Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for New York City Marathon

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Farewell Joy Johnson

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Credit: Jonathan Sprague for the Wall Street Journal

Joy Johnson. As I read the news from the New York City Marathon, the name was familiar. I pulled out the basket holding treasured hard copy articles, preceding the days before I began storing links on my laptop.

There it was: Page W1 of the Weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal October 31, 2008, an article on marathon competition among runners 80 years and above. It included an interview with Johnson, then age 81. Matthew Futterman’s article contained a subtitle quote from Johnson: “I want to die running.”

I’d kept the article for its two intriguing aspects. The first was information on biological changes that occur in older runners. Futterman discussed the loss of efficiency in the circulatory system and some of the reasons senior runners are more prone to injury.

The icing on the cake in the article was a review of the training regimen Johnson adopted to lower her marathon time and place well in her age group. At age 81, she upped her running to 50-55 miles a week, ran the bleachers at the stadium, ran hills and increased her speed work.

The conjecture about her fall at mile 20 in this year’s NYC Marathon pales to me in importance. This was a woman confident in her decisions.

Twenty years younger than Johnson but older than most runners, I’ve had occasion to wonder when the need to test my ability may give way. For each of us, who knows when and if the drive for personal best and the love of running will cool, when we will be too sensible or too fragile to wait for a race start wrapped in a wind-protecting garbage bag.

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Credit: Unknown. Facebook Photo

For Joy Johnson, the determination and drive didn’t subside at age 64 when she achieved a sub 4-hour marathon, it didn’t subside at age 80 when she upped her training.  It wasn’t the 2013 NYC Marathon, her last of many. Her love of running and willingness to work to her personal best were her companions to the end.

I’m scheduled to run the NYC Marathon in 2014. When I reach mile 20, I will be thinking of Joy Johnson, her love of running and her fellow runners, the drive and determination that brought her to the start and took her to the finish line. I’ll be reminded of what can be achieved and how to live fully while achieving it.

Well done, Joy.

FFL

Frugal Friday – Race Fees Paid for Naught

We interrupt the litany of Boston tales to explore the costs of races we don’t run – either because we don’t make it to the start line or the race is cancelled.

"MONEY"

“MONEY” (Photo credit: Englishpointers

English: Symbolized moneyAs with any type of travel, participating in road races sometimes requires transportation and lodging costs in addition to registration fees.   So, for those of us who want the max from our running budget, how do we minimize costs when the race is a no-go?

There are online registration services that provide insurance coverage for fees in some circumstances, such as injuries, but those I’ve seen don’t address cancellation of a race.

So, why don’t we get to the race start line?  We’re already invested and it’s understood that race registration fees are nonrefundable.  In my personal case, the most costly recent races I have missed and may miss, both in travel costs and entry fees cover both the scenario of the cancelled race (NYC Marathon) and potentially this year’s Boston Marathon; the first a race cancellation, the second an injury.  (Note to self:  Downhill skiing was not the wisest choice of cross-training.)

Injuries and unexpected family events are the primary reasons I have been a no show after registering for a race and I hear those reasons most frequently from running friends when they bail on a race and the registration fee and travel expenses go down the drain.

English: Dripping faucet Deutsch: Tropfender W...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And what are the reasons that races actually cancel? In my experience, weather-related cancellations are most frequent and they make sense.  I’ve been registered for races where portions of the course were under water.  Adventure races aside, do you really want to be out there anyway?
The most notable weather-related cancellation,  the 2012 New York City Marathon found runners from around the world either settling in for New York City shopping and shows, or more likely scurrying to find another marathon, preferably along the Eastern seaboard.

Then, there is the March 17 Rome Marathon.  No, not cancelled, but Runner’s World reports the start time may be delayed from 9 a.m.  to late afternoon depending on the date a papal decision is made.  So, registered runners may have a little more time to lounge on the piazza sipping cappuccino before they begin their journey past the Coliseum and the Trevi Fountain.

TREVI FOUNTAIN

TREVI FOUNTAIN (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, there is the previously scheduled April 10 Gaza Marathon which in fact was cancelled after authorities in Gaza determined women would not be allowed to participate.  The United Nations Relief Agency then promptly canceled the marathon.
While I was looking forward to New York, I’m not enroute to Rome this year and I’m not one of the 370 women who had registered for the 26.2 mile Gaza run.  But, who knows what wiles of the world will occur between the time I commit to my next race entry and the time the start whistle blows.

If someone has the answer for this frugal senior runner, please let me know.  I’m daydreaming of an easy cost/benefit formula that would intuitively tell me when it’s time to hedge my bets with insurance coverage or some other method of cutting my losses.  You may be saying it already exists – it’s called common sense.  True, but common sense is sometimes in short supply when the lure of  intriguing travel and race destinations call.

What I Learned at the Marathon Relay

“80% of success is showing up.”  So says Woody Allen.

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City.

English: Woody Allen in concert in New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my particular case as a first time participant in a marathon relay, the quote is apt.  I was registered on a 60+ Age Group Team at the Harrisburg Marathon.  We placed first in our category.  We were also the only team registered in that category, but no matter.  Just apply Woody’s 80% rule.

