Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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The Boston Marathon, be prepared

The Canadian fall marathon season peaked at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with the stunning performance of Lanni Marchant who set a new Canadian record of 2:28:00 for the marathon. The former record of 2:28:36 has been famously held by the humble and unassuming Sylvia Ruegger for 27 years. Ruegger at times has seemed almost embarrased for the record to have stood for so long and was at the finish line to greet Marchant.

My fall season will not include a marathon for the first time in 3 years. With the sharp decline in my marathon performance, in relative terms, I have decided to run fewer marathons, with a focus on running a marathon mainly as a celebration of a significant birthday. Last fall I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, in 2011 it was NYC and the year before, the California International Marathon in Sacramento. I have my eye on the Marine Corps Marathon as the stage for my next big birthday celebration.  An exception to this general marathon reduction scheme is the 2014 Boston Marathon. Like most who ran last year, returning in 2014 feels necessary in bringing a sense of closure to the 2013 experience.


This is where it all begins

My fall has been about cross-country running and after November 16th, when the final race of the Ontario Masters Cross-Country Series takes place, my training will be focused on the Boston Marathon.  The first step to being prepared for Boston 2014 it seems, is finding a centrally located Boston hotel that is less than $400 a night. Prices seem to have jumped more than 50% from last spring. Advice to those training for Boston is to make your hotel reservation ASAP.

Earlier this fall we passed through Boston on our way to Cape Cod and could not resist taking the exit to Hopkinton.  We had some fun checking out a few start line attractions that one might not see while while lining up for the race with a cast of 30,000.


The town of Hopkinton’s motto is “It All Starts Here” and the motto is captured in a bronze life-size statue of George V. Brown the legendary starter of the Boston Marathon for over 30 years. We also enjoyed the newly erected statue of my heroes Dick and Rick Hoyt who I met at the Boston Marathon Race Expo last spring. While viewing the statue a woman walked by and told us that her last name was Hoyt but while she was not related to the famous Hoyts, she wished she were.  The Hoyts were mentioned in President Barack Obama’s speech at the Interfaith Service after the Boston Marathon tragedy.

“In the words of Dick Hoyt, who has pushed his disabled son Rick in 31 Boston marathons, we can’t let something like this stop us. This doesn’t stop us.  And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us, to push on, to persevere, to not grow weary, to not get faint even when it hurts.”


I’ll be thinking about Dick and Rick Hoyt when I run up Heartbreak Hill in the spring.

Yes we can!


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Guest blogger, Chung-Yee Loo on race hardware

The longer I run, the more I discover that while we runners are similar in many ways, our approach to our sport can be as varied as our numbers. In putting the spotlight on my friend Chung-Yee, I can’t help but recall an encounter with a former team mate at a race, an age-group competitor who inevitably places first in his age-category. He complained that there seems to be less merchandise for age-group competitors and only “stupid old medals”.  Enter Chung-Yee, running adventurer extraordinaire and her lovely tale of what she does with her hard-won finisher medals. Three cheers for Chung-Yee and Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Treasures in a salad bowl and a tea biscuit tin box
Originally posted on Chung-Yee’s Facebook page

When people find out that I run, they always ask a set of similar questions:

“Have you run a marathon?” Yes.

“Have you run Boston?” No, not yet. I am too young to run Boston. At this point, I have to explain to them that with my average finishing time at 4 hours and 45 minutes, I would have to be 70 years old before I could qualify to run Boston.

“What do you do with your t-shirts and medals?”

Most t-shirts go to Goodwill or various charities. I do keep a few technical shirts which the fit, design and colour make me look good. A girl has to look good while running. I also keep shirts that have sentimental value. The ones from the New York City Marathons – the experiences there were just awesome and the memories running through all five boroughs are just as vivid now as they were a decade ago. Another is the Marine Corp Marathon’s finisher shirt and baseball cap that I was wearing on my way back to the hotel after the race, when a marine said that he is an awe of my strength. “Huh?” was the only answer that I had enough energy to express. “You are still standing straight and upright.” Awe now, how could I not respond with a smile:-)

As for the finisher medals, I keep them a salad bowl. I used to hang them on a door knob, then on “over-the-door” racks. But as I ran more races each year, I had this vision that the weight of my medals would yank off the top half of the door. The salad bowl I use now is clear and transparent with leafy motifs, and it is made from plastic so the container does not weigh much. However, it is a different story with my finisher medals … it weighs a ton. I do take the medals out of the salad bowl, especially during “mental health days”, and place them on my counter to remind myself of those accomplishments and how I persevered through whatever obstacles that could come about during epic challenges. Most of the time though, the medals stay in the salad bowl, just visible enough to inspire myself to continue to run.

Every single race I have entered, I have recorded my results on the back of the race bib and have saved those bibs in a tea biscuit tin box. This simple box, from the Hudson Bay Holiday treat collection, was given to me by a good friend Aggie who I affectionately call “Mrs. Claus” because she looks like Mrs. Claus and she volunteers as Mrs. Claus for the Children’s Aid Society. It seems fitting that this box stores a continuous record of my running career.

