Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Touristy Long Run through London

Come with me on my longest marathon training run through the streets and parks of London. The course I primarily followed was a 20-22 miler found online courtesy of the Serpentine Running Club.

It’s a cool, misting Saturday morning, perfect for a marathon training run. Pacing will be a problem on this route. We’ll just do the best we can and enjoy the route.

Let’s start just north of the South Kensington station making  our way on the street between the Victoria & Alfred Museum

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This museum is a must-see devoted to decorative arts & design. The café is located in several beautiful rooms with a wonderful patio.

and the ever popular Natural Science Museum.

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The Natural Science Museum is still on my must-see list. The queue some mornings tell me it is in high demand.

At Mile 2, we’re moving into Hyde Park.

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This park has lots of greenery and activity. Cyclists, runners (about a 6-mile perimeter), equestrians, dog walkers and folks hanging out at the senior playground for tennis and lawn bowling.

At mile 3, we’re at the Buck Hill Gate of Hyde Park.

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Buck Hill is one of several private lodges on the perimeter of the park.

Mile 4 & 5 takes us through Kensington Park past Kensington Palace and its gardens.

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Queen Victoria watches over her subjects as they walk/run/cycle by.

By Mile 6, we are headed south looking at the Chelsea Kitchen restaurant across Kings Road.

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Mile 7, just down the road we find the Chelsea Football Club.

 

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Mile 8 brings us to Imperial Wharf. And here is where we get a bit confused, with traffic rerouted and pedestrian walkways closed. We’ll put on a couple of miles chasing in circles until a fellow runner helps us find our way to the Thames path.

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Mile 10, the rain begins to pick up as we pass the beautiful small Cremorne Gardens. We’ll forego the photo since the rain is hampering the view.

Mile 11, here we go crossing the Thames River for the first of several times on this route. We take the Battersea Bridge across to Battersea Park.

At mile 12 through Battersea Park, there is plenty of open space and beautifully maintained playing fields as well as a fantastic track.

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From Battersea, we head back across the Thames on the Chelsea Bridge. The sky in the photo below tells you we have more miles of sloshing to go.

Mile 13, we are passing Pimlico Park. and stopping a moment to enjoy this little jewel. The rain lets up a bit just in time for a photo.

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It’s then time to cross the Thames again, this mile on the Vauxhall Bridge.

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It’s also an opportunity to see the Thames at low tide.

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Through Mile 14 & 15, the crowds along the river are so thick that anything more than a fast walk isn’t possible without moving away from the river and chancing getting lost. (Didn’t I warn about pacing problems earlier?)

It does provide the chance to do some touristy stuff  as we walk past the skateboard park

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and get a photo with river traffic, Parliament and Big Ben in the background.

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By Mile 16.5, we are at the Tower Bridge.

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This bridge didn’t need the looming clouds overhead to make it appear scary.

Back in London at Mile 18, we’re making our way across through heavier rain and heavier tourist pedestrian traffic. They are  undeterred by the rain so we’re in for another mile or so of fast walk/jogging.

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Most of the crowd is here to see London Tower which is worth seeing in any weather with probably 1500 years of history within its walls.

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There is an incredible amount of history behind these walls. Leave yourself plenty of time to look around when you’re not on a run.

Now heading back to our start up Westminster, we are around Mile 19 and we hear church bells ringing as we edge along the perimeter of Saint James’s Park.

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Having picked up extra mileage through our mistakes on the course in Chelsea, we don’t complete the area around Green Park but as we approach Mile 20, we do get a chance to peer in to Buckingham Palace.

 

Finally around Mile 21, we pass by the Marble Arch and back into Hyde Park.img_2504-1

We run along it perimeter until it joins Kensington Park. Here, we will cross the street and cut around the amazing Royal Albert Hall with the rain still coming down.

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Wet and weary, let’s finish up on the backside of the Natural History Museum and call it a day.

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Although it was a bit of an unorthodox run, the miles are done. Thanks for joining me. It’s always good to have someone along putting in the miles.

A fiery & wet welcome to London

We had just arrived in London a day before, still getting our bearings in this wonderful town. Unaware of the festival of arts and ideas planned for that day in the City of London, we came across a volunteer suggesting we stick around for the falling of the breeze blocks. What?

With further explanation, we learned that we were in the area where, 350 years earlier, September 3, 1666, what was known as the Great Fire of London burned down the majority of the city. Now, what would become a moving sculpture, a line of breeze blocks, was being established in domino form.

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It was an artistic representation, threading through the line the fire took as it tore through churches, businesses, homes, those many years ago.

Rain began to fall and we found cover under a parking garage ledge while still having a good view of the blocks. Excitement rose as each  block began falling in the next block.

The white rectangles became a moving sculpture as one by one they met the block in front with a crisp thud.

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Some cyclists and a few runners tried to keep pace with the blocks as they fell domino style in a serpentine fashion past our vantage point. The entire route of the fire represented by the blocks was six kilometers.

