Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for April, 2013

Preparing for the Comeback

Is a blog titled Still a Runner still apt? Following a two-month hiatus due to a ski mishap,  I’m cleared to swim and to exercise on a stationary bike.  It’s keeping me active, but it isn’t running.  So, I’m fiendishly plotting my anticipated restart to the running world and thus avoid renaming this blog.
What are the possibilities for a senior runner to return from several months off the roads and trails and become a better, smarter runner?   Is this the time – for the first time – to bring on a coach to successfully return this lapsed runner to the running world?

geriatric soccer

geriatric soccer (Photo credit: Dave McLean) And where do we find the geriatric coach for runners?

Do coaches exist who specialize in women in their sixties still thriving on a run on the trails, down the road, running distance as well as doing 800’s down the measured-off section of their local road?

Until I find that particular coach, I’m planning to begin my return to running by correcting some habits that may have hindered my running.  Those include excessive shoulder movement, poor running posture,

Star Wars - Darth Vader

and a Darth Vader-like breathing pattern when I run at tempo pace or faster.

Short of finding that geriatric coach (not necessarily a coach who is geriatric but a coach specializing in runners in the upper age ranges), I’m self diagnosing and treating with the following regimen:

Running Form (Particularly sideway body movement)  Sometimes when running in the morning, I have seen my shadow ahead of me.  Most noticeable is that while most of my body is reflected moving forward straight as an arrow, I see my shoulders bobbing from side to side.

To change the motion of that shadow, I’ve taken to a device to improve posture by holding the shoulders back.  If it works for horsewomen and elite runners, maybe it will work for me. I’m hoping by the time I’m running again my shoulders will have a memory change.

Steady shoulders

Working for still, relaxed shoulders

Without actually running, I’m also revisiting Chi Running.  I did a 1/2 day session with Danny Dryer a couple of years ago and found it really beneficial.  Like any training  component or correction, if I don’t remind myself regularly, it goes by the wayside. I’m reacquainting myself with body sensing and some of the body looseners so that I’m ready to incorporate them when I’m ready to get back on the road.

Breathing:  In a recent edition of Runner’s World, an article discussed the principles of rhythmic breathing espoused by Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchik.  I’ve been practicing this technique to coordinate my breath with foot candence while water running.  I’m hoping that work will translate into easier incorporation of their recommended breathing pattern to my footfalls when (not if) I’m cleared to run in the coming weeks. 

I’m open to suggestions to prepare myself for a successful return to running.  And,  if you should spot that illusive coach out there, send them my way.


Aching for Boston

None of us are exempt from the vagaries of place and time and what brings us to be, or not be, at a specific location at a specific split second.  Nor are any of us exempt from the cruelty of those who choose us as “soft targets” and attempt to sap our optimism, our joy, our love of a good challenge, our desire to participate in a long-held athletic tradition.

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While friends headed off for the Boston Marathon without me, I continued wrapping up some race director work.  I participated vicariously through postings on Facebook, including a photo of my goddaughter and her toddler cheering on runners at the crest of Heartbreak Hill.  I tracked several of my training partners via the Marathon’s website, thinking what a great day they were having with perfect running temperatures and little wind.  They were running a similar pace and showed results up to the 40K mark, then curiously no final results were posted.

That is when the first phone call came of reports of an explosion at the finish line, followed by texts and emails with similar messages for me:  “So thankful you were injured and couldn’t run.”  That injury had stopped my training in its tracks and kept me from the start line and the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Again, the vagaries of place and time.

On what began as an exquisite April 15 race day, early evening came before I got confirmation that all my running friends and their supporters waiting for them at the finish were accounted for.  Some had been knocked into barricades, while others were within view of the finish line as they were diverted.  They survived.

 I did not lose friends.  Others did.  Lives will not be the same.

I watched the repeatedly televised footage of the man who was knocked to the street by the blast.  I later saw a report that he is 78 years old and that after being helped to his feet he took the last few steps to the finish line.  Like him, we will, with the help of others, pick ourselves up and move forward through our grief, our sadness, our outrage, our love of community.

Those who suffered the horrific loss of family and friends and those who are suffering with injuries that will change their lives forever will need our support far into the future.  We may not know them personally and only hear of them through the media, we may not  totally know their pain and grief, but we can be there for them.


As my running friends along with thousands of others stream toward Boston this weekend for the Monday race, I’m reblogging this wonderfully written and fitting homage to the greats of Bostons past returning this year. It’s such an inspiration to revisit their accomplishments.

~ Wandering in a Running World ~

Man isn’t just a pattern-seeking animal, he is a goal-setting beast.  From breaking the four-minute mile to putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth, we have constantly striven to outdo our forefathers.  Accordingly, we have seen the standards of excellence mount with an almost linear progression through the course of time.

Today, the marathon performances of the Running Boom champions seem almost quaint by today’s standards, as far from world class as the exploits of their own predecessors seemed during their time in the sun.  At this year’s 117th Boston Marathon, five of its greatest champions from the Boom era will return to celebrate the anniversaries of their winning moments.

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