Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Hapalua Half

After a phenomenal Hawaii wedding of two wonderful people (my son and daughter-in-law), a week of relaxation with friends and family, and a fun-filled birthday party for my new granddaughter, it was time to go home.

Well, almost time. Since this is a blog about running, as a mere footnote to all the larger and much more important events during my stay. let’s talk about the Hapalua. (But, if you’re interested in reading my thoughts on becoming a mother-in-law, you can find that over at Sixty and me.)

The day before my departure from the beautiful island of O’ahu, there just happened to be a 1/2 marathon, the Hapalua (translates ‘half’ in Hawaiian).

The Chase

Minutes before the start of the Hapalua, the Hapalua Chase begins. The Chase pits Team Hawaii, the best runners in Hawaii, with the professional runners who come to Hawaii for the Chase. Team Hawaii got a head start with the pros chasing down the locals. Local runners had handicaps anywhere from six to 24 minutes.

The winner of The Chase was Josphat Tanui from Kenya. Oahu’s Cindy Anderson was the last holdout, being passed within 50 yards from the finish.

The Start

As for those of us not in the elite field, the Hapalua start time was 6 a.m. The weather was pleasant with a 75 degree temperature and a soft wind blowing into our faces.

I was lined up quite far into the back of the pack of nearly 7,500 runners. Dealing with some leg pain over the past few weeks, I decided on an easy pace and to simply enjoy Kapi’olani Park, Waikiki and the view of the beautiful Pacific as I ran.

The Course

The soft breeze as we ran up toward Ala Moana was welcome, even at this early hour. The course, beautiful as it is, was crowded enough that I was at mile six before I felt like I could break out a bit.

I had a couple of good miles before reaching mile 10, where we headed up the steepest hill on Monsarrat Blvd. The climb left us with a nice downhill, then back up again for a shorter climb up Diamondhead Road. As we reached the top, the view over the cliff didn’t disappoint.

The Finish

The finish line awaited, followed by a line of sprinklers set up to cool off returning runners.

The result was a Personal Worst for a half-marathon time, by at least 12 minutes (2:23:10. With that time, surprisingly I placed 2nd in my age group (W70-74). The other pleasant surprise in looking at results was the high number of women – 38 of us – finishing in my age group.

Family joined me at the post-race festivities, where runners lined up for malasadas and shave ice. Waiting for award announcements, we enjoyed the best post-race music I can recall, provided by Mango Season.

With the day still young, we decided on a breakfast of crèpes at a nearby restaurant. More on that wonderful treat in my next blog.

Tell me about your most scenic race. How far have you traveled for a destination race? Did you find a nice running route or a local race when traveling to exciting family events?

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Tracking from Afar the Capital 10-Miler – a run for the Arts

Half a world away, I couldn’t help but rise early and watch first for Facebook posts, followed by results. It’s 3:00 a.m. for me, but the Capital 10-Miler runners in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania are off at a 9 a.m. start, following an 8:15 early start for walkers. They come from seven states, ranging in age from 13 to 79 years.

Runners anticipating the Start

Portions of our existing course are being resurfaced, leaving no choice but to develop an alternative. Race committee members forged out a new course, extending further into the Capital Greenbelt. The alternative course was then shared with local runners in a preview run several weeks before race day. It passed the tough local runner test.

Even with the course changes, the race was a sellout this year, topping off around 620 runners. The alternative course should provide plenty of comfortable space for runners out and back. We’ve limited registration in previous years because of some narrowness to sections of the course. The upside for that course is there are no traffic crossings. In developing a course, there are always pluses and minuses.

For a mid-size race for our area, we have a significant number of competitive runners. Eleven ran the course at under a six-minute pace with Josh Sadlock placing first at 53:26:63. First place female Jenny Yonick finished in 1:05:59. First Masters Clem Aslan finished at 59:33:72 and Billie Jo Hesitant at 1:14:26.

You never know what the Pennsylvania spring whether will throw your way. 2019 brought near perfect temperatures for a 10-miler, 50 degrees at the start with no precipitation. With historic races of wind, sleet and rain in some past years, the kinder temperatures were too kind for some runners who found the warmer temperatures more difficult to deal with.

