Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for marathon

Qualifying for Boston through the Ages and through Age Groups

As a young pipsqueak, age 58, and latecomer to marathons, I ran my first Boston Marathon in the W55-59 AG. At that time, Boston’s qualifying time for me was 4:15. I’m still making that trek to Boston every few years. While I’ve increased in age by 12 years, my qualifying time (70-74 AG) has increased to 4:55. Sound like an easy qualifying time? Think again.

I’ve begun following a new (at least new to me) blog, Mathematical runner.com. In a recent post, titled ‘Which Age Group has the Easiest Boston Marathon Qualifying Time?’ I learned that the easiest qualifying time does not belong to the group of persistent (mostly) white-haired ladies (mostly) lining up in the fourth wave.

In reviewing the data, Ray Charbonneau says that older women runners have the toughest qualifying times. Having debated this very point over a number of post-training run refreshments, I’ve found there are strong feelings about Boston qualifying times and their perceived equity. So, although they lost me in the finer points of the math, Mathematical Runners supported my view that qualifying times are a bit tough(er) for older women.

 

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Harrisburg Marathon, my first marathon, 2003, a decent finish but not a BQ. In fact, I was such a novice, I didn’t know anything about BQing.

 

Another point made in that blog is the scant number of women in the senior age groups. I have noticed the number of participants in my age group dwindles every few years, and seems to dwindle more rapidly than the number of men in the same age group. Still, no matter how few women are competing, there are some incredibly talented women in their sixties, seventies and beyond. If I can finish mid-pack in my Boston age group, I call it a victory.

A few years later I learned how difficult it was to BQ and that getting older didn’t necessarily make it any easier.

Those of you who enjoy exploring the math of all this will certainly enjoy other posts in Mathematical Runner as well, particularly those who are following all things Boston in the countdown to 2018 Patriot’s Day April 16.

Read on and run on.

 

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Reaching New Heights in Olympic Viewing

This week I have found a way to do almost any chore while watching television. For someone who, with the exception of a movie or two,  can go for weeks without turning on a  television, this week I made a reach for new heights.

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This anomaly is a repeat of my behavior every four years, and every two years to a lesser degree. The Summer Olympics have captivated me for years. Part of it is nostalgia. I remember a year watching  the Olympics with friends who had such enthusiasm, it lit a fire under my mild interest. After another four-year span, I recall kicking back at the midnight hour with the wonderful women in my family watching the women’s gymnastics competition happening on the other side of our world.

Another year I watched solo sharing the big moments with friends and family who were kind enough to share those moments with me over a telephone line.

Then, there were the Atlanta Olympics. A colleague enticed me to join her in participating in security training for the Olympics, spending a week in Atlanta. That experience is worth a separate post, but I will say I learned more about security than I did the Games that year.

There are more than enough reasons to give less of my time to the Summer Games, but the draw to watch remains. It’s as though they reach to me through the screen.

Athletes find themselves competing in less than stellar water, as in Rio, or compete in polluted air, as in China. Still I watch.

Commentators covering the the Games make absurd comments about competitors. Still I watch.

Summer storms knock my satellite coverage out at pivotal moments in competition. Still I watch.

Some of the events are a puzzle to me and I have difficulty following the judges’ decisions. Still I watch.

And here I am with the television humming in the background, watching the last day of swimming, beautiful competitions to watch.

Tomorrow morning, you can find me along with many others watching more than 150 women compete in the Women’s Olympic Marathon.

And where will you be? Watching from an athletic center or health club? Watching at the home of hospitable friends with a large screen tv? Watching solo?  Wherever you are, we will be cheering together.

Acceptance – Boston Marathon 2016

Four weeks after Boston 2016 and I’m finally coming to acceptance that my days of finish times on the brighter side of 4:30 may be in the past. Having pondered and ruminated over disappointing Boston results, I’m ready to close the book on it. My conclusion is that the overused analogy “life is a marathon” is spot on. As with so many plans we make for our lives, many of them far more important, beautiful or devastating than marathon training, the results are sometimes not what we have worked for.

I had set a modest goal of sub-4:30. This was the first marathon training cycle where I managed to get in each and every scheduled run and speedwork session. I also did a couple of successful shorter races during the training. Those optimistic online calculators indicated that my 4:30 plan was conservative.

