Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for January, 2014

Running Raw (foods that is) & Stretching Limits

I happened upon a brief news item in a few weeks ago. It reported a couple in Australia set a new world record running a marathon each day in 2013. Alan Murray and Janette Murray Wakelin ran those marathon distances by completing a journey around the perimeter of Australia.

Credit: runraw2013

Credit: runraw2013

I’ll forgive for referring to this couple as “elderly.”  It is after all an online news source geared to Generation Y. Alan and Janette, Age 68 and 64 respectively, had specific goals and a nutrition plan.

First, the nutrition plan: raw fruits and vegetables exclusively. Sixteen years earlier, Janette was diagnosed with cancer. Already a vegan, she began a raw diet which for her was successful.



Their goals were many. They spread the word about the positive impact of an active lifestyle, promoted kindness for living beings, and raised environmental issues.  The couple fundraised for several charities that promote active living as well.

When reading interviews, I frequently find unexplored questions.  In this case, my unasked questions were: “On exactly what day of this 365-day mission of a daily marathon with your partner for life did you have the blow-up of all blow-ups? Did you keep running during the meltdown or just stand alongside the road screaming at each other? Which of you cracked first?”



As I searched further, it was clear my questions were irrelevant to this couple. They don’t seem the type to waste energy on disagreement, nor is this their first multiple-marathon goal. On their website Running Raw Around Australia, they chronicle an earlier celebration of the millennia by running 2,000 (more precisely 2,182) kilometers across New Zealand, running 51 marathons in 51 days.

In her interview with the Sydney Herald, Janette made it clear that in a state of optimum health, she believes the possibilities are limitless.

Which has me musing about limits, those that come from other sources in our lives and those that are self-imposed. How many runners, whether struggling to maintain 20 miles a week or training for a third ultra in a year, have not heard at least one negative and usually unsolicited comment from a well-meaning friend, colleague or family member.

Whether or not my state of health and conditioning would take me through months of daily sequential marathons, there are many facets of my life that I wouldn’t willingly give up. I would certainly miss the occasional concert, theatre, film I can’t wait to see. It would be really difficult to give up quiet time with family and training and social sessions with a variety of running friends.  Those are my personal limits, not limits outwardly imposed.

For this couple, their love of running, their willingness to fundraise and spread the word about healthy living places it well within their limits.  I look forward to seeing what running project is in the future for them.test-your-limits-white-background-concept-challenging-oneself-to-set-new-records-29747515

Now, about you. What are you limits?  Have you already determined what you can physically accomplish? Do your friends and family support your push of the limits?


2014 Roughed-out Race Schedule

With a new year and new hopes, some familiar and some new races are in the mix. After a 2013 that started strong only to fall flat with a non-running injury, I look forward to a fresh start. Here is my  enthusiastically penciled in list of potential races, big and small, old and new.


Runners warming up before the Georgetown 10-Miler start

Georgetown 10-Miler – March 8 & 9 – I was signed up last year for this 10-miler held by the DC Running Club, but that darn skiing injury got in the way. Instead, I volunteered at the start/finish. This race sold out last year and has expanded to offer the 10-Miler as a two-day event.


Mile 2 of the Capital 10-Miler

Capital 10-Miler – a run for the Arts – March 30th in Harrisburg PA. I will be directing rather than running this one, but I am having fun watching friends put together teams.  We offer a flat course along the river, over bridges and out of traffic.  Participating arts organizations offer discounts and tickets to registrants and award winners.  I’m happy to see my fellow running and food blogger at See Jain Run is coming in for the race.

Boston MarathonAgain, injury made me a no-show in 2013.  There is so much to be said about this race, I won’t try to tackle it here. With the injury, I wasn’t trained for a fresh qualifying marathon in 2013, but thankfully my time and the date of the Hamptons Marathon in 2012 tided me over.


HARRC After Dark Riverfront course

HARRC After Dark Harrisburg PA 7K race at 7 p.m.  The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) has sanctioned this race as the Pennsylvania State Championship 7K for 2014. This is a wonderful evening race along the Susquehanna Riverfront. Early enough to enjoy post-race festivities, grab a shower and go out for dinner.

