Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Boston Marathon

A Breath of Fresh Air at Local Races

The perfect wind down after the beautiful big-race, big-city Boston Marathon is a local, scenic race. Or two. I rarely schedule two races in a weekend, or a week, but two local runs last weekend were not to be missed. A Saturday race with an 8 a.m. start took me on rural roads over Peter’s Mountain. Signs reading “stay in low gear” are a wake-up call on this winding early morning drive.

Millersburg Ferry

Millersburg Ferry crossing the Susquehanna

Arriving in the town of Millersburg, a turn toward the river takes you there, passing a swinging pedestrian bridge and the ferries, recently added to the National Registry of Historic Sites. The 5K benefits The Millersburg Ferry Boat Association. The Dick Fralick River Run 5K is a  winding loop primarily through a park located along the Susquehanna River. The team of Jeremy and Caryn Hand make this 5K a success with Jeremy organizing and directing and Caryn baking up a storm to provide delicious dessert door prizes photoand selling perfect-for-running hair band creations that stylishly hold back rebellious locks. My 25:54 finish gave me a first in AG 60+ and a $15 gift certificate to the Armstrong Valley Winery.

Post-race with AG friend Joy

With  AG friend Joy post-race

This calls for another trip over Peter’s Mountain to check out the winery and redeem my certificate.



Sunday brought the second not to be missed race, the Harrisburg Area Road Runners Club (HARRC) 40th Anniversary Celebration 5K/10K. 10341664_10203637338075484_3556217530479668456_nHARRC was created at the beginning of the running boom and has been there through the waxing and waning of interest in running. HARRC originated the Harrisburg Marathon and has held a club run, open to members and nonmembers, every Sunday for 40 years. Along with organizing it’s own races, HARRC continues to help other organizations raise funds by providing volunteers and has timed other races beyond count.

Under the direction of Kelly Spreha, it was a cool windy morning run on a loop of hilly tree-lined lanes on the former State Hospital Grounds  and through portions of the Capital Area Greenbelt. I chose the 10K and finished with a 53:33. The race  which raised funds for Owen’s Foundation had a strong turnout, good media coverage, great food plus a wonderful opportunity to see friends.

Happy Anniversary, HARRC

Happy Anniversary, HARRC

Some participants were charter members of HARRC and others weren’t yet born when the organization was founded but play an integral role in continuing its success and service to the running community. Here’s to another 40!


Beautiful Boston


The Mackey ocean playground

Absent from the Boston Marathon for three years, 2014 called me back. This race is so much more than the race.

Friday Foré

Our approach to the big weekend was a measured one, enjoying an ocean-side run along the New Hampshire coast with friends. The day ended with a beautifully prepared late-night dinner where we reluctantly left the table just short of midnight.

Saturday Shuffle 

Avoiding the hassle of driving in Boston, a morning that came too early found us catching the commuter bus from Portsmouth to South Station. After a luggage drop at the superbly located  College Club of Boston, we made way through packet pick-up without a wait. How do they serve 38,000 runners with that efficiency? The Expo was well spaced with lots of new products and a few celebrity runner sitings.

With a Monday race day, Saturday evening is traditionally my time to gather up my Boston-based friends and catch up over dinner. This year, we chose Joe’s American Bar & Grille, casual with delicious selections and local favorites.  Macaroni and cheese with lobster was my choice and perfect to keep the carb count building. photo

An after-dinner walk on Boylston Street, closed off to traffic, became a promenade with hundreds of people, runners, families, locals, mulling around the finish line.  There was a sense of serenity in that evening crowd, a feeling that can only follow the deepest of pain and loss.

Take A Breath Sunday

The day before any marathon, and this one in particular, is my day for quiet and contemplation. After a brief shake-out run in the Public Gardens, a service down the street, a light mid-day lunch/dinner and the ritual laying out of race morning clothing/bib/Garmin, I hunkered down for the day.

Race Day Reverie, Resilience & Reverence

A 38,000 runner race, and I walk right into several of my training partners enroute to the bus lineup. Arriving in Hopkinton, we settle in until our corrals are called.

My thrift store halloween fleece buy fit right in and was left at the start along with other runner items for pickup by Big Brothers Big Sisters.

My thrift store halloween fleece fit right in and was left at the start for pickup by Big Brothers Big Sisters.



With an 11 a.m. start, temps were a bit warm as I topped a hill near Mile 15 and spotted friends and family.

Interesting that I could tell myself my body was aligned. The camera tells the truth: I was curled up like a comma.

Interesting that I could tell myself my body was aligned. The camera tells the truth: I was curled up like a comma.