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Thirty feet or so from the block sculpture, sits a Roman wall that survived the 1666 fire. Ignore the incorrect photo date, this was taken on 9/3/16 (Although in the vast amount of time the Roman wall has survived, built around the second century,  almost makes the date of the photo inconsequential.

Watching the beauty of the white shapes in movement and contemplating the powerful fire they represented left me quietly trying to fathom the fast-moving heat and destruction of 1666. Since that serendipitous moment stumbling across this event, the many stories we have heard of the impact of that fire and the rebuilding that became the basis for the London of today have had a far greater impact than they would have otherwise. 

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Next up: Let’s run London. Posts to follow.

 

Hell-bent on completing the Hellbender-Half Race Report

With all the fuss, fanfare and hi-tech most road races have adopted, there are thankfully still a few old school races around. The Hellbender Half Marathon & 5K is one of them.

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Weiser State Forest near race start

 

How old school? No on-line sign-up available, but you can download a mail-in application from the race website. Race registrations are mail-in and day-of sign-up on-site only. No chip timing here with results based on gun time.

Having said the Hellbender is old school, it is  also as professionally and efficiently directed as any race in the region. Co-sponsored by the Susquehanna Ridge Runners Club, the course was accurately measured and timing was accurate. Results were available and awards announced in a timely fashion, even as race officials worked under tents in a strong downpour.

If you are a runner who has an interest in the cause supported by a given race, you probably won’t find another that specifically benefits the environment of the Hellbender, an aquatic salamander native to the area. These creatures breathe through their skin, so their survival depends on the health of the streams. The race benefits the work of the Roaring Creek Valley Conservation Association.

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Replica of a hellbender (two feet more of less)

As was typical of this year’s summer, race morning was warm, 75 degrees at the start, and humid. The area is deeply forested and as I stepped from my car, I reached for the bug spray. After their initial greeting, the insects kept a distance. After a warm-up mile, I  lined up with a couple hundred runners who had found their way to this particular tract of the Pennsylvania Weiser State Forest. The surface was typical forest road, primarily gravel on  the hard-packed dirt surface. Roughly half of the out-and-back course is along a stream and a lake, the remainder tall forest on both sides, with the occasional state forest building back from the road.

Although the course  is primarily flat, there is a slight incline going out and, thankfully, a slight decline on the return.  I started out on pace, but by mile four the humidity was like an anchor tied to my ankles. Thankfully, water stops along the course were well placed and well stocked. By the time I reached the turnaround, I was doing my I-don’t-care-anymore-just-let-me-finish pace. It got better. On the return, the very slight loss of elevation felt good as did a few raindrops that spattered down. I picked up my pace even more during the final mile as the spatter turned into a full deluge with fat raindrops popping off the bill of my cap.

Well shy of my usual pace, I still was pleased to finish in 2:05 and change, earning first place in F65-69 age group. 

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Photo-op during a break in the rain with fast 50-ish friends Sue and Kris

Post-race food was  ample with a variety of homemade sandwiches on fresh bakery rolls, cut-up fresh fruit (my personal favorite) along with chips, bananas and a few other treats.

Already drenched, I munched on the goodies while trying to keep the food dry and chatting with runners who do the Hellbender every year. On my walk to the car, I stopped by the massage tent  where they worked some magic on my tight quads.

Thanking myself for adding a large towel to the bag, I poured some extra water over my muddy legs before drying off and scurrying into fresh dry clothes. Thankful for another invigorating race experience, I was back on the road.

The sixth year of the Hellbender has come and gone, but if it sounds like your kind of race and you’d like a drive through rural Pennsylvania, pencil in the 7th on your August race schedule.IMG_2275

HARRC in the Dark runs under a Sturgeon Moon

Taking full advantage of long, beautiful days, this is the third outdoor event in the summer of full moons. This evening’s activity is payback for all the volunteers that make it possible for me to run races .

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Credit: Farmer’s Almanac

Under tonight’s Sturgeon Moon, I am one of the volunteers, spectators, and cheerleaders.

HARRC in the Dark is a 7K race held at 7 p.m., maybe not actually dark but a beautiful sunset at dusk played with colors along the Susquehanna. And, when we finished with awards at the Federal Taphouse it was dark.

Organized by the Harrisburg Area Road Runners Club (HARRC), this 7K has become a staple of summer evening running and socializing. I joined other volunteers from Open Stage of Harrisburg and HARRC at the registration table.IMG_2204 (1).jpg

The race start and finish are on our linear Riverfront Park with the Susquehanna River along the path

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and historic buildings across the street.

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A smallish race with around 200 runners, participants run the gamut from elites to beginners and ages from under 12’s to 80+. 

Temperatures finally fell out of the 90’s for our race but the humidity still made runners work to get to the finish, conditions as we could expect for a late summer evening. Among old friends and new acquaintances, we ignore that humidity to spend time cheering one another on.

