Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for December, 2013

Reflections of an Aging Athlete on a Year’s End

While traveling this past week, I picked up portions of an NPR radio program new to me, New Dimensions. Although I have not been able to locate the exact program online, bits and pieces of its insight have been running through my thoughts since hearing it. I’m piecing together the information as a montage, so please allow me to ramble.

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Credit: Todd Miller

The gist of the discussion was how we approach aging and the ultimate result of that aging. We in the 60+ group have an expanded opportunity for a “third age,” a time when we can continue to be productive, insightful, active. However, not all of us will have equivalent aging experiences and abilities.  Not everyone will sustain energy levels with the same level of success.

This struck me. Occasionally when I am running, a person I pass on the street will comment “I wish I could do what you’re doing.” I haven’t said it, but at those moments I think very loudly “You can do what I do.” But, perhaps that is wrong.
That stranger on the street may be dealing with an injury, other life demands or simply a diminished energy level. Whatever the situation, it is that person’s life experience and physical ability they are dealing with as I am dealing with my own.

The past year has been one of setbacks and loss with a number of personal friends, running friends and otherwise. The same is true amongst the blogging community where some fellow writers are fighting physical battles to maintain their health.

The points raised in that radio program regarding aging matched my experiences and observations during the year. On a personal level, several of my major races last year were scratched due to injury. That experience gave me an opportunity to spend some time in reflection and to venture into alternative physical activities. I’ve come back from that injury and continue to work back to my previous level of running fitness. I realize the time will come when that comeback isn’t possible.

There are a couple of quotes I think of often. I don’t know their source but they have been with me for a long time.  The first, “We are all temporarily able,” tells us our fall into disability is only a moment, a day, a year away.  I’m appreciating my abilities while I have them and would hope I can learn to live with disabilities with grace when they come to my doorstep.

The second quote most runners have heard or have said: “The day will come when I can not run.  Today is not that day.”  collapseToday was not that day for me. Hope- fully, it will not be the first day of the New Year when I plan to join running friends in the brisk January air.

A Happy New Year to you and may you greet your third age with gusto and good health.

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Tropical Solstice

Saturday, December 21
Winter Solstice at 7:11am HST – Winter officially begins on Oahu.

7:11 a.m. the sun peaks out 20 mies down the coast near Diamondhead

7:11 a.m. the sun peaks out 20 miles down the coast near Diamondhead

I’m the only runner out with the sunrise. My fellow humans at this dawn are fitness walkers, a few accompanied by dogs. Otherwise, tropical sounds of early morning bird calls and the brush moving with the trade winds are my company.

I’ve planned the morning run to take me to a dead-end street with a view of the coastline a few minutes before the appointed sunrise hour of 7:11 a.m. This day has the southernmost sunrise and sunset. It is also a day with the longest night, and shortest amount of daylight.

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Seconds later most of the sun’s view has emerged

If you live in the Hawaiian Islands or have visited during the month of December, you’ve experienced daylight hours that are somewhat longer than those where most of us bundle up like a well-dressed Frosty the Snowman.  In June, there is just over 13 hours of daylight.  In December, just over 11 hours of daylight.  The difference in hours of daylight throughout the year is not as extreme as in the Northeast U.S. where we can be in the late shade of twilight nearing 9:00 in the evening.

Hawaii does not observe Daily Savings Time. Why bother, with such a small fluctuation in daylight hours? All of this to say, that it has an odd feel to be in a place where there is more winter daylight than I usually experience.  That doesn’t stop anyone on this island from joining in the always adapting ancient winter solstice rituals burning candles and stringing lights to celebrate the season.

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In a brief minute, the full sun has cleared the horizon.

On this island you must be quick.

On any day of the year both sunrise and sunset send their early alert streaks across the sky. But when the full sun rises from or falls into the ocean of the horizon, it is mere seconds as that full orange ball makes its appearance or disappearance.

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Boldly shining through heavy cloud cover before the end of day

5:53 p.m. sunset occurs. Shortly beforehand, we pull into a parking lot near the lagoon beside the airport. Not a touristy spot, this lot has a view of cargo planes loading and an airfield surrounded by barb wire.

A last brief flare in the night sky

A last brief flare in the night sky

A few other cars are parked, huge cameras on tripods set up, people ready to chat about the cloud cover obscuring today’s setting sun.

Hawaii says good-bye to another solstice as the sun appears to disappear into the Pacific.

