Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for training

Hiking the Versailles Forest with Power Hiking Paris

If you’ve traveled to Paris, it’s likely your agenda included the Chateau de Versailles and the Versailles Gardens. Was the Versailles Forest also on your agenda? No? Well, let me share my visit.


The Chateau de Versailles and its perfectly groomed gardens in the far distance

I extended my stay after the Paris Marathon to absorb more of this wonderful city. Doing so, I needed to add a long hike to fit in some training for the upcoming Hike Across Maryland after my return home. I did a web search of hiking groups in Paris and found the a Meetup Group, Power Hiking Paris, just what I was looking for. They had a 35K hike scheduled for Sunday, my last day in France. I requested to join the group, and after exchanging a couple of emails with Victor (it turns out I was the 3,500th member to join the group), I was in.


The trees were coming into bloom with a blanket of French bluebells across the forest floor.

Instructions were to meet at the Gare Montparnasse on the platform for the train departing to Saint-Cyr. I found the hiking group (not difficult to distinguish with backpacks and hiking poles) in the boarding area at this busy station and had the opportunity to chat with most of them enroute to our destination.

Departing the train at Saint-Cyr, we immediately began hiking out of town to the Versailles Forest. As promised, the pace was fast, a swift hike on the flats and ascents and running on the downhills.

We continued in and out of forest and between farms, orchards and through small towns.

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Because I packed light for my travels which had to include my marathon running equipment, trail shoes and poles remained at home. Thankfully, except for one descent that was a bit iffy, my marathon shoes held their grip and the poles weren’t needed.

We took a short break for lunch and conversation in a meadow, then off again. 

Thank you, Victor, Serge and Meet-up Power Hiking for giving me the opportunity to meet and hike with you. It was a pleasure to join you and the hiking group while getting in my training miles and enjoy a forest in France I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to visit.

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Do you attempt to meet the people who live in the city/country/region where you are visiting? Did you attempt to get a local point of view new to you? I have found several ways to do this, but it’s the first time I’ve done it through Meetup. If you’re interested in digging deeper in your travels than tour presentations or chats with your waiter, Meetup offers groups in a number of activities and interest areas. 

During your travels, do you have other means of getting to know people and explore your interests more in depth? If so, please share.




One (3,300 mile) Run for Boston Relay Approaching PA

Shortly after hearing of the Boston Marathon bombing, three Brits who happen to know a little something about organizing mammoth events hatched a plan for a fundraising relay run across America.
The relay had a June 7 start in Venice Beach CA with an expected June 30 finish in Boston MA.

A strong contingent of runners in my region, including outstanding Masters and Veteran runner Gary Grobman, quickly filled the Pennsylvania slots. Gary has been known to place first in the Masters category competing against talented runners 20 years his junior. He is also known to place first overall in the occasional 5K.
Gary agreed to talk with me about Boston and his running history.
How did you first hear of the One Run for Boston Relay and how long did it take you to sign on?

I first heard about this fundraiser through a Facebook post on the River Runners page, and it took just a few minutes to reserve my relay leg. This is significant, because without social media and affiliated advanced computer technology, this ambitious effort would likely have been doomed to failure. The entire organized running community has been very supportive, and the Internet has facilitated communication that was necessary to successfully fill up all of the legs, particularly those miles and miles from unpopulated areas. I was initially skeptical that this relay could be organized on such short notice, despite the experience of the organizers at managing similar events. So much could go wrong, such as injuries and weather. Runners and organizers found a way to overcome every seemingly insurmountable logistical hurdle.

What year did you first run Boston – Major changes then to now?

Grobman at Boston – waiting for his corral to be called?

My first Boston Marathon was in 1987.  Very different race then.  First, except for a few bibs given to municipalities and organizations that staffed the medical support, only elite marathoners could qualify.  My qualifying time just to enter was under three hours, and one had to qualify each year rather then the case today when one marathon in the fall may qualify for two Bostons.  There were perhaps 7,000 runners in that race compared to 25,000 now.  The race started at noon, there was only one wave and all of the runners waited for the race to begin indoors at the high school in Hopkinton, out of the elements.

When did you discover that running would be an important component of your life?

Grobman finishing HARRC After Dark 7K

Winning medals nationally after I turned 55 gave me some confidence and motivation to do the training that is required to compete against some of the most talented, older athletes from around the world.

Gary will be far away from the roaring crowds of Boston as he takes the torch and runs 10 miles through rural Pennsylvania hamlets and countryside. He will be accompanied by a number of local runners, including a trio of my running friends and Boston training partners.

Donations for One Fund for Boston can be made through the One Run for Boston website.  Look for a recap post following Gary’s date with the torch on June 27.

Preparing for the Comeback

Is a blog titled Still a Runner still apt? Following a two-month hiatus due to a ski mishap,  I’m cleared to swim and to exercise on a stationary bike.  It’s keeping me active, but it isn’t running.  So, I’m fiendishly plotting my anticipated restart to the running world and thus avoid renaming this blog.
What are the possibilities for a senior runner to return from several months off the roads and trails and become a better, smarter runner?   Is this the time – for the first time – to bring on a coach to successfully return this lapsed runner to the running world?

geriatric soccer

geriatric soccer (Photo credit: Dave McLean) And where do we find the geriatric coach for runners?

