Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for June, 2013

One (3,300 Mile) Run for Boston – Continuing through PA Today


Shelter from the storm pre-start with HARRC support runners. See histories on One Run for Boston Leg #269 link.

The One Run for Boston baton continues across Pennsylvania today, June 28, moving into New Jersey early evening.  Yesterday as Gary Grobman’s group traveled to his relay point, the radio was blaring warnings of flash floods and tornadoes. With Gary’s Leg 269 completed, we continue our interview, post-run. (See pre-run interview.)

The race organizer in me wants to know how the relay points were coordinated.  Was there anything other than the live internet feed that let you know when the immediate relayer from the west was approaching?
Grobman with Megan Capuano, Leg 268 Runner

Megan Capuano, Leg #268 Runner hands off the baton (aka ‘Miles’) at Reedsville.

The organizers provided the start and end points for each stage, and the lead runners were tasked to identify the best (but in some cases, not the shortest) route and post it on the Web on the page individuals joined up. Stage leaders communicated by text and cell. The race organizers for some stages (but not all) had a support vehicle that kept in touch with the “live” stages as well as those just ahead, and I had sufficient notice that our stage was about to begin.


Overcast skies but the worst of the weather had passed.

Tell us about the hand-offs, start and finish of your leg of the relay.

Our stage started 80 minutes late, partially because the previous stage ended up being 14 miles rather than the 10 anticipated. There was a ceremonial handoff with lots of pictures at the end of each leg. At the beginning of our stage, we were joined by a pack of supporters, including the Juniata Valley Striders and Mifflin County Huskies Cross Country team, who escorted us for the first two miles. The torrential rainstorm we experienced driving up magically disappeared, and we started off at a comfortable 9-minute pace and kept that pace during the entire run. The end of our stage was uneventful, as I handed off to Joe Church, who lost his wife this year, and is dedicating his runs to her memory. I recently participated in Joe’s successful effort on a local high school track to run 100 miles in 24 hours, raising money for cancer research. Awesome guy.

'Miles' passes to Joe Church, running Leg 270

‘Miles’ passes to Joe Church, running Leg #270 See link for information about Joe and run supporters

In my experience, every run has one strange, odd happening that makes it stand out from others.  What experience will you most remember from this relay?

Perhaps the most memorable for me is a photo taken of Scott Falkner, running by himself two stages ahead of ours. There was a torrential downpour. Trees were down, and roads flooded. The photo shows Scott charging into what appears to be serious road flooding. I found it symbolic of how strong-willed runners can be, overcoming life’s challenges.

Scott Falkner, Leg 268 included some water running

Scott Falkner, Leg #268 included some water running

You have quite a posse running with you.  Other than being good company and strong runners, were they helpful in setting up the logistics, following your route etc?

The support provided by those from my stage and from other stages, and the race organizers, was quite incredible. There was an entire community of over 900 runners on the nonpublic One Run for Boston Facebook page that was only open to participants. I felt that I was part of a family, willing to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to keep the baton (aptly named “Miles”) moving toward Boston. The event was an impressive display of determination by the running community to keep the memory of the Boston tragedy alive, and honor the memory of the victims and survivors by raising money for their support.

Donations for One Fund for Boston can be made through the One Run for Boston website. 


One (3,300 mile) Run for Boston Relay Approaching PA

Shortly after hearing of the Boston Marathon bombing, three Brits who happen to know a little something about organizing mammoth events hatched a plan for a fundraising relay run across America.
The relay had a June 7 start in Venice Beach CA with an expected June 30 finish in Boston MA.

A strong contingent of runners in my region, including outstanding Masters and Veteran runner Gary Grobman, quickly filled the Pennsylvania slots. Gary has been known to place first in the Masters category competing against talented runners 20 years his junior. He is also known to place first overall in the occasional 5K.
Gary agreed to talk with me about Boston and his running history.
How did you first hear of the One Run for Boston Relay and how long did it take you to sign on?

I first heard about this fundraiser through a Facebook post on the River Runners page, and it took just a few minutes to reserve my relay leg. This is significant, because without social media and affiliated advanced computer technology, this ambitious effort would likely have been doomed to failure. The entire organized running community has been very supportive, and the Internet has facilitated communication that was necessary to successfully fill up all of the legs, particularly those miles and miles from unpopulated areas. I was initially skeptical that this relay could be organized on such short notice, despite the experience of the organizers at managing similar events. So much could go wrong, such as injuries and weather. Runners and organizers found a way to overcome every seemingly insurmountable logistical hurdle.

What year did you first run Boston – Major changes then to now?

Grobman at Boston – waiting for his corral to be called?

