray Rocks Stay. Reading through Britten’s letters, his description of this beautiful region remains true. Amid the additional traffic, newer resorts, Ironman events, and endless condos, the underlying beauty and atmosphere of this Laurentian hideaway is unchanged.images-1

I found the perfect antidote to sadness over the passing of a time and loss of a gem in listening to Britten’s composition, a Ceremony of Carols, appropriate for this time of year or anytime. Give a listen through the link at the bottom of the CBC article (Video: A Ceremony of Carols). Simply, it is uplifting. When I hear Britten compositions in the future, wherever I may be, my mind will be traveling to the wonderful Laurentians and the Gray Rocks Inn as he would have seen it.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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