During the huge pre-race events that are part of the Boston experience, I managed to stay low key with only one quick whirl through the expo on Saturday. Sunday, I took up an offer from some non-marathoning friends and joined them at the Boston Film Festival. Sitting in a cushy theatre for several hours was a great way to avoid the temptation of spending too much time on my feet.

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The Athletes Village looking a bit like a beach party as my speedy friend Holly and I wait for our waves to be called.

 

Race morning, I timed my arrival at Boston Common to catch one of the later buses to Hopkinton. 

Not to worry about getting chilled while waiting in the village, the temperature was already at 70 degrees when I arrived.

I usually swing over to the water tables every 2 or 3 miles, not this year. From mile 2, I was a regular visitor. Generally, I don’t imbibe in gatorade until I have passed the 20-mile mark. Not this year. From about mile 7 on, I could feel my quads tighten in a way I don’t usually experience until the last couple miles. Pitifully, I trudged up the Newton hills with no pretense that I was still running this course.

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Trudging past friends along the course. Credit: Jessica Billings-White

About mile 16, there was a short-lived revival in energy level. Around Brookline, our overheated bodies met with the shock of a chilling wind in our faces. Where spectators at Hopkinton and the first several towns were in shirt sleeves and tank tops, as we journeyed toward the finish, those cheering along the way were in jackets and hats.

Finishing at 4:36, with cold fingers attempting to hold my banana and water, the wind took my much needed heat sheet.

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I continued through the gauntlet to exit at Arlington and saw my friends waiting just outside the barricade. They ushered me the short blocks back to my hotel and waited patiently while I luxuriated in a long hot shower. 

Off to a delicious dinner and conversation and time to begin the process from second guessing to acceptance.

Pining for the Trail

On these beautiful early Spring days, I’m longing to be leaving a trailhead and moving through soft dirt, rocks and roots. That I am longing for trail rather than running trail is due to my earlier decisions and time commitments. How was I to know that running a couple of trail 50K’s would spoil me for road training? I did sneak off for a couple of short hikes on the Appalachian Trail; wonderful but not the satisfaction of a distance trail run.

I committed this year as I prepare for Boston, barring sickness or family emergency, to complete every scheduled training session. How committed am I? Taking seriously the warning of our record-breaking January snowfall,

 

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City Island became the parking lot for snow removed from city streets

I shifted schedule and managed to run my long run the day before the mega-storm hit with full force, limiting runners to training in  yaktraks or snowshoes – and only after shoveling feet of snow from their doorways.

How committed? 1207301-An-image-of-a-bare-footed-women-running-with-some-thunder-and-lightning-in-the-background--Stock-PhotoLast week our  mid-week session of repeats was cancelled due to lightning flashing through the sky, I joined several other runners who sprinted to the nearby covered parking garage and completed the workout up and down the ramps.

Race director responsibilities for the Capital 10-Miler – a run for the arts – is the other wonderful commitment temporarily keeping me off the trails.  We are expecting some fantastic competitors and many runners who love the variety of this 10-mile course not to mention the camaraderie of returning runners. 

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Capital 10-miler course along the Susquehanna River. Photo credit: Bill Bonney Photography

 

While I love the excitement building to the race, It doesn’t allow much time to make my way out to the trails.

So, if you are anywhere near Central Pennsylvania, please join us for a great 10-mile race on Saturday, April 2nd. We have a number of runners coming in from neighboring states, so why not join them? If you do, please stop by to say hello to the race director.

Next up, I will see many of my readers in Boston, either running, volunteering or cheering along that historic course.

And after that, IMG_1938look for me running or hiking on the trails. I’m hooked.

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?

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A Beautiful Day for a Marathon – but

But, not my day.

It began as a perfect day for a marathon. With temps starting in the low 40’s and clear skies, I lined up with friends for the Aspire Harrisburg Marathon. Everyone was looking forward to taking a spin on the new course, seeing fresh neighborhoods and finishing on Restaurant Row among early diners and cheering spectators.

Cruising over the bridge at Mile 2.

Cruising over the bridge at Mile 2.

The first 7-8 miles were well-paced staying around 9:30 – 9:40. At around mile 9, I took a sip of my Tailwind and soon after began feeling nausea and light in the stomach. I continued on pace, hoping it would pass, but it was not to be. It persisted with some side cramps adding to the mix.

I was holding my pace but after another couple miles, I knew it was time to take stock and make a decision to tough it out or call it a day. I had looked forward to running the new course around mile 16 – 20 through a small neighborhood and historic rural scenery along the river.

