Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for February, 2013

Tales of Bostons Past – No Soup for You

A Victorian B&B with street parking and a convenient metro stop was base for my 2010 Boston Marathon.  imagesMy host greeted with a question spoken in an gentle old word accent. “Are you a marathon official?” No, I clarified, I am in Boston to run. “You, you are running the marathon?” Having assured him that, yes I qualified and had run the marathon previous years, Rudy shook his head and made a thoughtful offer to have a pot of chicken soup waiting after the race.
I settled into my third floor bedroom to prepare for an early a.m. departure. Race morning, I caught the metro to the Boston Commons, found a window seat at Dunkin Doughnuts, sipped coffee and, until I joined them, watched runners congregate at the shuttle pickup.

The Bus to Hopkinton

Time flew at the Athlete’s Village and I was soon throwing my warmup bag into a bus window.  In my corral were several women in the 60-64 age group. We compared qualifying times then suddenly we’re off, punctuated with the beep-beep-beep of chips on the trip that would end at Copley Square.


Boston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Within three miles of the start, I ran across my goddaughter, running for Dana-Farber. We fell in, chatting long enough to arrange to meet at the finish, then went on our separate journeys.

My goal for this Boston was to actually qualify for Boston at Boston, a time that had so far eluded me. I had trained well and felt strong through the hills. Crossing the finish line, my Garmin indicated I was 30 seconds off my qualifying time. (Later, seeing my time listed as a BQ on, I realized while I didn’t technically meet my goal, I did qualify within the 30-second grace time Boston then allowed.)

Finding my goddaughter (would love to have a photo but lost it when my cell phone crashed) and her family at the finish, I declined an invite to join them at a Vietnamese restaurant, thinking ahead to the soup

7852353-an-image-representing-chicken-soup my host had waiting for me.

Arriving at the B&B, Rudy greeted me from the second floor landing, waving my freshly printed results, excited and incredulous. “How did you do that?”
After receiving his congratulations, my evening went downhill. He had forgotten a commitment to a bridge tournament during the day which did not leave time for cooking. “So, you see, I am sorry but I have no soup for you.”
Having waved off friends who were now on the other side of town dining on comforting Vietnamese cuisine, I accepted the annoucement with all the grace I could muster. After making my way back to the third floor and luxuriating in a warm shower, I reassessed my food stock: two energy bars, a sandwich bag filled with a mix of pecans and walnuts, a banana, 2 small cartons of chocolate milk, and a can of Pringles. Opting out of a restaurant search, I dined on an odd mix of these items and was soon asleep.

Although there was no soup for me, morning came and Rudy served a wonderful Dutch omelette accompanied by fresh fruit, hearty bread and interesting conversation. It made the last trip from the third floor on my post-marathon legs worthwhile.
Soon enough I’m leaving the Mass Pike,

Massachusetts Turnpike

Massachusetts Turnpike (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

listening to a couple of DJ’s continue the neverending debate over the best pizza in New Haven.
So long, New England and Boston – I love you, I’ll miss you and I’ll be back.

Tales of Bostons Past – What Nor’Easter?

to Sanity?

to Sanity? (Photo credit: wadem)

“If I ever doubted your sanity, . . . ”  says my primary cheerleader, race morning chauffeur, and friend.  Now she tells me! I trust her judgment and may have reconsidered had she voiced her doubts that morning on our Hampton, NH – Hopkinton MA drive through gusting wind and sheets of rain.

Sanity is InI catch the shuttle, she moves on to brunch with friends in Wellesley, then we will rendezvous at the finish. The year is 2007, when I was still hanging out in the F55-59 age group. E-mail messages from the Boston Marathon, warned of difficult weather conditions, urging runners to dress for the wait in the athlete’s village and for the marathon, this to avoid frostbite and other conditions resulting for the Nor’Easter predicted to coincide with the raceShortly after I leave the comfort of the SUV and am seated on the shuttle, an unhappy 30-ish man asks two questions.  “Mind if I sit here?”  No, go ahead, and “It’s already 40 degrees out!  Did you know its 40 degrees out?”  No, but it is unexpectedly warm.  Everyone on the bus is wearing layers to get us through a cold, icy run.  My pleasantly grumpy seat mate was not the only overlayered runner.  He had lots of company, including me. 

Arrival at the athlete’s tent brought a soggy couple of hours with mud oozing into shoes from the rain-soaked turf.


110418_boston_marathon_029 (Photo credit: laurenfrohne)

The only protection, the tent, was packed. I found a bit of concrete along a building overhang and huddled until my corral was called.  Removing layers, I drop my bag at the designated bus and head off  for the 26-mile Hopkinton to Boston trip, the wind vacillating from calm to gales.