My first Boston Marathon was in 1987.  Very different race then.  First, except for a few bibs given to municipalities and organizations that staffed the medical support, only elite marathoners could qualify.  My qualifying time just to enter was under three hours, and one had to qualify each year rather then the case today when one marathon in the fall may qualify for two Bostons.  There were perhaps 7,000 runners in that race compared to 25,000 now.  The race started at noon, there was only one wave and all of the runners waited for the race to begin indoors at the high school in Hopkinton, out of the elements.

When did you discover that running would be an important component of your life?

Grobman finishing HARRC After Dark 7K

Winning medals nationally after I turned 55 gave me some confidence and motivation to do the training that is required to compete against some of the most talented, older athletes from around the world.

Gary will be far away from the roaring crowds of Boston as he takes the torch and runs 10 miles through rural Pennsylvania hamlets and countryside. He will be accompanied by a number of local runners, including a trio of my running friends and Boston training partners.

Donations for One Fund for Boston can be made through the One Run for Boston website.  Look for a recap post following Gary’s date with the torch on June 27.

Happy Birthday Title IX

Forty-one (41) years ago today, June 23, President Nixon signed Title IX into law.  It became effective July 1,1972, but I’m celebrating early.

Happy Birthday

Using a sports metaphor, Title IX did much to even the playing field in many areas of our lives. Since this is a blog mostly about running, let’s stick with athletics.

Title IX came along close to a decade late for athletic participation provisions to benefit me personally.  I’m still remembering those high school days where the only opportunity for this girl to compete at basketball was within a Phys. Ed. Class and – insult to injury – we were limited to a three-bounce dribble before we were required to pass the ball.  I thought perhaps my memories were out of proportion to the situation, but no.


Basketball (Photo credit: mvongrue)

I checked out the timeline over at  Women’s Hoops Blog and there it is in the early 1960’s, but lifted in 1966 to allow for continuous, unlimited dribble.

Good grief, no wonder I’m still running.  All that bottled up energy from my school days waited half a life-time to fizz to the surface.

Today, the high school I attended has an array of competitive sports opportunities for girls, including cross-country, track, volleyball – and – basketball.  The first season of the girls basketball program in 1975 finished with a win-loss of 21/2.  That program has become the pride of the community, bringing home regional and state championships.

Today, I say thank you to a country where this is possible, where change doesn’t come overnight but persistence sets things right.  At races I direct, I see women competing in equal or greater numbers to men.  Their interest in sports and fitness was not stifled for lack of opportunity. The generations of young women who have since had the option of playing competitive sports at the high school and college level have developed strength and leadership skills needed in this complex world.


Senator Bayh exercising with Title IX athletes at Purdue University ca 1970s

Like every major change in legislation, there is a cast of thousands who persisted and many tweaks were sheparded along the way. Among all of those who worked  to make Title IX a reality, one person stands out.  This morning, I say thank you Senator Birch Bayh for taking the leadership on this issue and getting it to the desk of President Nixon for his signature.

Senator, I’m out the door for a morning run in your honor.

Running in these Golden Years

David Bowie told us nothing would touch us in these Golden Years.  I’m not sure he had aging runners in mind.

Nothings Gunna Touch You In These Golden Years

Nothings Gunna Touch You In These Golden Years (Photo credit: ClickFlashPhotos / Nicki Varkevisser)

For those of us blessed with any mix of good genes, healthy habits, and maybe a little luck in holding off age-related diseases, we’re still running.

For a refreshing dose of reality, I recently read Lena Hollmann’s article titled Running in the Golden Years. Hollman, a senior athlete, personal trainer and certified running coach, published her article in RRCA’s Spring/Summer Club Running.  

Beyond just showing up for runs, this coach says to get the most years and quality from our running, older runners need to take heed of age-related body changes and add the following areas to their fitness program:


barbell (Photo credit: MarkKoeber)

MORE STRENGTH TRAINING –If you’ve successfully avoided the weight room – or the family room floor with its soft carpet and space for pushups and planks – do yourself a favor and allocate some time.  Hollmann says greater muscle mass help our joints withstand the impact of running.  Strength training also speeds up our metabolism, and who doesn’t want a speedier metabolism?    (I wrote earlier about my moment of reckoning with loss of strength (Conquer the Overhead Bin.)


Balance (Photo credit: Canon in 2D)

MORE BALANCE WORK – Hollmann recommends exercise to maintain our balance – and here she includes flexibility. This could include some basic Yoga poses and/or dynamic stretching. I appreciate her examples because they can be done as I go about my day.  Have the microwave set at 2 minutes? Stand near the counter and do a tree pose.  Cooling your heels at the corner of walk & don’t walk? Do a few ankle raises while you wait. Longer warm-up times also help address the need to keep our flexibility.