Continuing on through the hills somewhere around Mile 18,  One Run For Boston‘s Danny Bent  is suddenly on the course wrapping me in a hug.




I see several runners with cramping legs and other difficulties. Not wanting to join their ranks, I maintain an even pace, continue to drink water and munch on the clementine stashed in my pocket. At mile 21, I remind myself it’s downhill and flat from here. I can feel the heightened emotion of fellow runners and hear the increasing volume of the crowd as we make the turn onto Boylston. I finish at 4:39:21, a BQ (Boston Qualify for my non-running readers) with 39 seconds to spare.


Boston Finish


Continuing through the finish line wrapped in the activity and commotion, there is also a deep feeling of peace. I am honored and grateful to be among this community

A quick shower and check-out and we’re headed through Boston traffic for a comfort food dinner New England-style at Petey’s.  Broiled scallops and the very best coleslaw made for a perfect post-marathon meal.

Thank you Boston, thank you friends, thank you supporters of One Run for Boston. It’s time to go home.

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



A Stage at a Time – One Run for Boston

It seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, it was a very good idea. Three creative and organized event planners from the UK envisioned a fundraising mechanism for victims of the Boston bombing. For more background, here is a link to their story.

So, yes it was actually a fine idea brought to fruition. photoIt was just a few second thoughts about my participation as I tiptoed out the door into the 3:45 a.m. darkness to meet friends a half hour away at a car park. One by one, we arrived, Emily, Stacey, and the dynamic duo, our leader and organizer, Jeremy and Caryn Hand. Before our 4:30 a.m. departure for another hour drive north, Caryn laid out a home-baked cake-style oatmeal on the Jeep hood. With those morsels of nutrition, we were on our way to take our place with One Run For Boston(ORFB). For his part, when Jeremy isn’t arranging details for a ORFB stage, he is running ultras and directing a race to support the Millersburg Ferry.

Our quintet of runners was headed north to Stage 290, Selinsgrove to Stonington PA, 11.8 miles with a 6:40 a.m. start. Arriving at the Stonington Fire Company, where we met up with Lindsay and with Barry.  Leaving a vehicle at Stonington, like a bunch of school kids we lumbered into Barry’s van for the drive to the Selinsgrove start. Barry is a local runner and Boston Marathon veteran. At our start, we met Mark, another Boston Marathon veteran, 25 Boston races under his belt as well as a coach (irunicoach) who did some wonderful fine tuning at the local level for publicity and preparation for our stage.  His wife, Robin – no stranger to marathons herself, provided welcome support along the route.

As we saw the Stage 289 runners approach in headlamps and reflective IMG_8364gear it was applause and greetings all around. They had been running through the night, since 3:15 a.m on a brisk 30 degree morning. We chatted for a few moments, wished each team of runners well and they were off to their day as we were off to begin our stage. The Sunbury Police gave us an escort through the heavier morning traffic as we entered the street to the Shikellamy High School  where cheering students  had erected an arch for ORFB runners to pass through as we headed out of town.

photoLeaving the mostly flat terrain behind us, we were soon progressing through a series of hills. I believe there were four, but at some point you just stop counting.  My Boston training held me in good stead, only feeling a serious calf burn on the last, and what seemed like the toughest, hill.

As we approached the finish of Stage 290, a deer peaked out of the woods to greet us. That greeting was followed by cowbells and cheers coming from runners signed up for Stage 291 of ORFB, ready to take on more of Pennsylvania’s hills in the journey east to Boston.


Mingling with Stage 291 before we cheer them off

There, our vehicle awaited us. We said good-bye to Stage 291 as they enthusiastically continued down Route 61. We gave our thanks to super support Robin, and good-byes to Mark and Barry, both of whom are headed to Boston in a couple of weeks.

As I push the button to publish this post, the ORFB torch and more than 25 runners in Stage 308 have likely crossed the New Jersey/New York border.

There is still an opportunity to be a part of this crazy-how-could-this-possibly-work event.  Go to One Run for Boston and click on the yellow half-moon icon on the left of the page that reads “DONATE.” Nothing can undo the pain and loss, but we can all share in doing what we can to ease the load.




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?

2014 Roughed-out Race Schedule

With a new year and new hopes, some familiar and some new races are in the mix. After a 2013 that started strong only to fall flat with a non-running injury, I look forward to a fresh start. Here is my  enthusiastically penciled in list of potential races, big and small, old and new.


Runners warming up before the Georgetown 10-Miler start

Georgetown 10-Miler – March 8 & 9 – I was signed up last year for this 10-miler held by the DC Running Club, but that darn skiing injury got in the way. Instead, I volunteered at the start/finish. This race sold out last year and has expanded to offer the 10-Miler as a two-day event.