Aggie is in her seventh decade but she has the energy of someone more than half her age. Over the years, she has been an active volunteer for local races and I always look for her behind the registration desks or at the medical tent at the finish line (she is a registered nurse). I could always count on her words and hugs of encouragement. With support from Aggie, I hope to continue to run into my seventh decade, and hopefully by then, I could qualify to run the Boston Marathon and add that race bib to the tea biscuit tin box collection.

CLICK HERE to read Chung-Yee’s previous post on Mind, Motion & Matter called Celebrating 40 on My Own Terms.

Thou who hast given so much to me, give me one more thing – a grateful heart!

George Herbert

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Two Deserts, Two Views

The ferry to the Sudan

We’ve left the high ground of Santa Fe and are back in Phoenix. I’m hoping the lower altitude will help me shake the nasty cold that became full-blown after a tough 5 miles at 7000 feet in Santa Fe leaving me grounded at altitude for two days. It seemed wise to reserve my oxygen intake, lessened by over 20% for getting well. My plan to race today was quashed and I will be thrilled if I can run 3 miles today comfortably as the run of barely two miles yesterday was a run-walk effort. This was partly due to running on trails with my ankle is feeling nearly 100% it is hard to stay away from the Sonora desert trails of South Mountain Park which is right in our backyard. My husband saw a coyote hanging out back yesterday while later in the day a coyote was spotted on the street in front of our nephew’s house. Although we are told that the critter to watch out for is the javelina a type of wild pig.

Room in Aswan with view of the Nile

Hotel Andaluz Albuquerque, view of the freeway

I was excited to check Twitter and find that Bev Coburn @activeage posted a number of photos from the Sudan on Twitter. I also received this email:

We will be arriving in Addis late afternoon on February 20th and will have a full rest day on the 21st.  The Communications Director for the tour is going to try to join me on the visit to the orphanage. I will make sure we get lots of pictures. I will let you know in the next couple of weeks all the details of our campsite where we will be in Addis.

The tour so far has been a lot of fun and full of adrenaline rushes – many surprises along the way including kids ambushing us in a small town in Egypt.

Every day gets better.  We are now in northern Sudan – the ancient city of Dongola. The Nubian people are so friendly.

Talk soon,

I wonder if Bev might be able to meet the nine year old girl we sponsor when she visits the orphanage. One of the unique things about this sponsorship program is that the parameters of the relationship between sponsor and child are more flexible than other programs. Reasons for this may be the relatively small size of the program along with the strong relationships between Ethiopians in Canada and those in Ethiopia. The People to People AID Organization Canada program coordinator will be in Addis when Bev passes through. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at about 7500 feet above sea level is a few hundred feet higher than Santa Fe so it will be a hard ride to get there.

Trail running in South Mountain Park

Meanwhile after a ferry ride to the Sudan, Bev seems to have spent a night in a hotel where she was looking forward to washing the sand out of her hair. Their average pace per day is 120K. While cycling the length of Africa seems astonishing I should mention that Bev’s past as an elite Ironman triathlete and posting national best age-group times as a triathlete and runner is a good starting point for taking on this challenge. Here’s a quote from a talk that Bev gave a few years ago.

What is a good GOAL? A good GOAL is one that you are 85% sure you can accomplish. Personally, I love a GOOD, LOFTY GOAL!


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Ed Whitlock’s Advice: “Run as much as you can!”

Recently, I was reminded of the virtues of simplicity while weight training at the local gym.  A group of women and one man were involved in what appeared to be resistance training on a small 15- laps-to-the-mile track that circles the weight training area.  Some were hunched forward pushing 25 pound circular barbell weights, made slide-able  by a towel underneath in an inverted “V” posture that seemed to lend itself to back strain.  Another participant was pulling a couple of these same weights  with a makeshift rope and belt combination attached to her waist.  My impression was that this complicated endeavor had something to do with improving leg strength.

Toddler running

My three year old niece in the 20 meter dash for toddlers

While trying to figure out what they might be trying to accomplish, Ed Whitlock’s deceptively simple words popped into my head. “Run as much as you can!” is was what he told me when I asked him for advice. And then another thought, variety for its own sake, is the mother of ridiculous inventions.  One place where odd physical challenges are at home is the community picnic, summer camp or team building activities.  During this busy summer we’ve had our share of those, along with the hilarity and laughter while taking part.

At the Toronto Japanese Community Picnic, despite my protests, I found myself in a three-legged race with a brother whose strategy was to go out hard and if we get in a groove well great and if not . . .  Well, you get violently pulled to the ground by your out-of-synch bound legs, experience near concussion and scrape your face as I did and still come up laughing.  Of course this was recorded by numerous family members on video, footage I’ve yet to see.

Japanese getta race

A traditional competitve event at the picnic

My husband and I were the winners of the egg-on-your face award during the egg toss competition.  Couples toss an egg back and forth, at increasing distance until disqualified by a broken egg or a grassy landing.  My husband got egged by the splatter from the couple next to him and I got splattered by his inaccurate toss, causing great laughter. I have fond memories of summer picnics and park track and field days as they were the scene of my earliest running victories.  My memory is that my skinny  self never went down to defeat in the short dashes we took part in as kids.

