Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Running

NO AGE LIMITS FOR MARATHON RUNNERS

I still occasionally find myself amazed by the accomplishments of women in my age cohort. A new study recently appeared in my inbox, once again confirming our tenacity.

The Runner Click Study

Researchers at Runner Click have compiled information on the makeup of marathon runners worldwide. They included information from a total of 784 marathons in 39 countries over three years, 2014-2017. Nearly three million runners participated in those marathons.

This survey excluded professional runners and the data gathered from some very young marathoners and others for various reasons. Participants represented 229 nationalities.

Here is my interest in the study: My eyes went immediately to data regarding senior women runners, specifically those 60 years and older.

Looking at the numbers in this study, we senior women runners may be a distinct minority, but by percentage, we are a growing marathon population.

Marathon Background Info

As background, the study has a great deal of other information including which marathons are growing in number and which have slowed growth, where the fastest and slowest averages are found and what parts of the world have the greatest and least marathon participation.

Most people who have run a marathon will tell you that it is a challenge to the body and the spirit, generally requiring several months of training. I will also add that before the 1970s women were not encouraged, and in many cases prohibited, from running the marathon distance.

Now, women marathoners are quite common. The marathons included in this study mark them up at about 34% of all runners.

I’m providing that background to explain my surprise at several numbers and percentages in the report.

The Stunning Stats

Although the largest age groups participating in marathons are 30-39 and 40-49, making up about 60% of all marathoners, those of us 60+ right through age 100 are holding our own and, percentage-wise, are actually growing.

  • Researchers measured the growth rate in number of runners participating in 10-year age groups. The highest growth was in the age group of 90-99 years of age, increasing in an overall participation rate of 38.74%.
  • While the percentage of participations dropped in most younger age groups, those in age groups (men and women) over 60 years of age had a percentage increase (60-69 – 3.81%, 70-79 – 1.14%, 80-89 – 5.10%, followed by the whopping increase in age group 90-99 – 38.74%.
  • Researchers found the following average finish times (rounded to minutes) for women in age groups over age 60: 60-69 – 5 hours, 19 minutes; 70-79 – 6:00 hours; and 80-89 – 6 hours and 44 minutes.

Looking at those times, you may be mentally comparing them to elite runners who have remarkable times of just over 2 hours. Remember, though, that this data was compiled on recreational runners with the elite data eliminated.

Given that the fastest age group, on average, over the 182 marathons included in the study was 4 hours and 42 minutes, the times listed above for women in the 60+ age groups are quite impressive.

When I began distance training for my first marathon at 56, I followed the methods in Jeff Galloway’s book Running until You’re 100. At the time, I took that as an inspirational figure of speech.

Now, it turns out that Jeff was right. Men and women are not just running until they’re 100 but running marathons to that age.

There are times when, as a marathon runner, I have felt as though I am among the very few women my age still pursuing this distance. That apparently is not the case, as older women continue to take on the marathon.

Are you seeing an increase in the number of participants, particularly women, age 60 and over? Are you one of them? Please share your observations.




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Beach Dreams on an Icy Day

February is a great teaser. One day, the afternoon brings balmy 50-degree temperatures perfect for a run. The following morning, a layer of ice clogs your doorways and walkways. You hope your yaktrax hold on for your brief stint in the out of doors.

There is nothing to do with February but enjoy the balmy days and dream of beaches on icy days. My beach memories this year are of the beautiful islands of Guadeloupe.

This is not a swimming beach due to the ruggedness of the coastline and an undertow. It is an enchanting beach where I became mesmerized by the ocean. Many visitors and residents take a hike to reach the cross atop the cliff.

If cliff climbing isn’t for you, stop by this lovely swimming beach, Place de Petit-Havre on Grande-Terre. Don’t worry about bringing your beach umbrella. When you emerge from the beach there are ample trees for shade

Anse de la Perle sits in a crescent of the shoreline. A beach for stronger swimmers that is rated by many as the most beautiful beach on Guadeloupe. Orange sand, coconut trees with a few beach bars sprinkled nearby, it’s no surprise this location was chosen for the series Death in Paradise.

If you’re interested in an authentic view of a pirate’s cove, stop at La Rhumérie du Pirate for some creole cuisine, casual outdoor dining and a beautiful view of the cove. Take a surreptitious peak around the side of the deck and you will see lobster pots bobbing in the water and staff preparing fresh seafood.