Do coaches exist who specialize in women in their sixties still thriving on a run on the trails, down the road, running distance as well as doing 800’s down the measured-off section of their local road?

Until I find that particular coach, I’m planning to begin my return to running by correcting some habits that may have hindered my running.  Those include excessive shoulder movement, poor running posture,

Star Wars - Darth Vader

and a Darth Vader-like breathing pattern when I run at tempo pace or faster.

Short of finding that geriatric coach (not necessarily a coach who is geriatric but a coach specializing in runners in the upper age ranges), I’m self diagnosing and treating with the following regimen:

Running Form (Particularly sideway body movement)  Sometimes when running in the morning, I have seen my shadow ahead of me.  Most noticeable is that while most of my body is reflected moving forward straight as an arrow, I see my shoulders bobbing from side to side.

To change the motion of that shadow, I’ve taken to a device to improve posture by holding the shoulders back.  If it works for horsewomen and elite runners, maybe it will work for me. I’m hoping by the time I’m running again my shoulders will have a memory change.

Steady shoulders

Working for still, relaxed shoulders

Without actually running, I’m also revisiting Chi Running.  I did a 1/2 day session with Danny Dryer a couple of years ago and found it really beneficial.  Like any training  component or correction, if I don’t remind myself regularly, it goes by the wayside. I’m reacquainting myself with body sensing and some of the body looseners so that I’m ready to incorporate them when I’m ready to get back on the road.

Breathing:  In a recent edition of Runner’s World, an article discussed the principles of rhythmic breathing espoused by Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchik.  I’ve been practicing this technique to coordinate my breath with foot candence while water running.  I’m hoping that work will translate into easier incorporation of their recommended breathing pattern to my footfalls when (not if) I’m cleared to run in the coming weeks. 

I’m open to suggestions to prepare myself for a successful return to running.  And,  if you should spot that illusive coach out there, send them my way.


Tales of Bostons Past – No Soup for You

A Victorian B&B with street parking and a convenient metro stop was base for my 2010 Boston Marathon.  imagesMy host greeted with a question spoken in an gentle old word accent. “Are you a marathon official?” No, I clarified, I am in Boston to run. “You, you are running the marathon?” Having assured him that, yes I qualified and had run the marathon previous years, Rudy shook his head and made a thoughtful offer to have a pot of chicken soup waiting after the race.
I settled into my third floor bedroom to prepare for an early a.m. departure. Race morning, I caught the metro to the Boston Commons, found a window seat at Dunkin Doughnuts, sipped coffee and, until I joined them, watched runners congregate at the shuttle pickup.

The Bus to Hopkinton

Time flew at the Athlete’s Village and I was soon throwing my warmup bag into a bus window.  In my corral were several women in the 60-64 age group. We compared qualifying times then suddenly we’re off, punctuated with the beep-beep-beep of chips on the trip that would end at Copley Square.


Boston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Within three miles of the start, I ran across my goddaughter, running for Dana-Farber. We fell in, chatting long enough to arrange to meet at the finish, then went on our separate journeys.

My goal for this Boston was to actually qualify for Boston at Boston, a time that had so far eluded me. I had trained well and felt strong through the hills. Crossing the finish line, my Garmin indicated I was 30 seconds off my qualifying time. (Later, seeing my time listed as a BQ on, I realized while I didn’t technically meet my goal, I did qualify within the 30-second grace time Boston then allowed.)

Finding my goddaughter (would love to have a photo but lost it when my cell phone crashed) and her family at the finish, I declined an invite to join them at a Vietnamese restaurant, thinking ahead to the soup

7852353-an-image-representing-chicken-soup my host had waiting for me.

Arriving at the B&B, Rudy greeted me from the second floor landing, waving my freshly printed results, excited and incredulous. “How did you do that?”
After receiving his congratulations, my evening went downhill. He had forgotten a commitment to a bridge tournament during the day which did not leave time for cooking. “So, you see, I am sorry but I have no soup for you.”
Having waved off friends who were now on the other side of town dining on comforting Vietnamese cuisine, I accepted the annoucement with all the grace I could muster. After making my way back to the third floor and luxuriating in a warm shower, I reassessed my food stock: two energy bars, a sandwich bag filled with a mix of pecans and walnuts, a banana, 2 small cartons of chocolate milk, and a can of Pringles. Opting out of a restaurant search, I dined on an odd mix of these items and was soon asleep.

Although there was no soup for me, morning came and Rudy served a wonderful Dutch omelette accompanied by fresh fruit, hearty bread and interesting conversation. It made the last trip from the third floor on my post-marathon legs worthwhile.
Soon enough I’m leaving the Mass Pike,

Massachusetts Turnpike

Massachusetts Turnpike (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

listening to a couple of DJ’s continue the neverending debate over the best pizza in New Haven.
So long, New England and Boston – I love you, I’ll miss you and I’ll be back.