Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for April, 2014

Beautiful Boston


The Mackey ocean playground

Absent from the Boston Marathon for three years, 2014 called me back. This race is so much more than the race.

Friday Foré

Our approach to the big weekend was a measured one, enjoying an ocean-side run along the New Hampshire coast with friends. The day ended with a beautifully prepared late-night dinner where we reluctantly left the table just short of midnight.

Saturday Shuffle 

Avoiding the hassle of driving in Boston, a morning that came too early found us catching the commuter bus from Portsmouth to South Station. After a luggage drop at the superbly located  College Club of Boston, we made way through packet pick-up without a wait. How do they serve 38,000 runners with that efficiency? The Expo was well spaced with lots of new products and a few celebrity runner sitings.

With a Monday race day, Saturday evening is traditionally my time to gather up my Boston-based friends and catch up over dinner. This year, we chose Joe’s American Bar & Grille, casual with delicious selections and local favorites.  Macaroni and cheese with lobster was my choice and perfect to keep the carb count building. photo

An after-dinner walk on Boylston Street, closed off to traffic, became a promenade with hundreds of people, runners, families, locals, mulling around the finish line.  There was a sense of serenity in that evening crowd, a feeling that can only follow the deepest of pain and loss.

Take A Breath Sunday

The day before any marathon, and this one in particular, is my day for quiet and contemplation. After a brief shake-out run in the Public Gardens, a service down the street, a light mid-day lunch/dinner and the ritual laying out of race morning clothing/bib/Garmin, I hunkered down for the day.

Race Day Reverie, Resilience & Reverence

A 38,000 runner race, and I walk right into several of my training partners enroute to the bus lineup. Arriving in Hopkinton, we settle in until our corrals are called.

My thrift store halloween fleece buy fit right in and was left at the start along with other runner items for pickup by Big Brothers Big Sisters.

My thrift store halloween fleece fit right in and was left at the start for pickup by Big Brothers Big Sisters.



With an 11 a.m. start, temps were a bit warm as I topped a hill near Mile 15 and spotted friends and family.

Interesting that I could tell myself my body was aligned. The camera tells the truth: I was curled up like a comma.

Interesting that I could tell myself my body was aligned. The camera tells the truth: I was curled up like a comma.

Continuing on through the hills somewhere around Mile 18,  One Run For Boston‘s Danny Bent  is suddenly on the course wrapping me in a hug.




I see several runners with cramping legs and other difficulties. Not wanting to join their ranks, I maintain an even pace, continue to drink water and munch on the clementine stashed in my pocket. At mile 21, I remind myself it’s downhill and flat from here. I can feel the heightened emotion of fellow runners and hear the increasing volume of the crowd as we make the turn onto Boylston. I finish at 4:39:21, a BQ (Boston Qualify for my non-running readers) with 39 seconds to spare.


Boston Finish


Continuing through the finish line wrapped in the activity and commotion, there is also a deep feeling of peace. I am honored and grateful to be among this community

A quick shower and check-out and we’re headed through Boston traffic for a comfort food dinner New England-style at Petey’s.  Broiled scallops and the very best coleslaw made for a perfect post-marathon meal.

Thank you Boston, thank you friends, thank you supporters of One Run for Boston. It’s time to go home.

Discovering Zoomer

You never know what you will run across when traveling. My gem this week is a magazine titled Zoomer, Unknownleft behind by the traveler before me. Thank you, unknown fellow traveler, for the introduction to this energetic read. Zoomer is a Canadian publication, into its sixth year and, to my thinking, slightly edgier than U.S. publications I’ve read that seek the Boomer audience.

I further explored the Zoomer  online presence. It professes to serve as a lifestyle website customized for the discriminating 45-plus demographic. It succeeds, offering a cross-section of online news and feature topics on lifestyle and health targeting women and men from their forties through their 90’s. There may even be a couple in their 100’s that I have overlooked.

Boston is ever on the runner’s mind this week and the Zoomer connection jumped out at me. An on-line column that is frank, interesting and speaks to our health and wellbeing “This is What 70 Looks Like” is written by Boston Marathoner and first-in-her-age-group multiple times   (F65-69 and F70-74) Dr. Jean Marmoreo.dr.jean_ I’m saving the link to read more of her articles. I don’t know that they will get me to her Boston finish time of 3:48:57, but her advice and inspiration on other facets of life can’t hurt.

The online content of Zoomer covers the gamut from money to travel to the arts, all of which lead me to a life planned for exuberance and action, at whatever level we can play.

Now, the dilemma: Do I take the left-behind magazine with me to continue reading articles on my travels, knowing I will not find a copy on the newsstand at my destination? Do I return the favor of the previous traveler by leaving the copy as I found it (with a few of my scribbled notations inside) for the next traveler to discover and enjoy? Hmmmmm



A Stage at a Time – One Run for Boston

It seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, it was a very good idea. Three creative and organized event planners from the UK envisioned a fundraising mechanism for victims of the Boston bombing. For more background, here is a link to their story.

