Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Running

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.

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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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The Power of ‘Thank You’

Over breakfast recently with my friend Maura, she mentioned there are times she sends hand-written thank you notes. This is a younger friend, a technology and public relations professional who can accomplish anything online and is completely savvy with social media. stock-photo-14310278-thank-you-message-handwritten-with-calligraphy-penStill, she feels that a dinner invite or those special things friends and colleagues occasionally do for one another are worthy of a hand-written thank you.

I recalled that conversation as I looked through the journal of a long-time running friend who recently passed away. For years, Charlie Laverty could be seen at weekend runs, either racing or volunteering. In the volunteer role, he was unflappable, friendly and patient, always with a sense of humor. I loved working with him.

Charlie & friends preparing packets for 2006 Harrisburg Marathon

Charlie & friends preparing packets for 2006 Harrisburg Marathon. Photo Credit: Andrew O’Donnell

The runner journal Charlie left behind was succinct, given the many years of racing and race volunteering behind him. Some newspaper articles, a photo or two, and select race results were among the few items carefully placed in a 3-ring binder.

One item stood out and as a race director gives me pause. I pulled a small envelope and card from its plastic sleeve; a 2002 handwritten thank you note from Mike Garmin, Race Director of the Harrisburg Marathon that year. Mike’s note thanked Charlie for bringing his time and experience to the marathon and helping to make it a success.

Charlie in bib#3441 enjoying the 1996 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in D.C.

Charlie in bib#3441 enjoying the 1996 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler

These 14 years later, the note was there among the selected treasures that spoke of Charlie’s success and place in the running community.

Cherished running memories that would include PRs, news articles, and a hand-written thank you.

How will my thank yous be remembered? How will yours?

Lost in Amsterdam

To avoid the Capital 10-Miler post-race wrap-up chores, I’m indulging in wanderlust. Helped along in that quest by Cirsten’s blog, My Writers Block, where she explores the history of Amsterdam’s residents and buildings, my memories wander to my own brief exploration.

After my sister and I finished a river cruise through Belgium and The Netherlands, we took an extra day or two to explore Friesland

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Heeg Harbor, Friesland

and spend a night on dry land. An option for our last day was to stop in the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum down the street from our hotel in Amsterdam. 

I had only managed a couple of brief runs during our cruise (unless you’re counting my many laps around the ship’s upper deck).

Is this the track?

Is this the track?

While my sister enjoyed an early cup of coffee, I opted for the outdoors, letting her know I’d be returning in an hour or so. The front desk directed me down the street to Vondelpark.

Entering the park through a beautiful gate, I ran under an overhead walking bridge and took a look back to identify landmarks for my return. The park path appeared to be a circle, a circle of beautiful old residences, inviting outdoor restaurants, people walking dogs, more people riding bicycles.  Bicycles loaded with children on the handlebars and on extra seats, bicycles with business riders – briefcases stashed in their pannier, bicycles with spandexed riders.

After admiring some of the wildlife in the park,

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Blue Heron enjoying breakfast in Vondelpark

I noticed I was seeing the lovely homes and inviting outdoor restaurants a second time. How had I passed my landmark exit with the beautiful gate?  I turned around, backtracking. How does one get lost on a circular path? One more time around and still no gate in view.

O.K. Now the panic begins.  Is my sister looking at her watch wondering why I haven’t returned? Will I find my way out of this beautiful but perplexing piece of land in time to make our flight? Am I feeling a little panicked? Do I pick an exit and hop in a cab back to the hotel?

I spotted a park diagram posted nearby. While trying to identify my exit, an Amsterdam native out for a run and speaking fluent English asked if I needed help. Oh yes, I need help. Please point me to the ornate gate with the park name. We jogged together back to that somehow hidden gate, comparing running histories, families and travel.

Why hadn’t I seen the overhead walkway or the gate? Well, my entrance was not  actually on the circle, but was a dog leg leading to the circle.images

Waiving good bye to the kind stranger, I returned, once again passing under the overhead walking bridge and through those beautiful gates. I returned to find my sister packed up and dressed, relaxed, reading a magazine with no idea that my outing had been a bit adventurous. She looked so calm, it would have been unkind to share.

If you must get lost, Vondelpark is a beautiful place to carry it out. I had eaten up extra time for a museum visit, but sometimes running in a beautiful

Vondelpark gate

Vondelpark gate

park, even in a state of panic, trumps a museum.

Farewell Joy Johnson

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Credit: Jonathan Sprague for the Wall Street Journal

Joy Johnson. As I read the news from the New York City Marathon, the name was familiar. I pulled out the basket holding treasured hard copy articles, preceding the days before I began storing links on my laptop.

There it was: Page W1 of the Weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal October 31, 2008, an article on marathon competition among runners 80 years and above. It included an interview with Johnson, then age 81. Matthew Futterman’s article contained a subtitle quote from Johnson: “I want to die running.”

I’d kept the article for its two intriguing aspects. The first was information on biological changes that occur in older runners. Futterman discussed the loss of efficiency in the circulatory system and some of the reasons senior runners are more prone to injury.

The icing on the cake in the article was a review of the training regimen Johnson adopted to lower her marathon time and place well in her age group. At age 81, she upped her running to 50-55 miles a week, ran the bleachers at the stadium, ran hills and increased her speed work.

The conjecture about her fall at mile 20 in this year’s NYC Marathon pales to me in importance. This was a woman confident in her decisions.