I encourage anyone who races a few local races a year to become more involved with your running community. Take a break from running a race to volunteer. You will learn the working of how a race is put together and likely make some stronger friendships in the process.

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The race is run, awards are distributed and volunteers have packed up.

Good night, Sturgeon Moon. No fishing for me tonight, but you did light my way home.

(If you are interested in a bit more about the naming of that Sturgeon Moon hanging in our night sky, I found some interesting background over at cherokeebillie.)

 

Reaching New Heights in Olympic Viewing

This week I have found a way to do almost any chore while watching television. For someone who, with the exception of a movie or two,  can go for weeks without turning on a  television, this week I made a reach for new heights.

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This anomaly is a repeat of my behavior every four years, and every two years to a lesser degree. The Summer Olympics have captivated me for years. Part of it is nostalgia. I remember a year watching  the Olympics with friends who had such enthusiasm, it lit a fire under my mild interest. After another four-year span, I recall kicking back at the midnight hour with the wonderful women in my family watching the women’s gymnastics competition happening on the other side of our world.

Another year I watched solo sharing the big moments with friends and family who were kind enough to share those moments with me over a telephone line.

Then, there were the Atlanta Olympics. A colleague enticed me to join her in participating in security training for the Olympics, spending a week in Atlanta. That experience is worth a separate post, but I will say I learned more about security than I did the Games that year.

There are more than enough reasons to give less of my time to the Summer Games, but the draw to watch remains. It’s as though they reach to me through the screen.

Athletes find themselves competing in less than stellar water, as in Rio, or compete in polluted air, as in China. Still I watch.

Commentators covering the the Games make absurd comments about competitors. Still I watch.

Summer storms knock my satellite coverage out at pivotal moments in competition. Still I watch.

Some of the events are a puzzle to me and I have difficulty following the judges’ decisions. Still I watch.

And here I am with the television humming in the background, watching the last day of swimming, beautiful competitions to watch.

Tomorrow morning, you can find me along with many others watching more than 150 women compete in the Women’s Olympic Marathon.

And where will you be? Watching from an athletic center or health club? Watching at the home of hospitable friends with a large screen tv? Watching solo?  Wherever you are, we will be cheering together.

Looking for the Hay Moon

All of us folk who wander around in the outdoors seems to be particularly enticed by full moons this year.  In June, I was running a Summer Solstice Run under a Strawberry Moon. Last night, I had the option of joining my running club

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for a full moon run or joining my Meetup hiking group for their Trekkin’ Tuesday Workout Hike Full Moon Edition.

So, under this Hay Moon (aptly named as I see farmers putting up hay in fields along my  route to the trailhead) I opted for the workout hike, feeling a need to get back on the trail.

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Our day hiking group mingling with through hikers settling in at Scott Farm for the evening.

 

We hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail up Blue Mountain, then doing a turnaround before reaching the lookout. We then moved south along the Conodoguinet Creek to Scott Farm Trail Work Center.

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Boardwalk over the Conodoguinet Creek

We tried in vain to spot the Hay Moon on our return to the trailhead. Unfortunately, the moon was hidden by cloud cover.

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Homemade moonpies – what hiker could ask for more?

We didn’t have a view of the Hay Moon, but our trail leaders made up for it with homemade moon pies. It works for me.

 

Hemp Hearts Discovery – they’re new-to-me

Like Columbus claiming to discover the Americas when thousands of people who lived here knew of its existence as did the Vikings who quietly arrived and left centuries before, it seems I am late to the discovery of hemp hearts.

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credit: istockphoto.com

Last week, I ran across hemp hearts as the final ingredient in a chopped salad recipe. Having never heard of it, I called my health food store and yes, of course they carry it. So off I went to pick up this new-to-me ingredient. I happened to buy the brand Manitoba Harvest.

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credit: kelownaceliac.org

With the intriguing name of hemp hearts, they are actually raw shelled hemp seed, with a moist nutty appearance, adding flavor and texture to the salad, but not overwhelming other ingredients.

While adding the texture and flavor, the hemp hearts also added a nutritional component: protein. For someone who eats many meatless meals, this was a great find. Two tablespoons of these little nuggets gets me 7 grams of protein. It also gets me lots of good fats.

Hemp hearts to my diet have become something like those surprise words that pop up. You run across that word the first time in reading not having been familiar with it, and then suddenly that word appears, looking back at you from many other sources.

So now, having made my ‘discovery’ of hemp hearts, they pop out at me here and there. Within a day of trying that salad recipe, I noticed pro triathlete Sarah Kim Bonner includes hemp hearts in her blog’s muffin recipe.

Then on a recent trip to the pharmacy,  I spot hemp hearts right there in the aisle near the energy bars and sunflower seeds. Clearly, I am among the last to add this wonderful food to just about everything – including a tablespoon or so on my morning cereal.

So, fess up readers. Am I the last to discover hemp hearts?

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credit: meganwallacerd.com