New York City Marathon – Sunday, November 2nd.  I didn’t intentionally schedule two huge big city races in the same year, but circumstances sometimes dictate. I was registered with a qualifying time in 2012 when NY cancelled.  NY offered a choice of registration for 2013 or 2014.  It’s fortunate I chose 2014 since 2013 was a no-go for marathon training.

Across the Bay 10K – Chesapeake Bay Bridge Run – I’m considering this, even though its a week after New York.  The Bay Bridge is beautiful and the event’s director is none other than Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivary. The race is almost sold out. Time to decide.

What else? To meet my goal of running 66 miles on Route 66 in the 66th year, I must soon find the time and the right races or runs.  I have another 41 miles to go to reach my goal and the clock is ticking.

State Senior Games of 2014 I may or may not go to Minneapolis for the National Senior Games is 2015, but I plan to run a couple of qualifying races at the State Senior Games this year. If you are over 50, you’re qualified to participate in the State Games. Road races are one small component of the many athletic competitions they offer.  Try it just for fun. If your state’s schedule doesn’t work for you, check out a neighboring state. In 2011, I qualified for the 2013 National Senior Games 5K at the Pennsylania State Games and qualified for the 10K at the Delaware event.

That’s my roughed-out race plan for the year. Will I see any of my readers at these races? What’s your plan?


Super Senior – How does she do it?

Returning from a recent trip, a friend’s email suggested I look at an article in Parade Magazine.  Without that email, this wonderful read would have gone the way of the built-up unessential snail mail.


Photo Credit: Grant Harder

On the cover is a photo of 94-year old Olga Kotelko,  a record-holding master track athlete. I’m stunned realizing Olga is a generation older than me. How refreshing that as a 66-year old, frequently the oldest woman runner at races, I can read about a competitive champion in my mother’s age group.

In my closing post for 2013, I mused about the process of aging – and loss – as a senior athlete. This article is a window to a fresh mindset and a new year.

Bruce Grierson writes about Kotelko as an example of a category researchers refer to as “super seniors” and identifies six super senior habits:

Get or stay active – Does physical activity ward off those senior moments as effectively as word games or puzzles? Scientists are exploring this possibility, so why not do both?

Stand when you can – In addition to track training, 94-year old Kotelko uses her stairs multiple times a day and stands while cooking.

Eat healthy – You don’t have to be perfect, eschewing your favorite foods, but do eat often in smaller portions, incorporate fruits and vegetables and keep a distance from the fast food.

Honor good  habits – If the habit is to be at the track three days a week, you will get there regardless of your mood or life complications.  If your habit is to reach for the celery sticks in place of (or in addition to) the cookies, that is what your memory and muscles will do. Develop good habits and let them go on autopilot.

Log your progress – and you decide what is progress. Set up small wins for yourself.

De-stresssunsets_stressMake a choice  about what to get upset about, what you can change and what you can’t. Let the can’ts go.

To Grieson’s list, I would add two actions common to many senior women athletes at the top of the ranking:

Hang out with active friends.  It was a friend who suggested masters track to Kotelko. Kotelko in turn brought her friend, 76-year old Christa Bortignon, another world record holder, into the world of Masters Track. Share your passion for athletics with the willing, find a running group or workout group. Check web listings such as  localeikki or RRCA running clubs. If the first group you try isn’t a good fit, find another.  The camaraderie of an early morning run can build an unexpected new community of friends.

Speedword friends keep me accountable

Speedwork friends keep me accountable

Get a Coach – Every in-depth article I read about 60+ women making and breaking records report they work with a coach.  Many of them also have regular visits to a personal fitness instructor and massage therapist or chiropractor. These masters have mastered the art of self-care to stay healthy and at the top of their field.

I’d welcome any reader tips to add to my suggestions. In the meantime, Kotelko’s story has me feeling celebratory  and it’s out the door in freezing temperatures to celebrate the joy of movement and to mentally rewrite my goals for the running year.