Mile 2 of the Capital 10-Miler

Capital 10-Miler – a run for the Arts – March 30th in Harrisburg PA. I will be directing rather than running this one, but I am having fun watching friends put together teams.  We offer a flat course along the river, over bridges and out of traffic.  Participating arts organizations offer discounts and tickets to registrants and award winners.  I’m happy to see my fellow running and food blogger at See Jain Run is coming in for the race.

Boston MarathonAgain, injury made me a no-show in 2013.  There is so much to be said about this race, I won’t try to tackle it here. With the injury, I wasn’t trained for a fresh qualifying marathon in 2013, but thankfully my time and the date of the Hamptons Marathon in 2012 tided me over.


HARRC After Dark Riverfront course

HARRC After Dark Harrisburg PA 7K race at 7 p.m.  The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) has sanctioned this race as the Pennsylvania State Championship 7K for 2014. This is a wonderful evening race along the Susquehanna Riverfront. Early enough to enjoy post-race festivities, grab a shower and go out for dinner.

New York City Marathon – Sunday, November 2nd.  I didn’t intentionally schedule two huge big city races in the same year, but circumstances sometimes dictate. I was registered with a qualifying time in 2012 when NY cancelled.  NY offered a choice of registration for 2013 or 2014.  It’s fortunate I chose 2014 since 2013 was a no-go for marathon training.

Across the Bay 10K – Chesapeake Bay Bridge Run – I’m considering this, even though its a week after New York.  The Bay Bridge is beautiful and the event’s director is none other than Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivary. The race is almost sold out. Time to decide.

What else? To meet my goal of running 66 miles on Route 66 in the 66th year, I must soon find the time and the right races or runs.  I have another 41 miles to go to reach my goal and the clock is ticking.

State Senior Games of 2014 I may or may not go to Minneapolis for the National Senior Games is 2015, but I plan to run a couple of qualifying races at the State Senior Games this year. If you are over 50, you’re qualified to participate in the State Games. Road races are one small component of the many athletic competitions they offer.  Try it just for fun. If your state’s schedule doesn’t work for you, check out a neighboring state. In 2011, I qualified for the 2013 National Senior Games 5K at the Pennsylania State Games and qualified for the 10K at the Delaware event.

That’s my roughed-out race plan for the year. Will I see any of my readers at these races? What’s your plan?


Post Mont-Tremblant 10K Musing – Was it that Jacqueline Gareau?

Like any dedicated age-group runner, I generally take a morning-after look at the on-line results from my week-end race.  I first briefly scan the top overall and masters results.  Then on to the real interest area – my age group results: who turned up in my AG, their times in comparison to mine, etc.  This was exactly my morning musing yesterday. With coffee in hand and a good internet connection I went to the results of the 2013 Mont-Tremblant demi-marathon.PENTAX Image

Still gently testing my healing knee, pining to do the half but knowing my training wasn’t sufficient, I ran the 10K event. From overall results posted at the finish, I knew I had placed third in AG. AG winners were not announced at the post-race event so I didn’t have information on others who placed.  On the Results web page, I keyed into F60+ and saw there were nine women in my age group, and some impressive race times.  The F60+ woman in second place, Johanne Fortier, came in at 52:05:6, a good five minutes ahead of my third place finish.

Scanning up to the F60+ first place finisher, I see a time of 45:20.9.  Not only was she first in age group, but 51st place overall and seventh woman to finish. Who is this amazing person?  The name is Jacqueline Gareau, hmmm – Jacqueline Gareau, why is that name familiar?


Photo credit: Karl Tremblay

Oh, could it be that Jacqueline Gareau, winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon as well as other marathons, a Canadian Olympian among many other accomplishments? I’m thinking, yes it could.


8115L-jacqueline-gareau-1 Photo Credit: Paul Foisy

I love this about road racing. You never know who will show up at a race, particularly when you are out of your own stomping grounds and stepping into theirs. There is usually no clear way to know who among the crowd is in your age group and when it will be a running legend. That makes the surprises at the finish all the more awe-inspiring.

In addition to sharing an age group, I have something else in common with Jacqueline Gareau.  We have both run Boston, the difference being – and its a big difference – she has won the Boston Marathon and I have met the qualifying time to get there. Judging from the philosophy on Gareau’s  website, we also share a love of nature and an active life.


Senior Games placed our AG on our backs. No mystery about the competition here.

More about the Mont-Tremblant demi-marathon event in a later post, but in the meantime: If you have had age group competition surprises in your races, drop a comment and let me know.  Let’s compare notes.