Archive for Senior Runners
In this City of Love, even the Paris Marathon gets a love story. This year, a young married couple would win the overall award and first place female award. Paul Lonyangata, with a time of 2:06:10 and Purity Rionoripo at 2:20:55 shared a blissful win.
Now, from a voice far back in the pack, what was I doing here? In a spur of the moment decision, I signed up for Paris shortly after 2017 registration opened. I may be getting soft, but I also bought a premium package which included a pre-race and post-race changing area, a bag drop and refreshments in the tent. And with a warm morning, 60 degrees F at the start, I removed my warmups and used the bag drop long before my corral was scheduled.
With close to 44,000 runners starting, groups were moved from Avenue Foch, around the Arc de Triomphe and into corrals on the Avenue des Champs Élysées. This cobblestoned boulevard is beautiful and wide, allowing runners space to spread out. We ran past the Place de Concord and the Bastille before heading into the Bois de Vincennes past the beautiful Château de Vincennes. The woods offered some welcoming dappled shade. We moved on to a long tunnel where the air felt thick, but out we came to the bright sunshine on the opposite side.
On the course, water is offered in small plastic bottles every 5K. Beware if you run this, stations are only located on one side of the street, and until you get there you don’t know which side. Midway through the race, stations included oranges and bananas, sugar cubes, and toward the end, some sort of nut mixture. Around mile 17, there was a station serving an energy drink I wasn’t familiar with. I knew better than to try it.
Limiting my intake to water and some quickly grabbed orange slices now and then, I depended on the endurolite capsules and honey stinger energy chews I brought with me. Gatorade is not easily found in Paris. I was pleased to see their booth at the Expo and picked up 3 bottles of the cool blue, one of which made the 26-mile trek with me.
Somewhere around Mile 14, I took my first fall in a road race. A woman a couple of feet ahead of me fell directly in my path. I tried to maneuver around her, but it was too late. We were packed in tight enough that there was nowhere for me to escape. Going down, I was sure the marathon was over for me, but managed to break my fall with my hands. We were both able to continue running. Other than a palm a bit swollen with road rash, all is well these days later.
Running along the Seine, the cafés were full of fashionably dressed Parisians cheering us on as they sipped their cappuccino and wine. We passed the Eiffel Tower, following the Seine west through the strong crowds that were crouching in close on both sides of the course. There were sections where only two to three runners could pass through at a time. If that sounds odd, picture scenes from the Tour de France where spectators are pressing out in the road, only in this case it isn’t fast-moving bicycles but back-of-the-pack runners struggling to maintain pace through the spectator gauntlet.
Finally, we are headed north toward Bois de Bologne. It is a beautiful wood but not many spectators, making it difficult for some runners to stay motivated.
Many were trudging along in a slow walk. Though my pace had slowed, my legs still felt good and I had to zig and zag through walkers to maintain any kind of a running pace.
Performers along the course were wonderful, but my favorite was the drag queen troupe at Mile 25. After passing them, we were soon moving around Port Dauphine to the cobblestones of Avenue Foch.
The finish line was efficient and I moved quickly through: water, finisher medal, shirt and food. I found my way back to the premium tent where a wonderful array of hot and cold foods and some sweets were available. I nibbled on a few things and chatted with other finishers.
And my time? 4:46:59, the slowest in about 10 years. I could attribute that to the heat (79 degrees F as I finished), to lack of speed work or interval training while an injury healed, but age is probably the biggest factor.
I was surprised at the low number of women running this marathon, less than 25% of the total runners. Most marathons I run have been around the 50% range for men and women.
The Paris Marathon get high grades for an interesting and scenic course, quality premiums, reasonable entry price and is well managed. There are metro stops near the start/finish making transportation convenient. If you’re looking for an international marathon, give it a try. Why not?
If you are feeling like you are too old to do something, I suggest you take a run in the mud, or help a younger generation make some mud pies, or get a mud facial. Any of the three can be healing.
It’s not that I wasn’t forewarned. I read the information on the Squirrelly Tail Twail Wun website. I heard numerous stories from year’s past. The trail can be icy or deep in snow. This year, the mud should not have been a surprise.
Unusually warm weather and rain a few days before the race guaranteed a messy course. Race day temps were in the low 30’s accompanied by a brisk wind.
After the traditional pre-race photo with my running group, I did a couple of warmup miles and saw what I was in for. I enjoy a fall run on the trails around Pincho Lake but winter/spring conditions are quite different.
Although there were a few drier spots along the way, running through the mud was tough going. Attempting to stay to the edge of the trail out of the deepest muck, I found myself entangled in wild raspberry canes along the trail edge.
