Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for 60+ Age Group

Senior Runner Records Falling

images-1So what were your running accomplishments in 2015? As the calendar year turned over, I asked myself that question. Reflecting on some personal running goals accomplished, I looked around to see what my fellow senior runners at the top of several age groups did in 2015. It’s impressive.

Given the number of records that fell this year, I zoomed in on looking only at women, those in my current age group (W65-69) and the AG I will move on to in a few years (W70-74).

In the 65-69 category, Edie Stevenson achieved a new 12K AG record with a time of 53:56.

Also in the 65-69 AG, setting a record in my favorite distance, the 10-miler, Sabra Harvey ran that distance faster than any previous woman in the age group – 1:14:15.

Moving on to the W70-74 group, the impressive Jan Holmquist managed to break records in three distance categories: 5K – 22:14, 8K – 36:37, and 10K – 45:19.

Finally, not an age group record, but a single age world record for the marathon was set by 74-year old Helga Miketta of Germany running that distance in 3:49:31.

These new record times are daunting, but also uplifting. They tell me what can be achieved. All of the record breaking women above are clearly talented, but for those of us with more modest goals but also interested in improving our own performance, it’s worth looking at similarities in women who make it to the top ranks of the Age Groups.

Care to take a humbling look at AG records for your age and gender? Here you can find age groups records for masters categories with USATF. At this link, you can find all single age world marathon records.

I’ll keep these incredible athletes in mind as I fine tune my goals for 2016. And you, are your running goals set?






Race Report – Blues Cruise 50K

Shortly after  a successful first ultra trail race at the Dirty German, I signed up for the Blues Cruise 50K in Leesport, Pennsylvania. Friends had described the race as challenging yet fun. I learned that both were true.

It’s good to see a familiar face at a race and I was fortunately to spot three. Near the bag drop, I ran into Rick and Jeremy both experienced ultra runners. Jeremy followed The Blues Cruise up with the Oil Creek 100K. I expect he will be writing about it in The Road to Trails.

An intense group at the start while I'm lined up in the back of the pack.

An intense group at the start while I’m lined up in the back of the pack. Credit: Ryan Goverts

Near the start, I heard Kristin’s voice, another ultra runner who blogs at Family, Food and Running. She was in a support role for this race and also recently ran the Oil City 100 Miler.

Unlike my experienced ultra friends, as a newbie ultra runner and trail runner, I am still making rookie mistakes. Assuming I would be one of the slowest runners on the trail, I lined up with the back of the pack. Runners stretched ahead as far as I could see with most of them starting at a walk. In addition to the typical rocks and roots, walnuts the size of tennis balls were falling from the trees and onto the single track trail. I bided my time until we arrived at the first aid station. It was packed with runners and with no early need for water or food,  I slipped through the crowd and finally found my pace.

Pink ribbons flagged the well-marked course.

Pink ribbons flagged the well-marked course. Credit: Ryan Goverts

Rain for several days preceding the race left portions of the trail with some mud, but certainly passable. Running on grass after passing a muddy spot helped to kick the weight of any lingering mud off my shoes.


Credit: Ryan Goverts

We were running the course counter-clockwise around Blue Marsh Lake. That placed the ski hill on the course at mile 10/11, my toughest – although not my slowest – mile.  The slowest pace came around mile 23/24 where the uphill/downhill pattern continued. I can also attribute the slowdown to my second rookie mistake letting a horseback riding group get ahead of me while I munched on a salted potato at an aid station. How was I to know they would saunter along for a period of time before again breaking out into a trot? Several of us walked the single track during that time rather than attempt to spook a horse as we shouted “on your left” to the rider. No, better to loose a few minutes and pick up the pace later.

I would tell you how lovely the scenery was, but honestly I was watching the trail underfoot very carefully. I did well until about mile 24 when the beautiful cloud cover gave way to a bit of sunshine. I recall thinking “gee, it’s a bit more difficult to see the trail detail with this dappled sunshine” when – boom – I was down. No harm done, I was back on my feet as quickly as I went down.