Bike ride at sunset

Bike ride at sunset (Photo credit: dgarkauskas)

MORE RECOVERY TIME – Hollmann advocates for longer recovery times between workouts, but she doesn’t advocate lolling about on the sofa. She suggests instead a day of cross-training or some alternate cardio workout, maybe get out on the bike, or swim some laps.

Setting an example for working the three ‘mores’ above, Hollmann had an early career running track in the 1970’s and moved to distance running in the 1980’s.  She PR’d at the NYC Marathon in 1983 with a 2:44:10 and took 10th place in the 1984 Boston Marathon. She continues to successfully run today, competitive in her age group, and encouraging other senior runners to continue.

I’m on board for following her advice. How much ‘more’ any of us will need of course varies with the individual. I’m reminded every day that I can’t be complacent in maintaining my strength, flexibility, or my health in general.

Are other seniors out there doing more to maintain and support their running?  I sure hope so. I need the company out there on the road.

Running with Pigs in Paradise

Islands in general and Oahu in particular give me a sense that I am never more than a few steps from the dangerous vagaries of nature. A recent Sunday New York Times article titled The Pesky Side of Paradise reminded me of this. Written by Lawrence Downes, the article tells of his unsuccessful hunting expedition on Oahu and explores the impact wild pigs have on the ecology of the Hawaiian Islands. Their arrival on the Islands is blamed on Captain Cook who apparently lost control of them, resulting in their offspring still roaming through paradise, tearing up foliage needed by native birds, digging troughs much loved by mosquitos, and spreading invasive plants with their scat.images

The article put me in mind of my own wild pig encounter during a stay at Schrader’s Windward Country Inn (the inn has since been sold and is now Paradise Bay Resort), a quirky laid back spot with a local flavor and perhaps the only inn on the less populated and less touristy windward side of Oahu.  Breakfast on their deck was completely casual with freshly grown tropical fruits and one of the most beautiful views on Oahu: 


Kaneohe Bay off your right shoulder and the lushly majestic Ko’olau Mountain Range off the left.

Runners see some unusual things, and so it was on an easy afternoon run I had my wild pig encounter (when we were both on the hoof so to speak). I left the inn, watching for oncoming traffic as I headed down the very narrow ocean-side stretch of the Kamehameha Highway.

About a mile into the run, what do I see but three little pigs, yes – three little pigs, sprinting past on their short legs down through the small ditch beside the road, then taking a diagonal line up the incline heading toward the tropical brush in state park land. They squealed to one another as they ran, exchanging frantic notes.

The following day on an early morning run, I came across an adult pig in the same area, dead on the side of road. This pig did not have short little legs, but large muscular legs and she was an enormous animal. Was she the mother of the frantic three little pigs?  If so, where was she a day earlier when her babies were hightailing it up the hill? Were we close to crossing paths before she was injured?

My  assumption was that Mama Pig was hit by a car or pickup, but a couple of locals had a different view.  They were of the opinion that someone was hunting illegally and for whatever reason had to leave their wounded prey behind.

Ko'olau Range on Oahu

Ah, the vagaries of nature and the nature of runners to blithely find our way to them.

I’ve Missed the Sweat

You can ski, you can swim, you can get on your bike and cycle for miles, you can lift weights.  You can do all that, but does anyone really sweat with those activities the way we sweat with running?

English: Drops of sweat

English: Drops of sweat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve missed the sweat.

I didn’t realize I missed it until, coming back from this injury, I felt I was ready to throw in a couple of intervals .  About half-way through the planned set, it hit me.  I have really missed the sweat, the kind of sweat that requires your running clothes bypass the hamper and go directly to the washer.  On that first day back, dipping my toe into speed work, I didn’t reach that point where the skin gets a whitish sheen and you feel like you can brush the salt away.  I didn’t need to. Even a moderate amount of sweat was psychologically uplifting for this returning-to-the-flock runner.

Sweat, the particular type of sweat  – and there is a particular type – that results from a good run feels like my body telling me “we did good.”  I haven’t found a source that says sweat generated when running is any different that sweat generated from a tough tennis match or digging postholes. It’s all from the eccrine glands as they respond to messages from the brain signaling a need to reset the thermostat. Still, runner sweat feels different. It sends a message that that we’ve purged some of the junk, mental and physical, that comes our way.  The sweat speaks to me saying “you are in better shape spiritually and physically than when you went out the door – now go take a shower, get on with your life and do it well.”  I’ve missed the sweat.