Around mile 8 as we slogged along, a friend on the course made a comment about the joy of playing in the mud. That helped my state of mind and I decided to let my inner child come out and play.
With some bloody splotches on my hand from the close call in the raspberry brambles and having landed on all fours at one point, I arrived at the finish line a dirty, happy runner.
You won’t find overall finisher or age group awards at the Squirrelly Tail. You will find a memorable February challenge and a beautiful course, whatever its condition.
After picking up my finisher medal and enjoying some post-race chatter, I returned to the trail to get in another three miles to fulfill my 18-miles for marathon training. Fortunately, I remembered to stash an extra pair of shoes and warmup pants in my bag for the ride home. Trail shoes are once again clean, only the memories and some dried mud on my floor mat remain.
What are your February memories to warm you through a blustery March? Did you let your inner child play, and did it involve mud?
January is slipping away too quickly. It’s high time to take that 2017 roughed out race plan buzzing around in my head and put ink to paper. Here goes.
FEBRUARY – Squirrelly Trail Twail Wun 1/2 Marathon – I register for this every year, but haven’t run it. Each year there is either a last minute conflict or the weather is brutal. Maybe this year.
MARCH –Naked Bavarian 20-mile trail run. This will be a good opportunity to do some trail as one of my 20-miler marathon training runs, and to prepare for my May hike. I’m not sure how the name of the race came about. Since this is March in Pennsylvania, I doubt that I will actually see any naked Bavarians. If I do, don’t expect photos.
APRIL – Paris Marathon – my destination marathon for 2017. Say no more. The portion of the course on cobblestone may be tough, but I’m looking forward to the last few miles through the Bois de Boulogne. I’m working on my training plan and brushing up on fledgling French.
The Paris photos are from a rainy December visit to Paris several years ago. All are scenes along the marathon course and include the Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral.
MAY – Hike Across Maryland (HAM) This hike organized by the Mountain Club of Maryland has a 150 maximum registration and fills almost immediately. We will be hiking the Appalachian Trail from the Pennsylvania and Maryland state lines to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.The distance is approximately 40 miles. I’m expecting to do this with a combination of trail running, hiking and a lot of grit.
JUNE – Run for the Ages 10K Trail Chase – I spotted the race while adding HARRC races to the RRCA event list. It has an age graded start and runs through Nolde Forest. Oldest female runners start first. Will I be first at the start line and maybe the finish line?
JULY – likely a 5 or 10K on the 4th. We’ll see.
AUGUST – I’m not sure. Any suggestions for inspiration?
SEPTEMBER – This calls for something special to acknowledge my 70th year on this earth. Stay tuned.
OCTOBER – I’ll add in a 1/2 marathon or two. It’s not autumn without a 1/2 marathon.
NOVEMBER – Harrisburg Marathon – Whether I run the full marathon, participate on a relay team, volunteer or some combination of the above, this is a wonderful marathon that seems to have more energy and participation each year.
DECEMBER – This is the time to ease off and maybe add in a 5K for a very good cause.
So there is the plan, but subject to change. Suggestions are always welcome.
Now that I see it in writing, I’m more excited for the year ahead. Will you be running or hiking any of these upcoming adventures?
We interrupt the Running London series to report on the Chicago Marathon. Chicago is the third of the World Marathon Majors I have run and by far the most logistically easy for a mid-pack runner to make her way through.
After checking into a downtown hotel on Saturday, we walked a couple of blocks to the closest pickup point for the free shuttle to the Expo at McCormick Place. We picked up my race bib and shirt, listened to a panel discussion offered by Runner’s World, made our way through the many exhibitor booths and said hello to Adrienne, a hometown River Runners friend . Although a large Expo, it didn’t feel overcrowded and we were in and out in a few hours.
Race morning, I was awake at 5:30 with plenty of time to ease into the day. No need to catch a pre-dawn subway and then a ferry to wait several hours for a 10:30 start, no need to catch a 7:30 bus to ride 26+ miles to the start to wait for my 10:45 start time. Here in Chicago, at 6:30, I merely walked out of the hotel and joined a parade of runners wearing outer layers of throw-away clothing and walking/jogging down Michigan Avenue to enter designated gates to Centennial Park.
I heard the announcer calling runners to report to the the early corrals. That’s not me. I still had plenty of time to drop my post-run bag, get a photo of the sun rising over Lake Michigan and establish my place in a very long porta-potty line.
