Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for September, 2012

Tuesday in the Park with Flora, Fauna and Friends

I’m a regular in a morning running group, the Tuesday Morning Gang. We meet at a nature sanctuary with a great path.  It’s interesting terrain with a 3+mile loop                                          

surrounding a lilly-covered lake.

Wildwood Park provides a good workout, with two miles of ascents and descents. Through the hills, a runner faces 940 feet of elevation change.

Then, the prize! 

More than a mile of the park loop is flat canopied towpath.

This stretch sits between the lake and a narrow swamp bordering an industrial road.  The atmosphere on the towpath differs from the other miles on the loop.  Runners and walkers who have been chattering become hushed on the towpath, voices lowered.  Fishermen and birdwatchers are tucked here and there in the brush.  They come with poles, lawn chairs, binoculars, cameras, and tripods, then quietly wait for opportunity.

Not all of my running group shares my appreciation for this shady, swampy section.  Some avoid the exposed gnarled tree roots, ruts and rodents.  As I swing onto the towpath, they turn onto the berm of the industrial road just outside the park, running parallel to the swamp side of the towpath. 

Their muffled conversation and the sound of truck traffic occasionally filters across the swamp.

What wildlife will be sharing the towpath with me today?  First the usual critters: a chipmunk, then a cottontail.  No snakes or weasels today.  This morning, I take a run break to spy on a birder intent on her view.  I quietly ask what she has found. 

Four white egrets and one blue egret are caught in her lens, fishing for breakfast.  She is one of the patient folk in the world who by example teach me to take a moment.

Waving good-bye to my birding mentor, I hit the Garmin start button and continue along the towpath.  To my right this time, I hear a deep sonorous bellow.  Does the sound belong to a horn of a tractor-trailer pulling out of the industrial park?  I hear it again, and again.  No, this was no truck horn, but a bullfrog sending a message.

Here, the magic of nature survives among runners, walkers, bicyclists and nature study folks circling throughout the day.  All the creatures of the park and those of us who come to visit and exercise are there encircled by industrial warehouses and petroleum companies on one concourse, and a major four-lane highway on another.

Enough revery.  Better get another mile in fast or I’ll be late for coffee with the gang.  A start to my day running a demanding course surrounded by the scents and sounds of nature,  followed by a post-run coffee with friends who love running;  these are just a few of the reasons I’m still running.

And you, are you still running?

What entices you out the door?

65

Enroute to a trail run on a recent Sunday morning, I heard the radio announcer open the program hour by saying  “the hour glass turns.”  As he spoke, my dashboard clock ticked from 6:59 to 7:00 a.m.

The digits on the clock don’t turn back,  so I’ve decided to move forward with gusto.  From hours turning over to years turning over, sixty-five (65) is the big number for me this year.

In search of solidarity, I joined the New England 65 + Runners Club.  I don’t personally know any of the club members nor do I live in New England, but neither is a prerequisite. And, although I don’t usually run in singlets, I may make an exception for the shirt included in my  membership packet:

Another bold move of the summer was a decision to participate in the State Senior Games.  O.K., it’s taken me 14 or 15 years of eligibility to marshall my courage, but it seemed important to jump (or run) in this year.

After registering for the 5,000 meter and the 10,000 meter events, dates and track location were announced. The 10,000 would take place at 7:30 a,m.,  the day after my already scheduled late night flight.  Weather delays make my arrival even later – it’s 4 a.m. as I turn the key to my front door.  I make the decision, wimp or wise woman depending on your point of view, to be a no-show for my first event.

After some catch-up sleep, I prepare myself for the new experience of basically running a 5K on a track.  The 5,000 is scheduled for 5 p.m.  I line up with a mixed age group and race in 92 degree heat.  Here I am running on a standard track for the first time since fourth grade (12+ laps), certainly different from my road and trail running and racing.   I may not be at the front of the pack on road or trail, but I also don’t experience getting lapped (well, there was that one time – a tale for another post) or find myself lapping other runners.  

The result was not one of my better times (did I mention it was 92 degrees?), but well worthwhile to have the opportunity of running with a larger number of women in my age group than I generally see at local race.

Just like London (well, almost).

Although I don’t have the official results,  my Garmin says I did well enough to be eligible for the 2013 National Senior Games Cleveland 2013, here I (maybe) come!

So, I’m running in Senior Games, in senior singlets and senior age groups. 

I’m also running with my friends in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s & 50’s.  In future years, should my driver’s license be removed from my clutched hand, my younger running friends have given their assurance that I will have a ride to our weekend training runs.

Let my aging flag fly.

I’m an athlete. My shirt says so.

Of the many passions in my life, running burns brighter with each year.  I’m still finding new challenges and I’m still running.

Are you still running and what new challenges have you found?

Are You Still Running?

“Are you still running?”  The question was first asked by an acquaintance sometime during my fiftieth year on this earth.  I was caught off-guard and answered with a simple “Yes, of course I’m still running.”  Was there some reason I wasn’t aware of that would prompt the question, one of those unwritten rules that I am sometimes oblivious to?

Apparently not.  Flash forward roughly 15 years.  The question is still asked frequently.  It’s not as though I am one of those wonderful athletes who continue to set records well into their masters years, although they do serve as one of my inspirations.  No, I am a mostly casual runner who enjoys camaraderie with running friends, and supports local running organizations and races through participation, race directing and other volunteer efforts.

So, why the recurring question?  I don’t recall anyone asking “Do you still garden?”  I do, although the outcome rarely matches my expectations and can be as physically demanding as a speed workout

I am not asked “Are you still traveling?” although I am and almost always find a way to combine travel with running. 

Cruising down Spearfish Canyon SD

It’s the running that seems to be a curiosity. I’m convinced it can’t be just me. Are most runners on the far side of the 45-49 age group asked the question? Is it asked more frequently of women runners?

It’s a great time to  be a senior runner. Information about conditioning, nutrition, and training is continually improving.  That information is also more widely available than in my early days as a runner and has helped me to a half marathon PR just months ago.

Running clubs and casual running groups abound.   Trail running has become more prevalent and races can be found locally and around the world.  Running experiences for me are forever new.

So yes, I am still running – still enthusiastically running.  What good fortune that this wonderful physical endeavor can help a pre-Title IX runner continue good health, great friendships, and an ever-changing view of the world never seen in detail through a car window.

Perhaps the answer is not as simple as “Yes, I’m still running.”  Maybe it speaks to the questions of how we  express ourselves, keep our health, follow our passion, and how curious we are to see what is around the next curve in the road or on the trails we run.

Thanks for reading my premier post.  I hope you come back. 

Oh, and by the way, are you still running?