Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

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Five-day Walk in Solothurn

An hour’s train ride out of Zurich took me to Solothurn, Switzerland. I was there to join 22 other walkers and hikers as well as a number of the Friendship Force Club of Solothurn/Swtizerland.

As a global journey, the majority of the hikers came from Friendship Force clubs located in Belgium, Canada, Russia and the USA.

Our itinerary included walks along river beds, in the Jura hills, to a mountain top and through several towns. During our stay, we were housed at a sports hotel where our adventure started each day. We became quite familiar with bus and train transport to our walk starts.

So with that introduction, let’s get started with …………..

Day 1 Walking with Swiss Friends

After a breakfast of meats, cheeses, yogurt and thick brown bread, we packed a similar combination for our lunch and met our Swiss friends at the Bus Stop.  We began our journey by bus to St. Niklaus.

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Hikers/walkers on the trail approaching the Gorge of Saint Verena

Our first day’s walk had a spiritual tone as we set off on foot through the gorge of Saint Verena who is said to have arrived in Switzerland in search of a relative, Saint Victor of the Thebes Legion. Saint Victor was martyred for specific religious beliefs sometime during the 500’s and Saint Verena lived out her life as a hermitress.

 

 

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Next we are off on a walk around Waldegg Castle. It’s a beautiful building in the French and Italian baroque styles, with many additions, including apartments and an orangery, during the years the Bensenval family owned the property (late 1600s – early 1800s).

The Bensenval family had a close connection with French royalty,

 

their son being a diplomat and officer in the French Swiss guards. After the French Revolution the family fell out of favor in France. These many years later, the property belongs to the  Center for Intercultural Dialogue.

We take leave of the wonderful setting around the castle, formal English gardens bordered by magnificent fields of corn, greenery and the Juras Mountains in the background.

 

After a lunch along the trail, we proceeded onto the Trail of Megaliths.

 

How these large stone came to be along this area isn’t known. They are massive and beautiful.

The day’s hike complete, we’re back catching the train from St. Niklaus to an early dinner in Solothurm. Enroute to the restaurant we got a first look at the town of Solothurn.

 

 

The ancient fountains with allegorical designs are still used today as thirsty visitors fill their water bottles before moving on. There are a total of 11 fountains in Solothurn, in fact almost everything in Solothurn is connected with the number eleven.

 

We dined outside under beautiful trees enjoying food from a Greek restaurant. Then, the option to walk the trail back to our hotel or hop on the bus. I elected for the walk, It was a beautiful evening and a good choice.

Thanks to our delightful Swiss hosts/friends/hike leaders Regina, Franziska, Andreas and Jürg for organizing this wonderful day.

Total walking/hiking distance for the day: 7.5 miles.

How do you like Solothurn so far? Have you expanded your walking or hiking to destinations previously unknown?

Stay tuned for Day 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paw Paw Foraging

It all started with a church auction item – an opportunity to paw paw forage with an experienced forager. I had no idea what I would be foraging for, but it sounded like an interesting experience.

These many months later, the season for paw paw foraging had arrived. Instructions were to meet and come prepared with boots, bug spray and drinking water.

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I had, since my successful auction bid, done enough research to know that the paw paw is a fruit that grows as an understory plant in several states from the Atlantic through Ohio. As it turns out, Native Americans harvested the fruit, as did explorers following suit, craving the sweet juicy fruit in their diet. According to many sources including Kentucky State University, the paw paw is rich in nutrients.

Our foraging began in a forest section of the Susquehannock State Park. After walking down several trails and into the brush, our leader, Laura, identified the paw paw tree.

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The paw paw has large exotic-looking leaves unlike most trees in east coast forests. We spotted our first fruit overhead. 

When the paw paw is ripe enough, it can be ever so gently plucked from the branch. For fruit that is out of reach, a gentle shaking of the tree’s trunk will release the fruit that falls to the ground with a thump, or – if you are quick enough – into the bag you are holding. If you are not quick enough, you may get a surprise bop on the head (don’t ask how I know).

The taste of the paw paw was everything I had heard described. We gently peeled our first paw paws then stood enjoying the flavor of the pulp, somewhere between the sweetness of a banana and the wildness of a guava.