Pulling out of the the last aid station I was ready to be finished. I chatted with a couple of guys just behind me on the trail. Their delightful conversation helped me keep going.  Oddly, I have run shorter and mentally more difficult races, but I felt this was the most physically challenging race I have run.  I have done marathons through smoldering heat, nor’easters, angry ocean whipping over the breakwall, and sleet blowing across the Susquehanna. Still, the Blues Cruise was more challenging. And, of course, I plan to do it again, with tougher training built in before the race.


Credit: Ryan Goverts

Finish time? 7:03:11, thanks to a combination of Tailwind in my pack, potatoes with salt, an orange slice and a sip of Coke at several aid stations. I arrived at the finish of that beautiful, hilly, well-marked course in time to say good-bye to my friends who came through the finish much earlier.

Food was abundant, but my stomach said to settle for a grilled cheese. A grabbed a bottle of water, did a 5-minute mud removal cleanup and headed for home. My tired muscles were a strong reminder that I had met the challenge of a second 50K trail race.

Thank you Blues Cruise race directors and volunteers for making the race possible.

Discovering Zoomer

You never know what you will run across when traveling. My gem this week is a magazine titled Zoomer, Unknownleft behind by the traveler before me. Thank you, unknown fellow traveler, for the introduction to this energetic read. Zoomer is a Canadian publication, into its sixth year and, to my thinking, slightly edgier than U.S. publications I’ve read that seek the Boomer audience.

I further explored the Zoomer  online presence. It professes to serve as a lifestyle website customized for the discriminating 45-plus demographic. It succeeds, offering a cross-section of online news and feature topics on lifestyle and health targeting women and men from their forties through their 90’s. There may even be a couple in their 100’s that I have overlooked.

Boston is ever on the runner’s mind this week and the Zoomer connection jumped out at me. An on-line column that is frank, interesting and speaks to our health and wellbeing “This is What 70 Looks Like” is written by Boston Marathoner and first-in-her-age-group multiple times   (F65-69 and F70-74) Dr. Jean Marmoreo.dr.jean_ I’m saving the link to read more of her articles. I don’t know that they will get me to her Boston finish time of 3:48:57, but her advice and inspiration on other facets of life can’t hurt.

The online content of Zoomer covers the gamut from money to travel to the arts, all of which lead me to a life planned for exuberance and action, at whatever level we can play.

Now, the dilemma: Do I take the left-behind magazine with me to continue reading articles on my travels, knowing I will not find a copy on the newsstand at my destination? Do I return the favor of the previous traveler by leaving the copy as I found it (with a few of my scribbled notations inside) for the next traveler to discover and enjoy? Hmmmmm



Hilly Half in Chambersburg

The Chambersburg (PA) Half Marathon has been around for 35 years, yet somehow I avoided running it. Friends talked of this race and I had heard it all: Chambersburg is hilly, it’s hard, it’s cold.  So of course as perverse as my running friends are, they return multiple times. course_map_half

The Georgetown 10-Miler was on the list in my Roughed-Out Race Schedule and was also scheduled for this weekend. I made the switch to Chambersburg, mostly to take on a tough course as a final test that my knee is ready for Boston‘s hills. It was also an opportunity to take along some registration applications for the Capital 10-Miler scheduled at the end of March.

And hilly it is at Chambersburg. What everyone describes as a “monster hill” greets runners as they climb several hundred feet beginning before mile 3, only to tackle that same hill on their return around mile 10.

It was refreshing to participate in an old-school race; no chip on the shoe or the bib, just an experienced and accurate team with a clock at the start/finish and an efficient crew pulling bib tags as you move through the finish line.