As we lined up, the temperature was 52 degrees with a cool wind coming in from the lake. My corral was to close at 7:45 and at 8:13, to the rhythm of Chicago blues flowing from the loudspeakers, we were off to begin our run into a tunnel. We emerge on Columbus Drive and the roar of the crowds begin, rivaling spectators on the streets of Boston.
With the exception of a few blocks of the course, enthusiastic people were on the sidewalks several deep along all 26 miles. At a nursing home along the way there were huge signs in the windows and faces of residents and staff waving and cheering. Chicago is that kind of town.
From Lincoln Park to Chinatown, the course moves through a number of neighborhoods, diverse in ethnicity, architecture, cuisine and music along the course to further reflect those distinctions. One of those was my neighborhood many years ago. Nostalgia hit as we moved past the beautiful old brownstones lining the course.
Making our way through the miles, we made more than 20 turns. It’s a plus to be familiar with the course or at least watching a block ahead or so to be ready to run the tangents efficiently. The course is primarily flat, offering enough up and down blips to keep legs from getting stale.
I had heard Chicago is a fast course so I decided to take it slower the first ten miles to avoid burning out. So it was that two minutes after Abel Kirui of Kenya won the 2016 Chicago Marathon with a time of 2:11:23, I was approaching the half marathon mark and moving on to the 25K point when Florence Kiplagat crossed the line as the first woman finisher for the second year in a row with a time of 2:21:32.
I did pick up my pace as planned but stomach cramps around mile 17 and quads tightening up around mile 19 slowed me considerably. Even with that, I was enjoying the race and being among the runners around me from all over the USA and a strong international contingent.
While Still a Runner was, well, still running, the first women finishers in my age group were battling it out with finish times under 4 hours. Barbara Wright of Germany finished at 3:46:02, nosing out hometown runner Nancy Rollins by a mere two second (3:46:04) and Yoko Nishi of Japan finishing 3rdat 3:54:57. Fantastic times in the F65-69 AG.
By the last four miles and after four hours, it was warmer than I like a marathon, but the cool wind off the lake helped. After walk/running for several miles, I ran the entire last mile to the finish for a time of 4:39:04, 14th out of 72 women in the F65-69 AG. The hill I had heard about near the finish was barely noticeable, and I was pleased to be done. I walked the gamut with other finishers, picking up snack bag, finisher medal, heat sheet and a wonderful cold crisp apple that I managed to drop after taking only two bites.
Goose Island had a cold glass of beer for every finisher and from there I picked up my drop bag, (again – no wait, everything very efficient) found a spot of ground to sit down and put on some warmups, munch on chips, enjoy the beverage and talk with runners doing the same. Everyone seemed to be taking their time before leaving the park and going to meet friends and family waiting outside the marathon finish area.
If you like large marathons (Chicago had more than 40,000 finishers), large crowds of enthusiastic spectators, a relatively flat course, and a conveniently located well managed race, you would like the Chicago Marathon.
Have you run Chicago? What was your experience? How did it compare with your other large races?
With all the fuss, fanfare and hi-tech most road races have adopted, there are thankfully still a few old school races around. The Hellbender Half Marathon & 5K is one of them.
How old school? No on-line sign-up available, but you can download a mail-in application from the race website. Race registrations are mail-in and day-of sign-up on-site only. No chip timing here with results based on gun time.
Having said the Hellbender is old school, it is also as professionally and efficiently directed as any race in the region. Co-sponsored by the Susquehanna Ridge Runners Club, the course was accurately measured and timing was accurate. Results were available and awards announced in a timely fashion, even as race officials worked under tents in a strong downpour.
If you are a runner who has an interest in the cause supported by a given race, you probably won’t find another that specifically benefits the environment of the Hellbender, an aquatic salamander native to the area. These creatures breathe through their skin, so their survival depends on the health of the streams. The race benefits the work of the Roaring Creek Valley Conservation Association.
As was typical of this year’s summer, race morning was warm, 75 degrees at the start, and humid. The area is deeply forested and as I stepped from my car, I reached for the bug spray. After their initial greeting, the insects kept a distance. After a warm-up mile, I lined up with a couple hundred runners who had found their way to this particular tract of the Pennsylvania Weiser State Forest. The surface was typical forest road, primarily gravel on the hard-packed dirt surface. Roughly half of the out-and-back course is along a stream and a lake, the remainder tall forest on both sides, with the occasional state forest building back from the road.
Although the course is primarily flat, there is a slight incline going out and, thankfully, a slight decline on the return. I started out on pace, but by mile four the humidity was like an anchor tied to my ankles. Thankfully, water stops along the course were well placed and well stocked. By the time I reached the turnaround, I was doing my I-don’t-care-anymore-just-let-me-finish pace. It got better. On the return, the very slight loss of elevation felt good as did a few raindrops that spattered down. I picked up my pace even more during the final mile as the spatter turned into a full deluge with fat raindrops popping off the bill of my cap.