IMG_5522 (1).jpgThe kidney bean-sized seeds were spit out.

I also understood why the fruit is not cultivated to any great extent, as very few paw paws appear on a single tree and they are a delicate fruit, ripening in a short time window. I’m told you may find some farmer’s markets where a stand may have them available for short periods of time and at a very dear price.

Paw paws tend to grow in colonies, the largest reaching to the sky peaking out of the forest’s canopy, with less mature trees sheltering underneath and a myriad of newer growth along the forest floor.

After filling our bags and leaving a generous amount of paw paws for other foragers, we did some initial sorting and talked potential use. There are  recipes for everything from quick bread to beer.

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As for me, my paw paw cache will be frozen in small amounts to be used in smoothies along with some frozen slices of rhubarb. Those exotic summery tasting fruits will be perfect for adding nutrients and a sweet and sour taste to the post-run smoothie on chilled winter mornings.

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Do you have experience foraging in the forest? Have you used paw paws in cooking, baking – or brewing?

 

Accessorizing for Safety

 

Being prepared for our own safety is important for everyone. For those of us over 60 years of age, it’s imperative we stay active to maintain as much strength as possible.  We can also supplement our strength with accessories, which may or may not have a bit of flash and sash to them.

From high tech to low tech, we all have our favorite safety accessories. We may not think of them as such and while they are not appropriate or helpful for every situation, accessories they are.

For my lifestyle, safety when running the roads and the trails is where I most frequently rely on low tech devices. Whatever your lifestyle, for the majority of outings safety accessories are not needed. However, if we have one or more of them handy, it is one less thing for you or me to be concerned about. Then, we can concentrate on the beauty of the day on the trail or enjoying the sights in the city.

So, let’s look at a few low tech devices I have in mind to accessorize your look and your well being while out and about.

The Other People (OP) Strategy

Seriously, surrounding yourself in a group can be a safety accessory. Think penguins.  When penguins take that leap into the water, they do so as a pack. When penguins take that dive with the pack, they are less likely to be gobbled up by a seal. Take that swim alone and it’s nearly a sure thing the penguin won’t be returning to the safety of shore. It’s similar for humans. If we’re with a group, the OP strategy generally works. We are less likely to be hassled, intimidated or something worse.

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OP are an excellent safety device when hiking the Appalachian Trail. They’re also fun company.

Alas, we are not penguins. Many of us enjoy a  run or a stroll without OP. Are there times you want to take a solo run or see a movie or show that doesn’t appeal to friends and family? Here, the OP strategy doesn’t work unless you forego your own interests. Are you in this category? Well then, we’ll move to the next option.

“You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve?”

Your name is likely not Steve, but that was the advice from Lauren Bacal’s character to Humphrey Bogart’s character in “To Have and Have Not.” It’s a question for you if you want to stay safe. Can you whistle when your safety is in question? You can if you have a basic trail whistle. I have several models for the trail and usually wear one on a chain around my neck tucking the whistle into my running bra. Some people attach a whistle to their auto or home key chains.

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A whistle is also great for getting the attention of a crowd

Whistles can be less than a quarter inch in diameter and no more than a inch or so long, and yet make a loud, shrill sound. This is a wonderful passive device that can quickly be used if you become lost on the trail, are hurt and immobile and need help, or if you are in a dicy situation anywhere.

I’ve looked around and found that whistles now come in some elegant styles. You can find a variety on many websites, such as Etsy.

Carry a Big Stick

So said Teddy Roosevelt and so can we. There are variations of the stick that will work for your particular lifestyle. If it’s a run, hike or walk in the woods, a hiking pole will suit.

The citified version of this would be a cane or a walking stick. Whether or not you need it for strength or balance, it can be handy in self-defense and also  quite stylish.

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My friend Carol with her hiking stick maneuvers around a rough course and any unsavory humans or animals that come her way. 

The street and travel version can be the very elegant and decorative canes I have seen used among friends. They vary from rhinestones and animal prints, to classic wood business styles. You can find canes specifically for women at many retail stores or on lines at numerous websites such as this oneI haven’t taken this up as a safety accessory myself but if it is something you use as a safety ruse, please comment on how it has worked for you.