So, yes it was actually a fine idea brought to fruition. photoIt was just a few second thoughts about my participation as I tiptoed out the door into the 3:45 a.m. darkness to meet friends a half hour away at a car park. One by one, we arrived, Emily, Stacey, and the dynamic duo, our leader and organizer, Jeremy and Caryn Hand. Before our 4:30 a.m. departure for another hour drive north, Caryn laid out a home-baked cake-style oatmeal on the Jeep hood. With those morsels of nutrition, we were on our way to take our place with One Run For Boston(ORFB). For his part, when Jeremy isn’t arranging details for a ORFB stage, he is running ultras and directing a race to support the Millersburg Ferry.

Our quintet of runners was headed north to Stage 290, Selinsgrove to Stonington PA, 11.8 miles with a 6:40 a.m. start. Arriving at the Stonington Fire Company, where we met up with Lindsay and with Barry.  Leaving a vehicle at Stonington, like a bunch of school kids we lumbered into Barry’s van for the drive to the Selinsgrove start. Barry is a local runner and Boston Marathon veteran. At our start, we met Mark, another Boston Marathon veteran, 25 Boston races under his belt as well as a coach (irunicoach) who did some wonderful fine tuning at the local level for publicity and preparation for our stage.  His wife, Robin – no stranger to marathons herself, provided welcome support along the route.

As we saw the Stage 289 runners approach in headlamps and reflective IMG_8364gear it was applause and greetings all around. They had been running through the night, since 3:15 a.m on a brisk 30 degree morning. We chatted for a few moments, wished each team of runners well and they were off to their day as we were off to begin our stage. The Sunbury Police gave us an escort through the heavier morning traffic as we entered the street to the Shikellamy High School  where cheering students  had erected an arch for ORFB runners to pass through as we headed out of town.

photoLeaving the mostly flat terrain behind us, we were soon progressing through a series of hills. I believe there were four, but at some point you just stop counting.  My Boston training held me in good stead, only feeling a serious calf burn on the last, and what seemed like the toughest, hill.

As we approached the finish of Stage 290, a deer peaked out of the woods to greet us. That greeting was followed by cowbells and cheers coming from runners signed up for Stage 291 of ORFB, ready to take on more of Pennsylvania’s hills in the journey east to Boston.


Mingling with Stage 291 before we cheer them off

There, our vehicle awaited us. We said good-bye to Stage 291 as they enthusiastically continued down Route 61. We gave our thanks to super support Robin, and good-byes to Mark and Barry, both of whom are headed to Boston in a couple of weeks.

As I push the button to publish this post, the ORFB torch and more than 25 runners in Stage 308 have likely crossed the New Jersey/New York border.

There is still an opportunity to be a part of this crazy-how-could-this-possibly-work event.  Go to One Run for Boston and click on the yellow half-moon icon on the left of the page that reads “DONATE.” Nothing can undo the pain and loss, but we can all share in doing what we can to ease the load.




Lost in Amsterdam

To avoid the Capital 10-Miler post-race wrap-up chores, I’m indulging in wanderlust. Helped along in that quest by Cirsten’s blog, My Writers Block, where she explores the history of Amsterdam’s residents and buildings, my memories wander to my own brief exploration.

After my sister and I finished a river cruise through Belgium and The Netherlands, we took an extra day or two to explore Friesland


Heeg Harbor, Friesland

and spend a night on dry land. An option for our last day was to stop in the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum down the street from our hotel in Amsterdam. 

I had only managed a couple of brief runs during our cruise (unless you’re counting my many laps around the ship’s upper deck).

Is this the track?

Is this the track?

While my sister enjoyed an early cup of coffee, I opted for the outdoors, letting her know I’d be returning in an hour or so. The front desk directed me down the street to Vondelpark.

Entering the park through a beautiful gate, I ran under an overhead walking bridge and took a look back to identify landmarks for my return. The park path appeared to be a circle, a circle of beautiful old residences, inviting outdoor restaurants, people walking dogs, more people riding bicycles.  Bicycles loaded with children on the handlebars and on extra seats, bicycles with business riders – briefcases stashed in their pannier, bicycles with spandexed riders.

After admiring some of the wildlife in the park,


Blue Heron enjoying breakfast in Vondelpark

I noticed I was seeing the lovely homes and inviting outdoor restaurants a second time. How had I passed my landmark exit with the beautiful gate?  I turned around, backtracking. How does one get lost on a circular path? One more time around and still no gate in view.

O.K. Now the panic begins.  Is my sister looking at her watch wondering why I haven’t returned? Will I find my way out of this beautiful but perplexing piece of land in time to make our flight? Am I feeling a little panicked? Do I pick an exit and hop in a cab back to the hotel?

I spotted a park diagram posted nearby. While trying to identify my exit, an Amsterdam native out for a run and speaking fluent English asked if I needed help. Oh yes, I need help. Please point me to the ornate gate with the park name. We jogged together back to that somehow hidden gate, comparing running histories, families and travel.

Why hadn’t I seen the overhead walkway or the gate? Well, my entrance was not  actually on the circle, but was a dog leg leading to the circle.images

Waiving good bye to the kind stranger, I returned, once again passing under the overhead walking bridge and through those beautiful gates. I returned to find my sister packed up and dressed, relaxed, reading a magazine with no idea that my outing had been a bit adventurous. She looked so calm, it would have been unkind to share.

If you must get lost, Vondelpark is a beautiful place to carry it out. I had eaten up extra time for a museum visit, but sometimes running in a beautiful

Vondelpark gate

Vondelpark gate

park, even in a state of panic, trumps a museum.