Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for running group

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.


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.


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?

Tuesday in the Park with Flora, Fauna and Friends

I’m a regular in a morning running group, the Tuesday Morning Gang. We meet at a nature sanctuary with a great path.  It’s interesting terrain with a 3+mile loop                                          

surrounding a lilly-covered lake.

Wildwood Park provides a good workout, with two miles of ascents and descents. Through the hills, a runner faces 940 feet of elevation change.

Then, the prize! 

More than a mile of the park loop is flat canopied towpath.

This stretch sits between the lake and a narrow swamp bordering an industrial road.  The atmosphere on the towpath differs from the other miles on the loop.  Runners and walkers who have been chattering become hushed on the towpath, voices lowered.  Fishermen and birdwatchers are tucked here and there in the brush.  They come with poles, lawn chairs, binoculars, cameras, and tripods, then quietly wait for opportunity.

Not all of my running group shares my appreciation for this shady, swampy section.  Some avoid the exposed gnarled tree roots, ruts and rodents.  As I swing onto the towpath, they turn onto the berm of the industrial road just outside the park, running parallel to the swamp side of the towpath. 

Their muffled conversation and the sound of truck traffic occasionally filters across the swamp.

What wildlife will be sharing the towpath with me today?  First the usual critters: a chipmunk, then a cottontail.  No snakes or weasels today.  This morning, I take a run break to spy on a birder intent on her view.  I quietly ask what she has found. 

Four white egrets and one blue egret are caught in her lens, fishing for breakfast.  She is one of the patient folk in the world who by example teach me to take a moment.

Waving good-bye to my birding mentor, I hit the Garmin start button and continue along the towpath.  To my right this time, I hear a deep sonorous bellow.  Does the sound belong to a horn of a tractor-trailer pulling out of the industrial park?  I hear it again, and again.  No, this was no truck horn, but a bullfrog sending a message.

Here, the magic of nature survives among runners, walkers, bicyclists and nature study folks circling throughout the day.  All the creatures of the park and those of us who come to visit and exercise are there encircled by industrial warehouses and petroleum companies on one concourse, and a major four-lane highway on another.

Enough revery.  Better get another mile in fast or I’ll be late for coffee with the gang.  A start to my day running a demanding course surrounded by the scents and sounds of nature,  followed by a post-run coffee with friends who love running;  these are just a few of the reasons I’m still running.

And you, are you still running?

What entices you out the door?