Who Are You?

If you are hurt and can’t speak for yourself, let your identification bracelet or necklace speak for you. It won’t keep bad things from happening, but it can quickly provide necessary information to medical or other professionals. Most outdoorsy folks will wear some form of identification that gives their name, at least one contact person and any other pertinent information.

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ROAD ID bracelet just happens to match running gear for the Harrisburg Mile.

Road I.D.is one of many companies where you can find them. Mine is on a wrist stretch band so small I sometimes forget I’m wearing it.

What’s That Odor and Why Are My Eyes Burning?

Pepper spray or mace can be a safety accessory. You can find these in most sporting goods stores. Models vary from handheld to clips.

Some sprays can be considered a weapon and are not welcome everywhere, so think twice before throwing one in your handbag or pocket when you visit certain office or government buildings, arrive for a flight or travel by any means to foreign countries.

That’s my list. Now it’s your turn. What do you recommend adding as a low-tech safety accessory?

(A version of this post was previously published on sixtyandme.com.)

 

 

My DWR’s (Daydreaming While Running)

Who doesn’t love that sensation of being in the zone during a run? My generally cautious nature of being aware of my surrounding goes by the wayside when running in the zone moves to a state of running in trance

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Industrial Road section of the Harrisburg Marathon course – not a good place for trance running

So far the most unsettling result of moving to the trance state occurred on a day I left my office for a quick lunchtime run. Somewhere along the riverfront on that beautiful afternoon, I slipped into the trance. Coming out of it, I was more than a mile past my planned turnaround point. After picking up the pace while rehearsing in my head the points I needed to make at the upcoming meeting I would be late for (or was it already happening), taking the fastest shower in history and silently slipping into a chair in the meeting room, disaster was averted. For some reason, my fellow attendees thought I had been at another meeting and were impressed that I rushed over to participate in their discussion. I don’t know what led them to that conclusion about my tardiness, although it may have been my red cheeks still flaring off/on like a stuck red traffic signal, still settling in from the effort of my sprint return.

Then of course, there was that finish line incident. Are any of my readers old enough to remember when road races used pull tags from race bibs and if the race was large enough, separate shoots were for set up for men and women? I was in that punchy-near-the-end type of trance when one of the shoot monitors was shouting “Miss, Miss – to the right – women to the right.” (I was young enough then to still be called a miss.) It didn’t register that he was shouting at me until somehow through body language, he redirected my trance-like brain state to do that simple thing – finish in the women’s shoot.

But enough about my tales of trance-like running state. Surely, you have some to share. Please tell.

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An unexpected running partner in her own trance. It’s a good thing one of us was alert.

I came for the Paris Marathon and stayed for the cultural history

Writers and artists who made a home for themselves in Paris, particularly early and mid-twentieth century, are an intriguing group. You can’t poke around Paris too long before running into the haunts of writers, painters and entertainers of that time.

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A popular Left Bank  hangout over the decades for writers and artists

I love to walk or run the streets of whatever city I am in and the streets of Paris with their history are most inviting. In searching for their spirit, I found that using the Frommer’s do-it-yourself walking tours as a base and adding my own scattered knowledge and serendipitous finds to the mix worked well.

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The Shakespeare & Company Café serves a good lunch and has a great people-watching location, but is not affiliated with the bookstore

One of the favorite haunts of many of the creative ex-pats was the Shakespeare & Company Bookstore. I found the original site (after a couple of wrong turns) at 37 rue de la Bucherie and it’s current location at 25 Quai de Montebello in the same neighborhood. It’s a fun bookstore with corners and crevices to tuck into as you browse through books. I particularly like that two books on the topic of running are currently featured on its website.

 

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Ernest Hemingsway’s haunts and homes seem to be well documented. Here I include a photo of the building where he shared a 4th floor walk-up with his first wife. After successful sales of his novel, and moving on to another wife, his apartment (lower photo above) is in a more impressive building. New wife, new life.