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On Front St. with historic architecture backdrop.

Around mile 12, the internal discussion began.
Ego was firm. “You can do this. We’ve finished marathons through nor’easters, waves pummeling over breakfronts, 80 degree heat on asphalt roads. You’ve never dropped from a race of any distance for any reason. Why now?”
Body said “I’m really not looking forward to another 14 miles of this. Give me a break.”
Mind piped in: “Rationally, this is the time to run the new section of the course while it is safe and closed to traffic.”
Then Spirit spoke with a louder than usual authoritative voice: “We’re only doing the new section if Ego goes to sleep. Body is hurting and must have consideration. If we continue to the new section, we walk so body is comfortable.”

OK, so team decision, we walked miles 16 – 20 with Ego only once or twice trying to pump back up to a run but quickly brought into line. We walked past Fort Hunter, past homes in the Village of Hekton, and saw both again on a fast walk back to the turn into city neighborhoods.

At mile 19.75 having run and walked 3 hours, 30 minutes and 32 seconds, we completed the new section. We then left the course, diverting to the McDonald’s parking lot and my husband’s waiting car.

A ginger ale with ice followed  by a hot shower did wonders. I felt much better although still slightly nauseous. I have a body that is thankful, an ego that is quietly grumbling and ready for the next race, and a spirit that is thankful I’ve learned to listen.

NYC Marathon Bookend Days

Destination marathons, and even home town marathons, have a before and after. Taking on 26 miles requires your mental space. That may mean a day-before get together with friends who will patiently listen to you second guess your training plan. It may mean sitting quietly with yourself for even a short time, a moment to focus physical and mental energy. The closing bookend may be a day back at the office where the mind wanders to the previous day’s accomplishment and while your  body reminds you that, yes – you really did do that – again.IMG_0978

With New York, there was a before day to gently roll into that weekend and an after day of soaking up some post-marathon activity before a mid-day departure.

Our threesome took the ever-convient Amtrak in, with a window of time to discuss running, catching up on other miscellany, and more running talk.

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With running friends Carol and Becky. My green bib is a giveaway that they are speedier runners.

With a mid-day Friday arrival, we dropped our bags at the hotel and off to the Expo shuttle bus for the Javits Center. From the start, there is the distinct international feel to this marathon. We had ample time to pick up our registration bags, check out the running gear and with an extra day before the marathon, we dared to taste test the myriad of sample energy products on display.

There are items I know after a brief scent or a bite are not for me. Others I’m willing to try. I brought samples home to experiment with as I begin my next cycle of long training runs. I’ll let you know how they work for me.

Large selections of running gear did not tempt me. I seldom buy gear at an Expo. Well, there was the time in Boston when my luggage took another route, but aside from emergencies I’m more likely to ponder my selections until its too late. It’s a great way to save.

After a few hours of browsing time, the crowd was growing and we exited the Expo for an early dinner at Joe G’s, a Manhattan favorite for me, located below street level with a grotto feel and deliciously seasoned Italian.

Saturday started with an early shake-out run from the Da Vinci Hotel, a boutique place chosen for its proximity to the NYC Marathon finish line. The friendly, helpful staff were a bonus.

2-DSC00768 A cold rain fell and by mid afternoon the wind was picking up. It was a relaxing, do your own thing day. We could easily have fit in a show, but kept things unstructured,  rendezvousing for a few meals. I particularly liked the Bread and Honey market neaby,image where we restocked on snacks and bananas and enjoyed a hot cup of soup. A quick stop at the Westerly Natural Market (more samples in my cache), then a late lunch/early dinner was nearby at the Ivy Bar. It was time to call it a day.

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A gracious Meb signs autographs

Our closing bookend day had a great start, thanks to Terri, my running friend and fellow blogger at  See Jain Run. From her, I learned about a post-marathon day presentation and information session on a product I have yet to try (another sample I’m saving for an upcoming long training run. I’m looking forward to trying the product  – more on this later). IMG_0997There we had the opportunity to hear Olympian and winner of earlier Boston and NYC Marathons Meb Keflezighi  offer comments and insights on running  and competing and life, and some nutrition information from running coach and author Greg McMillan as well.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

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Whoever invented the rolling suitcase, thank you.

Off to catch the train with no time to spare, the bookends fold and marathon weekend is complete. Great marathon, great city, nasty weather. We’ll be back. Maybe.