Team Captain Brad pointed out that had we registered for the Masters Division, we would still have placed first. And why not?  Amongst the four of us, we brought more than 150 years of running experience to the relay.

How is it that this is my first relay experience? Well, it was the first time I was asked to join a relay team (thanks, Brad). And, I really love distance running.  It was only the expectation of the relay coming on the heels of the NYC Marathon a week earlier that enticed me to forego the full Harrisburg Marathon and say yes to the relay.

Silver Streaks Frank, Brad, Mary Lou and Greg pre-relay

Asking our team captain what I needed to know to run the relay, his response was “Be looking for Greg to approach the relay transfer, move the chip from his ankle to yours as fast as you can and run as fast as you can.”  O.K. , I can do that.

The relay assignment gave me a new understanding of my strengths and weaknesses. As 3rd leg runner, roughly a 7.4 distance beginning at around the 13 mile point on the marathon route, I was to cover the section with some fairly tough ascents and descents. After the hand-off (or ankle-off) from Greg’s arrival at the transfer point, I joined a bevy of runners on the marathon course.

As I approached the hills, I was suddenly surrounded by the 8.5 mile pace group, their pacer shouting out to his flock notice they were entering the hills followed by all types of encouragement.  Since 8.5 is more a 10K pace for this 9.5 pace marathoner, I made an instantaneous goal to stay with them.  I took side glances at their running style, their stride, assessing what makes an 8.5 minute mile marathon runner.  I stayed with them through the first several uphills and mild downhills and flats.  When the downhills grew more extreme, the fraidy-cat button in my brain turned on and I slowed my pace, cautious of freshly fallen leaves on the trail.  The 8.5 minute mile runners surged around me like moths flitting by my ears.  Huh?  How is it I kept pace with this group on the worst of the uphills to be left in the dust on the downhills?

Note to self:  Take the opportunity during the winter to work on your downhill posture, footing, and mental courage to emerge a stronger downhill runner in the Spring.

Running friends Marge and Dave join us at the finish line

Exiting the park, I could see the 8.5 pace sign a quarter mile ahead of me. One more turn and I was within shouting distance of my relay transfer point, but certainly not within shouting distance of the 8.5 mile pace group.  The pacer’s sign was a white spot in the distance.

I quickly removed the chip from my ankle, transferring to Brad for the final relay leg.  With a wave of thanks to the volunteers working the transfer station, I was off to join my team and the festivities at the finish.

Looking better at the finish than at the start.

Unexpected Life Journeys – NYC – Harrisburg Marathon Shuffle

Runners never know where the quest to run a marathon will take them.   Those registered for the storied New York City Marathon likely didn’t envision that plans and dreams to run that marathon would lead to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. With the race dates a week apart and NYC cancelled, Harrisburg – a mere 3+-hour train ride from New York City – became an in-demand marathon to substitute for the finale of a summer and fall training season.

As a senior runner who writes about senior running adventures (and misadventures), I’m sure that the many runners in the 60+ age groups have their own stories to tell.  Roughly 70 runners and walkers in those age groups made their way from Brazil, China, Canada and across the United States to NYC, then revamped their course to Harrisburg.

A panorama of Harrisburg, showing the northern...

For runners of all ages, our well-kept small town marathon secret became one of the havens for runners from the Northeast United States and internationally.  Like the good host or hostess who suddenly finds their guest list has doubled, the Harrisburg Marathon and Harrisburg Area YMCA set about ensuring that their expanded guest list would have shirts, medals, support on the course and food at the end of their marathon journey.  Likewise, the influx of registrants post-NYC cancellation were the ideal guests, with compliments on our scenery, fresh air, friendly atmosphere and a well organized event.Their children were charmed by the chickens and horses housed in the barn on City Island, within a block of the race start line.

Those fortunate enough to land rooms in downtown hotels found the start and finish lines were roughly a 1/2 mile walk/jog across the Susquehanna River to City Island.

Runners originally expecting a marathon start at the Verrazano Bridge, were enjoying beautiful, slightly warm weather with a start on Harrisburg’s Market Street Bridge.  A turn onto Front Street took them past historic buildings into downtown Harrisburg around the Capitol Complex, then treated them to our Greenbelt and Riverfront Park.  They passed through city neighborhoods and a brief stint through an industrial road and the Harrisburg Area Community College  campus.  At the appropriate distances along the course, signs appeared indicating the 5 boroughs of New York City.   The mostly flat, mostly scenic course surprised some out-of-town guests as they approached the hills in Wildwood Park. The final six miles brought them back down the river to City Island food and festivities.

As warmup clothes were pulled from the bag check, apparel from the Central Park Track Club, the Van Cortlandt Track Club, as well as shirts and jackets from the Bronx were well represented.

As some of our guests hurried from the finish line to the next scheduled train back to NYC, they took with them some new-found friendships, an appreciation for this small town marathon  and many of the age-group awards.

In the following days, Facebook and Twitter lit up with accolades for an unexpected journey to a fantastic marathon. 

It was great to have you visit.  Come back and see us again!

(Note:  Photos in this post are miserably limited as I was off running a relay leg on the course, a topic for another post another day. You will find great photographs of participants and the course on the Marathon and facebook pages linked in this post.)