As I wrap up this post, snowflakes have again returned. So, I will return to my beach dreaming. If this persists I may take you on a future blog tour of our drive across the inland mountains.

Travelers hint: If you’re on the East Coast of the U.S., Norwegian Airlines now has affordable and convenient flights to Pointe-à-Pitre Guadeloupe out of JFK.

What makes a Successful Running Year

I suppose the answer to my title is this: Any year I can run is a successful running year. Whether you have met your goals or whether you had goals at all, the simple act of getting out the door and breaking into a run can constitute success.

That may sound like a low bar to qualify for success, but I will claim it as mine for 2018. There are years when events in life, happy or sad, expected or not, take precedent over any preset running plans for the year.

Having said that, there were a few highlights, like that crazy rainy Boston that made me question my sanity but in the end left me a decent finish place entitling me to this fabulous shirt

The photo doesn’t do it justice. It is merino wool and light as a feather.

So, yes, we will call this a success.

Trying something new in 2018, I ran in a track meet for the first time since 4th Grade. That effort qualified me for the 2019 National Senior Games, and who doesn’t want to go to New Mexico to compete and then do some sightseeing? So, we will put this event in the success category as well.

Then, there was the Sasquatch Adventure Run. It was a fun, scenic run through horse trails, lots of climbs, a few steep downhills and crossing a fast-running stream. What seemed like a minor trip turned out to be a deep cut to my knee resulting in stitches and time off from running for a few weeks.

I didn’t realize I had an injury until Photographer Clay Shaw, perched on the creek bank said to me “Did you fall? You’re bleeding.” With only a mile or so to go to the finish, I simply kept running.

This I would not call a success as much as a wakeup call. My success has been running and hiking trails over the last 20 years and never needing stitches until this event.

So what’s up for 2019? In my seventies I’m not anticipating any great breakthrough moments. But maybe I will find some fresh territory to run or some races I haven’t yet experienced. Any suggestions?

Thanksgiving Weekend Cocoa Bean 5K

It was great to come home to the Cocoa Bean 5K this year. Generally, I’m out of town Thanksgiving week, but some schedule changes this year made it possible to squeeze into registration at the last minute.

Rick Blood cheering on runners near the finish:
Photo credit: Paul Moretz

This 5K is worth coming out for on a frosty windy morning. Let me count the ways:

  1. Indoor bathrooms located near packet pickup at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center University Fitness and Conference Center.
  2. A race day registration fee of $23 (that included the race premium of gloves).
  3. Race announcer and overall time record holder for the 30-something year Harrisburg Marathon Rick Blood shouting words of encouragement near the finish line.
  4. Useful AG awards – choice of holiday decor or socks accompanied by a Hershey bar.
  5. Ample food – both healthy and plenty of the not as healthy sort for those of us with a sweet tooth.
  6. Great race directors and organizers Marge Lebo and Holly Bohensky bring their years of experience in running and race directing to the event.
  7. A traffic-free looped course following a sidewalk trail through the complex.
  8. AG awards for those under 10 right up through over 80 years.
  9. You will see most of your running friends there. If you don’t have running friends when you arrive, you will have made a few  before you leave.
Race Director Extraordinaire presenting age group awards.
Photo credit: Clare Flannery Gan

All in all, a wonderful finish to a Thanksgiving weekend.

304 Years of Wisdom

Here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. and there are four men in particular who are thankful to continue their running careers.

Tony Lee Jim & Brad Relay Hbg Marathon 18

At packet pickup on City Island, Tony, Lee, Jim and Brad bringing with them 304 Years of Running Wisdom, are ready for marathon morning.

Competing against 84 other relay teams at the Enders Harrisburg Marathon earlier this month, my favorite team, 304 Years of Wisdom, placed 69th, finishing ahead of 16 other teams.

My friends, Tony (age 73, Brad (age70), Jim (age 74) and Lee (age 87), displayed their 304 combined years of wisdom on this nearly perfect day for running. 

Believe it or not, there was not a category for a 70 & over relay division award. Our good friends on the Silver Streaks team took first place in the 60 & over category, the oldest designated category. Perhaps we can lobby for a 70+ category for 2019.

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Looking as fresh at the finish as at the start, 304 Years of Wisdom convene near the finish line for a congratulatory beverage.

I was honored to be one of two designated backup runners if any of the above had to drop due to any number of problems that people in our age category run upon. Alas (and good for them) I was not needed.

