Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for relay team

One (3,300 Mile) Run for Boston – Continuing through PA Today


Shelter from the storm pre-start with HARRC support runners. See histories on One Run for Boston Leg #269 link.

The One Run for Boston baton continues across Pennsylvania today, June 28, moving into New Jersey early evening.  Yesterday as Gary Grobman’s group traveled to his relay point, the radio was blaring warnings of flash floods and tornadoes. With Gary’s Leg 269 completed, we continue our interview, post-run. (See pre-run interview.)

The race organizer in me wants to know how the relay points were coordinated.  Was there anything other than the live internet feed that let you know when the immediate relayer from the west was approaching?
Grobman with Megan Capuano, Leg 268 Runner

Megan Capuano, Leg #268 Runner hands off the baton (aka ‘Miles’) at Reedsville.

The organizers provided the start and end points for each stage, and the lead runners were tasked to identify the best (but in some cases, not the shortest) route and post it on the Web on the page individuals joined up. Stage leaders communicated by text and cell. The race organizers for some stages (but not all) had a support vehicle that kept in touch with the “live” stages as well as those just ahead, and I had sufficient notice that our stage was about to begin.


Overcast skies but the worst of the weather had passed.

Tell us about the hand-offs, start and finish of your leg of the relay.

Our stage started 80 minutes late, partially because the previous stage ended up being 14 miles rather than the 10 anticipated. There was a ceremonial handoff with lots of pictures at the end of each leg. At the beginning of our stage, we were joined by a pack of supporters, including the Juniata Valley Striders and Mifflin County Huskies Cross Country team, who escorted us for the first two miles. The torrential rainstorm we experienced driving up magically disappeared, and we started off at a comfortable 9-minute pace and kept that pace during the entire run. The end of our stage was uneventful, as I handed off to Joe Church, who lost his wife this year, and is dedicating his runs to her memory. I recently participated in Joe’s successful effort on a local high school track to run 100 miles in 24 hours, raising money for cancer research. Awesome guy.

'Miles' passes to Joe Church, running Leg 270

‘Miles’ passes to Joe Church, running Leg #270 See link for information about Joe and run supporters

In my experience, every run has one strange, odd happening that makes it stand out from others.  What experience will you most remember from this relay?

Perhaps the most memorable for me is a photo taken of Scott Falkner, running by himself two stages ahead of ours. There was a torrential downpour. Trees were down, and roads flooded. The photo shows Scott charging into what appears to be serious road flooding. I found it symbolic of how strong-willed runners can be, overcoming life’s challenges.

Scott Falkner, Leg 268 included some water running

Scott Falkner, Leg #268 included some water running

You have quite a posse running with you.  Other than being good company and strong runners, were they helpful in setting up the logistics, following your route etc?

The support provided by those from my stage and from other stages, and the race organizers, was quite incredible. There was an entire community of over 900 runners on the nonpublic One Run for Boston Facebook page that was only open to participants. I felt that I was part of a family, willing to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to keep the baton (aptly named “Miles”) moving toward Boston. The event was an impressive display of determination by the running community to keep the memory of the Boston tragedy alive, and honor the memory of the victims and survivors by raising money for their support.

Donations for One Fund for Boston can be made through the One Run for Boston website. 


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.