Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for December, 2014

Christmas Morning Quiet on the Hononegah Path

I doubt that it was done intentionally, but I so appreciate that several of my Midwest relatives selected homes near bike paths and rail trails. As an overnight guest, I can slip out the door in the early morning IMG_1154and within a few blocks, I’m on a path.

So it was Christmas morning when I took to the quiet streets. A usually busy inter- section was nearly deserted. I crossed and found my way to the Hononegah Path.  No snow to run through this year as the weather was eerily warm.

There was little time for more than five or six miles today so this 3+ mile path was perfect. Another time and another visit, I will add on one of the connecting trails identified by Rails to Trails Conservancy.

I notice that the small horse farm that backs onto the trail is for sale. Here’s hoping it stays pasture land. The pessimist in me encourages taking  a good look as I will likely see ongoing residential construction next visit.

The entrance to the Forest Preserve was open although camping is closed for the season. The area was quiet with the exception of the footfall of a  few other runners who had made their dash out the door before the day’s action got under way. They were joined by a couple of dog walkers, birds calling across the trees, and dried underbrush rustling in the wind.

IMG_1153Quiet: a wonderful Christmas gift before returning to the smell of fresh-brewed coffee, the best pumpkin rolls ever tasted, and the company of family.

When is Black the New Bad?


About 50 feet away, that’s me holding a safety light reflector (that white speck you see).

Answering my title question upfront: Black is the new bad when worn at night without reflective material anywhere there is vehicular traffic.
I’m saddened by three recent reports of people over the age of 65 killed in pedestrian/auto accidents. Two I knew personally; one a neighbor who power-walked past my home almost daily, the other a former colleague and community volunteer. To my knowledge, none of the three were runners. I don’t know the details of the accidents but I do know under any circumstances vehicles and people are not an even match. 

So why am I telling you this on a blog post primarily about senior runners? Because it dawned on me that I, and I suspect you, don’t take adequate precautions when we are are not in running mode.

Out the door for a run anytime of day or night, we are in safety green or day-glo yellow. At dusk or dawn, we are wearing headlamps, flashing red lights and those bizarre but effective neon circle lights. But dear fellow senior runner, what are you wearing when you step out during the holiday season? Is it that little black dress that you can still get away with because you are a runner and in great shape? Are you out for happy hour in bluejeans, black knee-length boots, maybe a dark fleece jacket to shield you from the evening cold? Black gloves? Uh-huh, I thought so.

At about 30 feet away, look closely, safety light still in hand, I am barely visible.

At about 30 feet away, look closely, safety light still in hand I am barely visible.

Are we as attentive when out in the evening socially as we are when running? On a run, I find I can still do a fast ditch-dive when a vehicle comes too close. My antennae are on alert. Do I have the same level of caution crossing streets when out socially in the evening?  Honestly, no.

When we walk across a dimly-lit parking lot on our way to a holiday concert, to church, to a restaurant to gather with friends, is a driver likely to see us in dark colors – before it is too late?

Probably not the driver on their cell phone, not the driver talking to soothe a tired child, not the driver hurrying to a store before it closes. Even the driver with brilliant attention and quick reflexes may not spot us in time.

About 12 feet away from camera. Would a driver stop in time?

About 12 feet away from camera. Would a driver stop in time?

I’m taking my own advice here and please join me. Black is a great evening color and without it my closet would be nearly bare, but the fatal accidents of late have convinced me that it won’t hurt a bit to keep something lightweight and reflective tucked in my purse or pocket ready to add when in dark areas.

Please be safe out there and when taking in holiday events with family and friends or when crossing a street in the evening. Use the same precautions used when out for a pre-dawn run.

We are approaching the year’s shortest day and longest night, with sunset tonight at 4:43 p.m. 

Just added to my gift list - an amphipod xinglet.  Can be adjusted to fit any size and over any coat.

Just added to my gift list – an amphipod xinglet. Can be adjusted to fit any size and over any coat.

Lighten up!

Stay safe and healthy. Peace. 

Baking Nostalgia with the Watkins Man

A barefoot 5-year old runs up the dusty, curved driveway, sprinting to stay ahead of a delivery van a half-mile behind.


“The Watkins Man is coming. The Watkins Man is here.” Breathless, she calls out his arrival like the spotter on a ship’s mast.



Today, that barefoot 5-year old runner is Still A Runner and still using an inherited Watkins Cookbook.