I had earlier deferred from the full marathon as a change in travel plans left little time for even a semblance of taper miles and had me returning home late in the week of the marathon.

So, while my brave 70+ running friends were challenging the course, my contribution was to stand near the finish line ringing a cowbell and shouting appreciative comments to finishers.

Lee ran the final leg for the team and crossed the marathon finish line with a total team time of 4:46:43 and an average pace of 10:57.

Enjoy that Thanksgiving dinner, my age-group friends. You have earned it.

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Added bonus for Lee, age 87. Two daughters from out of town surprise him at the finish line. He is planning for a repeat in 2019.

Finding Sasquatch – A Preservation Trail Run 5 & 10K

A week of high temperatures and humidity gave way to an evening of downpours that continued through Saturday’s Sasquatch Preservation Trail Run 5K and 10K. The run is billed as an adventure run – and definitely is. It begins at North Branch Farms and benefits the Farm & Natural Lands Trust of York County.

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Sasquatch did appear. I’m sure there must have been more than one, since I saw him (or her?) several times on the trails. The mixture of terrain was good, with some open pasture land, some horse trails through the woods, and at least five or six horse jumps to find our way over by whatever means, followed by short but steep ups and downs. Then near the end of mile 5 came the stream crossing.

With the intense rain the night before Codorus Creek was running high and fast, more than waist-high for me. A couple of burly volunteers were stationed in the creek to ensure none of us was swept downstream. 

It was when I emerged from the stream that I realized that from a quick fall – down and back up again in a second – that I had blood running from my knee. I reached the finish line at 1:27:30. Friends who had finished much earlier were there cheering. Seeing my bloody knee, they flagged down a gator. I hopped in for  a ride back to my car, pulled out my first aid kit, and with the help of the volunteer cleaned out and bandaged my knee  well enough to get to urgent care.

With only a light breakfast hours before and 10K of trail under my belt, I decided just a bit of nourishment was needed to keep from getting lightheaded. At the McDonald’s nearest to the highway, I pulled up at the drive-through. Creek-wet from the waist-down and blood dripping from my knee, I wasn’t suitable for even the interior of a McDonald’s. My order?  Apple pie and coffee, please. Calories and caffeine.

Back on the highway to urgent care, I was seen quickly.  As expected, stitches were in order. Not a great ending to a scenic run, but for my many miles of trail runs and hiking, this was my first experience with stitches. Bumps, bruises, scratches and a few insect bites, yes, but never stitches until now. A small price to pay for many wonderful experiences in the outdoors.

How was your weekend run? Hopefully less eventful than mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kipona Weekend

My capital city celebrates each Labor Day with activities around our beautiful sparkling waters of the Susquehanna River, our Kipona Festival.

Here you will find hand-made art items, musical performances and food, lots and lots of food.

While all that is wonderful, my early arrival on City Island was designed to get in a few miles before joining running friends Todd and Jen as they hosted a River Runners group run to celebrate their upcoming marriage. Todd and Jen met at a group run years ago so it was only fitting to host a run and finish it off with post-race snacks. Group runners began at different paces, making our way up river through food and performance tents not yet occupied by vendors and visitors.

Runners congregated post-run to chat and munch. I saved my snack for later as I had more miles on my schedule. On my last lap around City Island, I stopped at the Pow-Wow Festival and listened a bit to the haunting sound of a wood flute while I picked up a Fry Bread Taco. Delicious and far too big for me to finish.

While running down river earlier, I saw that wires were being set up for a tightrope walker scheduled for later in the day. Given the gusts of wind coming across the water, I expected the walk would be cancelled. Not so, as my friend Jennifer caught in this photo.

 

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Not a water walking nymph as the eye might have us believe, but a graceful tightrope walker probably 40 feet or so above the water.

Overall a relaxing weekend, ending with an out-and-back six-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail, 93 degrees at the start but feeling cooler on the trail, Our return trek took us into dusk, ending with a dark trail alight with the beam of our headlamps.

The end of summer heat and humidity did nothing to dampen my appreciation of the  bountiful beauty of this region. Never forget those who labor to protect our environment so that we can enjoy it.

I will end this post with another view of our sparkling Susquehanna, this one from atop Peter’s Mountain, taken during the hike, a scenic close to a beautiful weekend.

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Power lines can be an eyesore along some trails. In this case, our hike leader Mark captured the view as the sun was about to take that last shred of pink beneath the horizon, the lines having the look of architecture, drawing our eye down into the valley below.