Hopkinton, Massachusetts

Hopkinton, Massachusetts (Photo credit: Dougtone)

Hats sailed off heads.  My purple Runner’s World baseball cap lifted with a gust and someone a step or two behind caught and returned it.  A few minutes later, I did the same for a runner ahead of me as his hat whirled in mid-air clock-wise circles.  Odd, the things you remember from any given marathon.

On the far side of Wellesley, I hear from the sidelines “Mary, Mar – over here.”  It’s my short-of-stature friend in the front row of spectators, wearing bright foul weather gear.  I wave and give her a thumbs up.  At about this time, Lidya Grigoryeva, the first female, was crossing the finish line in 2:29.  In another two+ hours I follow in her footsteps with my slowest Boston finish.

Managing to retrieve my warmup bag and find my friend,  I drag my soaked, muddy self  into a warm automobile and negotiate into dry clothes, sock and shoes.  I then learn while the Nor’Easter had been kinder to Boston than expected, my friend’s home had been inacccessible most of the day, with high tides sweeping over the road leading to their house. The water had receded before our arrival and her family was snug at home,


but the storm left big chunks in the seawall and small rocks and sand from the ocean floor covered the road.

Is it a question of sanity to run through ice, sleet, unexpected temperatures, humidity, or gales of rain over a four (or five) hour period, armed only with our running shoes and cell phones?  Most marathoners experience some odd and unexpected weather along their journey. Some would consider such an endeavor punishment and yet many of us relish the opportunity, perhaps to meet a spoken goal,  an unspoken need, or to retain our sanity.  Who knows?

Tales of Bostons Past – Lost in the Woods

With Bostonians burrowing out from Nemo this weekend, we’re running through strong headwinds to get our training in for April 15 and comparing notes on Bostons past.

Snowed in

Snowed in (Photo credit: NinJA999)

Although each Boston Marathon is memorable, the post-marathon days turn out to to be worth remembering as well.  Take for instance that beautiful 2009 Tuesday morning in New Hampshire.  Post-marathon night was spent with friends before my scheduled mid-day flight out of Manchester.  After testing out my legs with baby steps down the stairs, I set out for a 30-minute loosen-up morning walk.  My hosts had suggestions for my route.  Although Mrs. Host insisted it would be too muddy, Mr. Host thought I might like the nature trail that intersects about a block from their home.

Opting for what was a lovely trail, I found stream crossings, roots, rocks, and many side trails intersecting, overall a nice soft walking surface. Blame it on my post-marathon addled mind that I didn’t take a cell phone or water, but did walk out the door wearing my Garmin.

Trail Blaze

I made a point of paying close attention to landmarks at the path intersections on what was a planned out and back, but apparently not close enough.   On my return, everything was familiar except the most important landmark: the side path back to my trailhead.  Here I am, directionally challenged in the best of circumstances, the day following a marathon in heavy woods without my cellphone or water.

My attempt to use the Garmin to lead me back was fruitless. A tool is only good if you know how to use it.  Being clear-headed and properly hydrated would have been helpful as well.  I was neither. Just short of total panic setting in, through an  open area in the woods I spotted a house under construction.  There was hope!  I left the trail, cut through the construction site, onto a dirt road that led over a hill and down to a real honest-to-goodness road.  To the right sat a house with an open garage door, a sure sign people were nearby.  A knock on the door brought a  cautious “yes?” from a 60ish (roughly my age) woman with a slightly puzzled but alert expression.

After explaining my confusion on the trail I asked if she could direct me back to my host’s street.  Yes, she could – out her driveway to the left, down the road to the first intersection, turn right and it should (should??) lead me back.

Thanking her profusely, I asked for one more thing.  May I please have a glass of water?  Without moving from her position solidly centered at the screen door, her right hand reached for something out of my view and returned with a cold bottle of Gatorade Rain.

Gatorade Rain bottles lined up on a supermarke...

What a sweet sight!  Unlocking her screen door far enough to hand over the bottle, she immediately closed and relocked it.  Hmmm, maybe I’m not the first lost soul who has come knocking at her door.

Her directions were spot-on.  A mere 4.1 miles and one hour and 27 minutes after I set out, I return to the home of my hosts. This is where you make that promise to yourself never to embark on a new route without some essentials: water,

Water Bottle

a safety whistle,photo a few bucks


 and a cell phone.

English: New Mobile Cell Phone Technology


I didn’t immediately share my misadventure with my hosts, but saved the “lost in your woods”  story for a late summer evening while enjoying their company at a lakeside Adirondacks cabin.  Dawn of the morning following my confession, I hear the sound of loons and quietly slide out the kitchen door to  cover more unfamiliar territory, this time with water bottle in hand and cell phone secured to my body.