What I saw on the 13.1 mile course is beautiful farm country, cattle and barns so close to the road you can almost touch, deer running across the distant hills. It is a race open to road traffic with volunteers posted at several locations. However, it is a course where all of a runner’s senses must be engaged. Traffic isn’t heavy and drivers were patient and considerate, but dips between hills makes it difficult for vehicles and runners to see each other from any distance. 

Having scheduled a long run earlier in the week, my legs were not ready to give me a strong half-marathon time. I made the decision early in (even before the monster mile) to pace myself to run at goal marathon pace, using the race as a day of my training plan.

River Runner friends did well in AG awards and even one 1/2 PR.

Some of my running tribe – River Runners did well in AG awards and even one 1/2 PR.

Outcome? 2:06 & change and I did manage to place in the 55+ age group (as a senior runner at age 66, I should make that 55++). 

Not surprisingly, race officials prohibited strollers, dogs and headphones from the course, both in writing on registration applications and again verbally prior to the start. What was surprising was the officials’ swift action to disqualify runners who defied the prohibition and ran with listening devices. As a race director, I know it isn’t easy to enforce rules that may have runners deciding they won’t be back to your race. It was refreshing to see Chambersburg holding tough on this for the safety of all runners.

If you plan ahead and are into a hilly country course, Chambersburg has a race application for 2015 on their website, linked above. UnknownJust leave your music at home and bring your love of country roads.

How was your weekend running?

Running Raw (foods that is) & Stretching Limits

I happened upon a brief news item in a few weeks ago. It reported a couple in Australia set a new world record running a marathon each day in 2013. Alan Murray and Janette Murray Wakelin ran those marathon distances by completing a journey around the perimeter of Australia.

Credit: runraw2013

Credit: runraw2013

I’ll forgive for referring to this couple as “elderly.”  It is after all an online news source geared to Generation Y. Alan and Janette, Age 68 and 64 respectively, had specific goals and a nutrition plan.

First, the nutrition plan: raw fruits and vegetables exclusively. Sixteen years earlier, Janette was diagnosed with cancer. Already a vegan, she began a raw diet which for her was successful.



Their goals were many. They spread the word about the positive impact of an active lifestyle, promoted kindness for living beings, and raised environmental issues.  The couple fundraised for several charities that promote active living as well.

When reading interviews, I frequently find unexplored questions.  In this case, my unasked questions were: “On exactly what day of this 365-day mission of a daily marathon with your partner for life did you have the blow-up of all blow-ups? Did you keep running during the meltdown or just stand alongside the road screaming at each other? Which of you cracked first?”



As I searched further, it was clear my questions were irrelevant to this couple. They don’t seem the type to waste energy on disagreement, nor is this their first multiple-marathon goal. On their website Running Raw Around Australia, they chronicle an earlier celebration of the millennia by running 2,000 (more precisely 2,182) kilometers across New Zealand, running 51 marathons in 51 days.

In her interview with the Sydney Herald, Janette made it clear that in a state of optimum health, she believes the possibilities are limitless.

Which has me musing about limits, those that come from other sources in our lives and those that are self-imposed. How many runners, whether struggling to maintain 20 miles a week or training for a third ultra in a year, have not heard at least one negative and usually unsolicited comment from a well-meaning friend, colleague or family member.

Whether or not my state of health and conditioning would take me through months of daily sequential marathons, there are many facets of my life that I wouldn’t willingly give up. I would certainly miss the occasional concert, theatre, film I can’t wait to see. It would be really difficult to give up quiet time with family and training and social sessions with a variety of running friends.  Those are my personal limits, not limits outwardly imposed.

For this couple, their love of running, their willingness to fundraise and spread the word about healthy living places it well within their limits.  I look forward to seeing what running project is in the future for them.test-your-limits-white-background-concept-challenging-oneself-to-set-new-records-29747515

Now, about you. What are you limits?  Have you already determined what you can physically accomplish? Do your friends and family support your push of the limits?