 

 

 

 

 

My only formal walking tour during my stay was with Walk the Spirit, specializing in background on black intellectuals, artists, and musicians in the early 20th century and the their impact in Paris and beyond. Authors James Baldwin and Richard Wright, dancer and actor Josephine Baker (learned that she was also a spy for the French resistance), and many more moved to Paris for artistic and economic freedom where they did not experience the constraints of American society of the time. 

 

 

 

 

Artists migrated from other European locations as well. In his mid-20’s, Pablo Picasso found his way to Paris where he worked in the building photographed, reported to be the location where he created Guernica. I’ve wondered what Picasso would have thought of the street art/graffiti filling the walls of this former atelier.

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Not far away, the Picasso Museum sits back from the street where visitors line up in droves. (To find a Picasso exhibit near you, check the Artsy site.)

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And let’s not forget about the booksellers along the Seine who have displayed their wares through the previous century and do so to the current day, selling their miscellaneous literature and other merchandise, from the intellectual to the silly. 

The marathon brought me to Paris and the marathon route brought us near many of the streets above. What a joy to have a few extra days to backtrack and explore the twists and turns of streets walked by those artists of an earlier era.

 

 

 

Every Gate has a Message

Gates are a marvelous architectural element. They sometimes provide entrances, sometimes borders, and always a message. That message can be through a written announcement, but sometimes through tone, whether that be a welcoming walk or a flowering garden behind that gate.

Let’s take a stroll through a few.

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There are gates that entice you to step through to a shady spot on a warm summer’s day,

 

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There are gates that call us back to a nostalgic time when life appeared to be simpler and quieter.

There are gates that establish a sense of place, character and work. Both of the photos above tell us we are near the sea. The beach shingle style covering of the gate to a home in East Hampton, New York off the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t need a sign to tell us we are near the sea. The solid iron gate complete with anchor tells us we are in fishing territory, a place for hardy souls. Indeed, the gate is found in the West Fjords of Iceland not too far south of the Arctic Circle.

 

And then there are the gates where, along with the mood setting, signage or written direction is there to ensure that we know for certain we, or at least some, are not welcome. The beautifully designed gate in the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia, may once have been welcoming, but now has an oversized lock and chain and a tow-away sign. The gate with a “tradesman” sign can be found on a London townhouse, once (and perhaps in some cases still) the indication that deliveries and work of tradespeople took place through this entrance rather than the formal main entrance. The additional two garden gates are from Holland Park in London and a private residence in Hampstead, each with a clear message.

I hope you have enjoyed your stroll through gates around the world. Just don’t park in front of that gate in Estonia.

via Daily Prompt: Gate

A 5-Mile Fresh Burst

With so few five mile races available, I took a drive to Lititz, Pennsylvania to check out this local race. The Freshburst 5 Mile Run/5K Walk has been around for 20+ years but just came to my attention recently.

Arriving near the race venue I saw runners moving to the start line. I quickly ran to the late registration table, then returned to my truck to drop off the registration bag. I sprinted to the start and joined the back of the pack as the race director was giving instructions.

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I am ready to vote this the most generous race registration bag of 2017

I had not run a short distance race for many months, so my goal for the race was to just pick it up a bit without concern for a specific finish time. In the first mile, portions of the road were adjacent to a pasture. As we runners came down the road in a line, the cows in the pasture formed a line of their own, pacing to the opposite side of their pastureland. Clearly they wanted no part of us.

Another pasture area brought some black-faced sheep into view. Beautiful, but I didn’t take the time to stop for a photo opportunity. You can guess from the pastureland description that the course was mostly flat, just a bit of rolling up and down and a few turns to take us back to the start.

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The race finish was old school with tear-off tags. With a finish time of 46:05, along with about 200 other runners, and 50 or so walkers, I sauntered back to the race venue where cool drinks, fresh fruit and ice cream awaited us.

The experience of the race staff and volunteers was apparent. Everything seemed to flow well. This fun, friendly and fresh 5-miler was worth the drive and one I hope to run another year. Proceeds of the race benefit the Harmony Playground, designed for accessibility for children of  all abilities.

Check out the Freshburst next July if you’re looking for a well-run small town 5-miler, or a 5K walk. Besides, I ask you, how many races have ice cream at the finish line?