Hawaii says good-bye to another solstice as the sun appears to disappear into the Pacific

As this day with the most darkness and the shortest daylight ends, I’m wishing you light in the dark, friends and family at your side – sweet solitude if that is your desire, memories of the past and dreams for the future, and running during many more sunrises.

Local, Global – or Both? Holiday Shopping for the Senior Athlete

While writing a follow-up to last year’s walk through the athletic wear closet, I picked up on a NPR Radio series from the program Planet Money.  It shed new light on my process of identifying where my clothing, particularly my athletic wear, is made.

globe, world GlobeIn this series, Planet Money follows the making of a men’s Jockey T-shirt from cotton fields in the U.S. around the world in Asia, with finishing in Columbia, South America.

A quote from one of the interviews went right to the heart of the matter:

“There is a saying that is going to sound horrible,” Crystal’s CEO, Luis Restrepo, told me. “Our industry follows poverty.” It’s an industry “on roller skates,” he said, rolling from Latin America to China, to Bangladesh — wherever costs are lowest.”

The least percentage of cost in the t-shirt followed around the world was the labor. The Restrepo quote gives a bit of bite to my holiday shopping joy.

How this consumer (and gift recipient) fits into the picture is puzzling on two fronts.  First, am I helping or hindering by not purchasing or suggesting items made by workers earning wages that barely provide food and shelter? I struggle with that.  Second,  I’m not a numbers cruncher, but if we must go around the world to make a cheaper t-shirt, or high-end sportswear, how is it that I can buy excellent quality running apparel from companies that manufacture in the USA at a comparable price?

With those questions unanswered but worth considering,  I again provide a brief list of brands that are primarily manufactured domestically and sometimes locally and offer quality products. They are durable and nearly everything on my list is still in my closet and wearing well.  Keep your running apparel away from the fabric softener and a hot dryer and it wears a long time.

I’ve added only a few items to my closet:

Keen Footwear is located in New Hampshire and manufactures a variety of footwear items.  photoThe socks I recently purchased are made of imported merino wool and manufactured in New Hampshire. Affordable, lightweight and warm for winter running. They keep my feet warm in my running shoes and my toes stayed cozy while snowshoeing earlier this month.

Handful Bra, a company that manufactures sports bras for fitness enthusiasts, is moving operations from overseas to the United States with a base in Oregon. Their move was financed in part through crowdsourcing. Their sense of humor is apparent on their home web page.

And, a rerun of my suggestions from last year’s holiday shopping list:

Darn Tough, another sock company I love is located in Vermont.

Nuu-muu makes my list again. I wear my Nuu-muu for running, but more frequently for biking. This year Nuu-muu has expanded the line to include shirts.  They are based in Washington State. They run some very nice specials on their website.  As a senior runner, the percentage off when you turn over a decade becomes increasingly enticing

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I shopped early and took mine into the snow and crisp winter air.

That’s my list for this year. Enjoy your gifts and the gifts of the season on your runs, walks or rides in the great outdoors.

Mandela – A Remembrance

Nelson Mandela once said that “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire.”  Mandela-sports-quoteSport does have the power to inspire, as did Mandela. Though boxing was his sport, he was also a cross-country runner. It was jogging that was his companion through 27 years in prison.  It’s reported he jogged seven miles of day, sometimes in a cell, sometimes in the prison courtyard.

English: Nelson Mandela's prison cell on Robbe...

English: Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island Français : Cellule de Nelson Mandela, Robben Island Deutsch: Nelson Mandelas Gefängniszelle auf Robben Island Myanmasa: Robben Island (ရော်ဘင်ကျွန်း)ပေါ်ရှိ Nelson Mandela’s (နယ်လဆင် မန်ဒဲလား) ၏ထောင်အခန်း (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Early in the morning. Twenty-seven years, seven miles a day, jogging in limited space. Sometimes followed by push-ups. Early in the morning. Before work detail.

No Garmin to record those miles. A treadmill?  I doubt it.

This vision rather diminishes any discomfort or boredom on those days when ice and frigid temperatures make me see reason, opting to step on the treadmill. It offers blinking lights, measured miles, set pace, neat storage space for my water bottle. Disgruntled that my spirit can’t run free down the path along the river this day, I run the miles.  Not 7, but a few. Not years, but a day or two. Considering this, I am both in awe and feeling silly with the notion that such strength and focus can even be comprehended.
Sport – and Nelson Mandela – wil continue to inspire this runner.

Nelson Mandela, July 4 1993.

Nelson Mandela, July 4 1993. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)