Well shy of my usual pace, I still was pleased to finish in 2:05 and change, earning first place in F65-69 age group.
Post-race food was ample with a variety of homemade sandwiches on fresh bakery rolls, cut-up fresh fruit (my personal favorite) along with chips, bananas and a few other treats.
Already drenched, I munched on the goodies while trying to keep the food dry and chatting with runners who do the Hellbender every year. On my walk to the car, I stopped by the massage tent where they worked some magic on my tight quads.
Thanking myself for adding a large towel to the bag, I poured some extra water over my muddy legs before drying off and scurrying into fresh dry clothes. Thankful for another invigorating race experience, I was back on the road.
The sixth year of the Hellbender has come and gone, but if it sounds like your kind of race and you’d like a drive through rural Pennsylvania, pencil in the 7th on your August race schedule.
Occasionally, a day is well spent just watching athletes do what they do. Rather than lining up at the start or supporting a friend through a race, its great just to observe and cheer.
So it was today when we set out at 7 a.m. to arrive at Lac Tremblant for the 8:00 swim start of Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant. It was warm for an early summer morning when the Laurentian Mountains usually require a light jacket.
The sparkling, flat surface of Lac Tremblant, helicopter overhead, fighter jets making a pass as the pros made their way into the water, was a beautiful and exciting start.
We stayed at the beach until the 50+ women left the shore (these are my people). From the beach, we walked a trail to the base of Mont-Tremblant where the swim/cycling transition takes place. By the time we reached the transition area, the pros were already on the bike course.
We cheered age-group participants as they emerged from the water, searched for their bike location, made any wardrobe changes and took a bit of nutrition before biking off.
We then found our way to an excellent breakfast, lazily relaxing until we conjectured the first finishers would begin arriving. This spectator role is beginning to grow on me. Before the finish area became too crowded, we left the comfort of the restaurant’s terrace and found a shaded view near the finish. Last year’s winner Lionel Sanders (Canada) finished first with a time of 3:47:31, nearly five minutes ahead of second place Trevor Wurtele (Canada). Trevor’s wife Heather placed as second woman (4:17:08, 15th overall). First woman finisher was Holly Lawrence (Great Britain) with an impressive time of 4:08:53 (10th overall).
Deciding that five hours of observing was enough and with other commitments calling, we walked back to the shuttle for a ride back to the parking area. As the bus slowly made its way on Chemin de Village, we could see many of the age groupers on the hilly run course. It’s a beautiful route, but under an unusually warm sky at 1 p.m. and little shade, runners were having a tough go. Cooling sprinklers were set up along this portion of the course and I could see aid stations and medical tents along this section of the route were well supplied. I lost sight of runners as they looped around the train station (now an art gallery) and on to the Petit Train du Nord trail to their turnaround. For the first time during the day I felt uneasy, sitting in relative comfort of a shuttle bus as runners were struggling and toughing it out through those last few miles.
Checking online results, I see two women in my age group (F65-69) finished the race (6:30 and 7:59). Were in not for a lack of swim and cycling expertise, I would love to be doing this event with them.
I hope every participant has an opportunity post-race to soak in the great food and beauty this region has to offer following their hard-earned finish.
A friend had suggested I check out the Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Race Series sometime. This was the sometime. And, the race start time was the exact time our summer officially began.
6:34 P.M. EST – and the 5K/10K on the Cumberland Valley Trail began. With 51 finishers in the 5K and 81 in the 10K, the size was just right for an out-and-back rail trail run.
After a day of 90 degree weather, I decided at the start to take it easy and enjoy the trail. Underfoot was pea gravel, overhead a lot of shade until mile 4, and a slight breeze through the trees. So there would be no question that summer had begun, the mulberry trees bordering the trail had dropped copious amounts of their fruit leaving the soles of my running shoes tinged with a lovely shade of pink.
The Summer Solstice Run is one of a series where points are given for participation and results in each of the race series. Age Grading points based on each runner’s gender, age and performance toward the total race series are calculated at each individual race in the series. As it happened, at 76.61%, I was the top age grader in the 10K for the Summer Solstice Run.
After joining with old friends and making a few new acquaintances, I drove home under a beautiful sky and a full Strawberry Moon. On this day, we enjoyed out longest day of light. When it finally gave way to darkness, the Strawberry Moon took over to brighten our night.
Ah, the sweet pleasures of summer.