Gansett Makes a Marathon Move To Fall 2013

I’ve found a reason to write about my 2011 Gansett Marathon. This Narragansett RI race Towers-612x372has announced a move of their marathon from April to October 26, 2013.

Now, I know it’s August and most marathoners will have targeted their Fall marathon and begun training based on the date, terrain, climate, etc. If you have delayed making that final decision and have a fairly competitive finish time (generally five minutes faster than Boston standards), take a look at Gansett.

What does Gansett offer qualified runners? Here is what it offered me:

A fast field of runners:  I ran Boston for five years and Gansett appealed to me with its slightly more demanding qualifying time, a small race with a fast field. Well, it was that and more. Looking through the entrants and qualifying races and times, I saw my qualifying time was the slowest among the registrants. Gulp. The field was a bit intimidating, but I was up for the challenge.

Minimal morning commute: Get your hotel reservation in early and you can see the start line from your room.  With a Start/Finish near the ocean in Narragansett, slide-03-1we stayed at the Village Inn with a 2-minute walk to the start. The Village Inn is a friendly hotel and convenient at the finish as well since race awards, post-race food etc. are held there.

Scenic course:  Much of this course is right along the ocean. This can mean strong winds as it did in the Spring of 2011. My experience with training runs against the wind tunnel known as the Susquehanna River were perfect preparation for this race day.

There are also beautiful seaside homes, a couple of miles through a wooded area, a brief portion of working harbor facilities and also a short stint near a busy shopping area. There is opportunity for wildlife spottings. We saw deer, wild turkey and a number of shore birds while driving some portions of the course pre-race day).

Course Monitors who know their stuff: The Narragansett Running Association in general exudes no frills but friendly runners and knowledgeable volunteers.  As I ran by the the course monitor just past Mile 15, he shouted to me “relax your shoulders.”  I past the same point, same monitor at Mile 25.  He thankfully wasn’t shouting the typical ‘you’re almost there’ but instead prompted several runners as we went by:  “I know you’re hurting but you can hold your pace.  Just hold on.”  OK, if I had found this guy at the finish I would have hugged him and then asked if he had any client openings on his coaching schedule.


Back of shirt – same logo on finisher patch

Quality shirts and age-group awards:  I’m still wearing the shirt on a regular basis. Thankfully, Gansett offered women’s sizing. The finisher patch is in use as well, sewn over a frayed knee on my work jeans.   As it turned out, I had a good day finishing first place in AG 60-64 (4:15 finish), and one of the most beautiful awards I have received at a race.

Age Group Award 2011 Gansett Marathon

Age Group Award 2011 Gansett Marathon

While I give away a number of awards and arrange to have others recycled, this glass ship stays on my bookshelf.

I expect that shirt styles and awards vary each year, but I have no doubt they will continue to be quality selections.

Post-Race Party:  There is an opportunity to talk with other runners and raise a glass to our good fortune to find this marathon.  I was motivated enough that walking up a flight of stairs to Simon’s Lounge on my post-marathon legs was a mere inconvenience.

Ocean states have great food:  Along with the wonderful seafood chowder you would expect along the New England coast, there are fine dining choices in Naragansett to be enjoyed. My favorite meal, however, was breakfast at the Bluebird Cafe in Wakefield RI. Their entire menu has a bit of a southwestern flare and is completely from scratch.  With four people in our party, we each ordered something different and all  was delicious. Three years later, I remember my choice: a build-your-own omelet with yellow grits on the side.  I could taste the freshness and quality. A fantastic food finale to a great Gansett Marathon weekend in Rhode Island.

Saturday Race Day:  Saturday destination races are hard to find.  The advantage is a day to recuperate, sightsee or have a more relaxing travel day after a good night’s sleep.

Morning walk post-marathon along an angry ocean

Stillarunner on a misty morning post-marathon  walk along the seawall

If any of this suits your taste and qualifying time, check out their Facebook page for updates, give it a shot and report back.  

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.