Portion of new course
Portion of new course

At its inception nine years ago, I served as founding director for Open Stage of Harrisburg along with other participating arts organizations. I missed the seventh due to a scheduled marathon, but finally ran the race myself in its eighth year. I hope to be back for the 10th. We’ll see if our original course is once again available.

Many runners find the Capital 10-Miler to be their Rite of Spring race, to keep them training through the cold days of winter. Those who were not running were volunteering and supporting friends with photography. I plucked photos for this post from various locations. If you are the photographer, let me know and I will add a credit.

Do you have a spring race you look forward to? Let’s hear about it.

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.




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?

Ultimate Family Gift: A Themed Vacation

Here we are in the midst of the holiday season. Are you still looking for that perfect family gift to remember all year long? Consider a themed vacation in a sunny place.

Winter doldrums will hit, but there are a number of ways to benefit from the warmth of the Caribbean Islands and those in the Pacific as well. I’ve enjoyed a few days away now and then to simply read, enjoy friends and family, savor the local foods, and of course, run.

There are any number of resorts that will cater to your needs as you let the cares of the world wash away. There is another way to spend some time with family: dig deep into a topic they would find worthwhile or intriguing. I just experienced one of these on my first visit to the Caribbean in many years.

My recent week away on the French island of Guadaloupe included a study on the topic of the Slave Trade History in Post-Colonial Guadeloupe. 

Ruins of a colonial prison

I came away from my week in Guadeloupe with a deeper understanding of the complex, violent past of many of the islands in the area.

Historian interpets signage at a slave rebellion site 

I also learned some about the plant life and the topography of this beautiful island, much I would have overlooked had I chosen a more passive vacation.

We also had opportunity to enjoy the many beautiful and varied beaches of Guadaloupe

On a much earlier trip to Hawaii, just by chance I happened upon an announcement in a local windward side free newspaper. A local civic historic group was offering a tour of ancient sites in the area. I was surprised that with the myriad  of tourists on the island of Oahu, we were  the only non-residents of Hawaii taking the tour. It was a magnificent opportunity to learn about ancient fish ponds. sacred burial grounds and a drive to some cliff locations that mark the historical changes of power on Oahu.

As a proponent of both the get-away-and-be-pampered vacation and the thought-expanding vacation, I’ll provide my ideas on what makes the latter a success.

1.Prepare well for the subject or territory you will be exploring. In my recent trip, I sought out fiction and non-fiction literature to give me a basis for the history and a sense of place. Ask your tour contact for their suggestions for advance reading.

2. If you are not on a specific topic tour, keep an eye out for information, both on the web and in print, that may be offered by local groups such as the one I ran across in Hawaii. Generally they know their subject matter well and are eager to share their knowledge.

3. Consider a trip that includes a homestay, at least for a portion of the trip. My trip to Guadeloupe did. I stayed in the home of a professional young woman and came to understand much of family life, residential architecture designed for the lifestyle and the climate, and the favorite restaurants and home cuisine that are preferred by locals.

4. Learn in advance who will be your guide and who will be providing information of the credentials of your primary guide. If you are doing a study tour, the background of the leader should be available to you. Is he or she an educator, a resident or former resident, a frequent traveler to the area?

5. What is the maximum size of your group? A smaller group can move more efficiently and sometimes have access to venues not available to larger groups. It also offers more opportunity for individual questions and discussion, but may be a bit more costly. There are always trade-offs.

6. Will there be downtime to digest information and enjoy time with your host or fellow participants? Simply taking a drive for the mountain view, enjoying a warm walk on a sunset beach, or following up on a lead of a wonderful local eatery can provide a break and add to your memories.

7. Will the tour be age-appropriate and of interest for your entire family? Will there be recreational time for those less interested?  

Do you search for something more intriguing for family vacations? Is there a topic or activity your entire family enjoys? Have you tried a vacation exploring a specific topic or engaging in a home stay with a local? I’d love to hear your experiences.

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.