On the Midwest prairies, mid 1950’s farm families might go to town once a week for staples. Another source of supplies was the Watkins Man. The Watkins Man arrived at your door, never mind how rural or isolated, with orders for baking, health and cleaning goods. The item the 5-year old runner most remembers is Watkins Vanilla.

Credit: wholefoodrealfoodgoodfoodcom

Snow ice cream, a treat from a fresh snow. Credit:

It was an essential ingredient in making snow ice cream, a welcome treat during long winters where the other primary ingredient, snow, was cheap and readily available.

Yesterday, she pulled her mother’s 1936 edition Watkins Cookbook from the shelf. 

This year, it will be her source for Christmas cookie recipes. She will divert from her hurried life and huddle between the recipes intended for bakers of another time.


The instructions are succinct with information no longer than a paragraph and in no particular order. She learns at the end of the instructions that dough must be refrigerated overnight. When the book was published, every self-respecting home baker knew the temperature for “moderate oven”  or a “quick oven” so don’t expect specifics. Her cookbook bears the ravages of time and use, tape holding together torn pages, grease spots, bent covers. The Watkins Cookbook did not waste space on a shelf. It was a kitchen warrior.

Butter Cookies and Brown Sugar Cookies ready for mailing to family far away.

Butter Cookies and Brown Sugar Cookies ready for mailing to family far away.

So, where is the Watkins Man now? Apparently, he – and likely she – still exist along with the company behind them, still based in Minnesota. They’ve been around over 100 years and may have been one of the first companies to promote and provide natural products for their customers.

She snoops around the Watkins website and learns their first product was a non-food item, liniment. liniment_bottleShe doesn’t recall her family using this product, but more than likely they did. Long days of physical labor planting and harvesting crops and caring for farm animals were a guarantee for sore and aching muscles.

That liniment is still available from Watkins. She wonders if any of her running followers use this product for sore muscles. Maybe she’ll give it a try.


When she places an order, you can be sure vanilla will be included. 11ozExtPVanWx13_os_overForget the negative articles claiming snow is no longer clean enough to eat, she’s lived this long.

Stocking Stuffers for Runners



Black Friday and Cyber Monday are past and I see a stream of discount ads for running items flood my inbox. With all that, my annual suggestions for apparel shopping for your running family and friends has hit a standstill.

Looking at my post from last year, running shoes aside, it was clear I haven’t purchased any significant items in a year or two.


Hbg Mile 008

2010 Harrisburg Mile: Apparel – navy shorts, blue piping.

My frugal nature demands I take care of what I have, and purchase only when necessary.



2014 Boston Maraton – Apparel: Same navy shorts, blue piping. Maybe it is time for a holiday purchase update.

Wardrobe aside, here are a couple of items I’ve begun using that would make great stocking stuffers, or a host(ess) gift when visiting runner-friendly households through the season.

Local Craft Fairs and Farmers Markets

– If you’re looking to buy local, every craft fair I attend has products made of locally-accessed materials and farmers markets provide options of runner healthy gift food items and – one of my favorites – soap from a local goat farmer that is great for chapped hands after a frigid run.

Crafty Running Friends

– You likely have these as well in your running club and training groups. I have running friends who make and sell those crafty stretchy headbands that keep wisps of hair off my face during races. Trail running friends buy their gators from a fellow trail runner who makes them and donates proceeds to a cause. Check out your sources.

Your Fellow Bloggers

– There are a number of running bloggers who occasionally share their creations on posts and some sell as well. I’m impressed with their creativity and ability to produce what they do amid running schedules, family and work.

Fresh Wave Natural Odor Eliminator

I use their products almost everywhere, but particularly the laundry, my car and my gym locker.IMG_1044 I have a sports gel tucked under the backseat of the car and make sure there is a fresh gel when I’m doing day trips to races or doing long runs where sweaty running clothes may be stashed in the vehicle for several hours. I see they now have a sports spray and I will include that with my next order. This is a product made in the USA with headquarters in the Midwest.



Sun & Earth Products

I received a sample of their hand soap and cleaner at the Runner’s World 1/2 Marathon. I’ve used the hand soap to hand wash some running clothes and it does a great job. I see on their website they have a laundry product as well. This product is again made in the USA, in Eastern Pennsylvania.



Check out your sources. How do you gift? Do you have local sources for your running and active living supplies? Let us know as it’s the season to share.