Twenty years younger than Johnson but older than most runners, I’ve had occasion to wonder when the need to test my ability may give way. For each of us, who knows when and if the drive for personal best and the love of running will cool, when we will be too sensible or too fragile to wait for a race start wrapped in a wind-protecting garbage bag.

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Credit: Unknown. Facebook Photo

For Joy Johnson, the determination and drive didn’t subside at age 64 when she achieved a sub 4-hour marathon, it didn’t subside at age 80 when she upped her training.  It wasn’t the 2013 NYC Marathon, her last of many. Her love of running and willingness to work to her personal best were her companions to the end.

I’m scheduled to run the NYC Marathon in 2014. When I reach mile 20, I will be thinking of Joy Johnson, her love of running and her fellow runners, the drive and determination that brought her to the start and took her to the finish line. I’ll be reminded of what can be achieved and how to live fully while achieving it.

Well done, Joy.

FFL

USATF Masters Championship 5K

Funny thing about running, new experiences can occur after decades of racing the same distance.  Running a weekend 5K generally isn’t noteworthy.

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Last weekend’s Syracuse Festival of Races was for me – for at least three reasons. It was:

1) a first experience running in a USATF Masters race (I’m a little late in starting, since I was age-qualified 26 years ago).  The Festival of Races hosted the USA Track & Field Masters 5K Championship Race for 2013.

2) a first experience standing within four feet of the Start line before the race start.  USATF Masters participants lined up at the Start in front of runners in the general 5K.

3) a first experience having my shoe come untied during a race, not just at a 5K but at any of the hundreds of races I have run.

Within 20 feet after crossing the start line, I felt the sting of a shoestring tip snapping against my shin.  My initial hope was the shoestring belonged to someone running beside me.  No such luck.  I was near the outside of the course and quickly hopped to the curb to avoid becoming a hazard to any of the other women running.  Within 30 seconds, my shoe was retied and I worked myself back into the moving stream of runners. but not before the Masters pack had left me far behind.  Now, I was where I usually start at a 5K – back in the middle of the pack.

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F65-69AG awardees Sue Gustafson (24:32) , Jan Holmquist (22:08),  Lenore Webber (25:04) with USATF LD Runners Div. Chair Don Lein

That 2) and 3) would occur at 1) was a disappointment.  That I finished 5th out of 7th in my F65-69 age group with a 27:05 was not. The level of performance among the Masters runners was inspiring.  I felt honored to be running with such talented women.

Stumbling across this race was a gift to begin with. My travels were taking me through Syracuse NY and as usual I looked for a local running group or race.  I could have registered for the 5K without registering for the championship, but why not step it up?  I looked through the information on registering. To participate in the Masters 5K, registrants were required to be U.S. citizens (✔) , members of USATF ( ✔) but no performance standard required (✔).

I’m pleased I made that decision.  The USATF staff were welcoming.  At the reception room pre-race evening, I picked up training trips from other runners, both members of track clubs from around the country, including runner and author John Farah, and a few unaffiliated runners like me.

John Farah after a 23:47 finish in the 70-74 AG

John Farah after a 23:47 finish in the 70-74 AG


Race day, USATF had a tent for Masters runners offering water, coffee, bananas and a temporary dry space as sporadic rain came down. We left warmup clothes in that space as well. I could get spoiled with this treatment.

Awards were presented at an optional brunch following the 5K. I could rave about some of the finish times announced, but will instead leave you with a link to the results

If USATF membership and their races, Masters and overall, are of interest to you, take a look at their 2014 National Championship Series race schedule.ffl

Can Route 66 be Revisited? Oh Yeah, Let’s Run It

Route 66

It’s good to have a goal.  Goals help us work toward an achievement and leave us with a sense of celebration.  It’s also fun to tie a goal to a significant event in life. I can’t remember how I have acknowledged each of the first 64 birthdays, but 65 was different.  I remember that milestone, the goal – and achievement – of qualifying for and participating in the National Senior Games.

But, here I am already at 66.  What to set as a memorable goal?

Route 66 popped into my mind.  Not too crazy, not crazy enough to run the entire 2,000 miles. But why not in my 66th year a goal to run 66 miles of races on or near the Historic Route 66? I pulled up a Route 66 map off google and let my travel bug out for a mad crawl.  As my fingers traced the bright line on the map, I saw that I have friends and relatives in a number of states along the route.  Won’t they be surprised to see me.

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DVDs Season 1 & 2

I let the idea simmer for a week or two. Then, one day I walked through the doors of my local library and what did I see on the “recently acquired” rack?  It was a full set of DVD’s with the entire three seasons of the 1960’2 television series, Route 66. The first few bars of that Nelson Riddle composition began playing in my head. I checked out the first two sets and made an evening of it, setting off once again on Route 66 along with Buzz and Tod and that red Corvette.

I’m scribbling notes and ideas to flush out the plan. Historic Route 66 travels through six states and stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles where it ends at the Pacific Ocean.

Route 66 - End of the Trail - Santa Monica Pier

Route 66 – End of the Trail – Santa Monica Pier (Photo credit: Al_HikesAZ)

There is much research to be done to 1) find races that are on or near Route 66, and then 2) select those that logistically fit my schedule and training.

The runners I know come up with some unusual running goals. I’m thinking I am not the first 66-year old runner to dream up such a plan.

So, my dear, knowledgable running friends, have you run races on or within five or six miles of Route 66, or are you located near any that you would recommend?

And as for my friends and relatives near Route 66, keep the porch light on for me.