My husband and I were at a camp in the Muskokas this weekend and took part in various team challenges which included a relay race where you had to spin around five times at the turnaround point, causing utter disorientation on the homestretch, a tug-of-war and wild multi-age soccer and volleyball games.  My two camp mornings started with a multi-age run, as all were invited to join me on my laps of the dirt track surrounding the playing field.  I ran 5 miles the first morning and 6 miles the next morning with companions dropping in and out.  The first part of my run involved going round to each cabin and bunkhouse to do wake-up calls at 7:15 a.m.  Never did my morning run feel quite so useful.


Our team wins the tug-o-war

The other team

But going back to Ed’s advice, he’s telling us to RUN not cross-train or push weights around on a track but run.  His regime of 2-3 hours a day of running gives testimony to the amazing capacity of the aerobic system to improve à la Arthur Lydiard.  If injuries limit how much you can run, that is the time to look for strength and flexibility training to increase your capacity to run.  In addition, “as much as YOU can” points to the wisdom of Matt Fitzgerald, author of Mind, Body, Running who advises that to improve as a runner the role of all the other stuff should be to strengthen your vulnerable spots, those the keep you from running “as much as you can”.

Apart from taking up an inordinate amount of space on a track meant for running or walking, the complicated weight pulling and pushing activity seems wildly off the mark in anyone’s total fitness package.  Grandmaster Ed’s advice points us all in the direction of better running but also vitality and quality of life. Advice well demonstrated by the natural instincts of toddlers as they enjoy their first years on their feet.

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What do mothers want?

Here is an abridged version of a piece written by Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund and first African-American woman called to the bar in Mississippi.  Joy Kogawa, community activist and award-winning novelist and member of the Order of Canada read this at the People4Kids Gala chaired by me and my husband, which took place last Tuesday.  The success of this fundraising gala was the best Mother’s Day gift I ever received.

A PRAYER FOR CHILDREN (edited short version)

We pray for children
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who like ghost stories,
who erase holes in math work books
who can never find their shoes.
We pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of shoes,
who never “counted potatoes”
and who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead.
We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.
And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
And whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who shove dirty clothes under their bed and never rinse out the tub,
We pray for children
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry
And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything, who have never seen a dentist,
and who aren’t spoiled by anybody.
We pray for children
who want to be carried and for those who must, for those we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance.
for those we smother with kisses…And for those who will take the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

People4Kids Gala at C-5 - Sold Out

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The Boston Marathon, a Run For All Reasons

The running of the Boston Marathon is fertile ground for stories to inspire, but most would be hard put to find one more compelling than that of Team Hoyt.  Rick Hoyt has cerebral palsy and the medical advice given to his parents on his birth was that he should be institutionalized, as there was no hope that he would have a “normal” life.  Nonetheless, his parents treated him like an ordinary child and with the help of a computer device Rick was eventually able to communicate to his family, his passion for sports.

Thus it was that Dick Hoyt began to enter charity runs and compete while pushing Rick in a wheelchair.  A source of much enjoyment, the pair began entering marathons and from there, progressed to triathlons. For the swim, Dick would tow Rick in a tiny boat and for the cycling portion would carry him on the front of his bike.  As of 2008, they had completed 229 triathlons and 66 marathons, often finishing in the top 10% of the field with a marathon personal best of 2 hours 40 minutes and 47 seconds.  A time, which is 3o minutes under the qualifying time for Open Men in the Boston Marathon.

In 2009 the duo completed their 27th Boston Marathon, Rick was 47 and Dick was 68 – sending a message to the world to include rather than exclude those with disabilities from activities that most of us have the good fortune to easily be a part of.

Never, ever give up! What does that mean to you?

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George Sheehan’s Important Running Tips

Here are 10 of 20 tips from the guru of the first-wave boomer, running boom. CLICK HERE to see all George Sheehan’s Tips

1) Keep a record of your morning pulse. Lie in bed for a few minutes after you awaken and then take your pulse. As your training progresses, it will gradually become slower and after three months or so plateau out. From then on, if you awaken and find a rate of 10 or more beats higher, you have not recovered from your previous day’s runs, races or stresses. Take the day or more off until the pulse returns to normal.

2) Do your exercises daily. The more you run, the more muscle imbalance occurs. The calf, hamstrings (back thigh) and low back muscles become short, tight and inflexible. They have to be stretched. On the other hand the shins, the quads (front thigh) and the belly muscles become relatively weak. They must be strengthened. Learn the Magic Six: Three strengthening exercises, three stretching exercises.

3) Eat to run. Eat a good high-protein breakfast, then have a light lunch. Run on an empty stomach at least two, preferably three hours after your last meal. Save the carbohydrates for the meal after the run to replenish the muscle sugar.

4) Drink plenty of fluids. Take sugar-free drinks up to 15 minutes before running. Then take 12 to 16 ounces of easily tolerated juices, tea with honey or sugar, defizzed Coke, etc. before setting out. In winter that should be all you need.

5) Find your shoes and stick to them. High-arch feet do better with narrow heels. Morton’s Foot (short big toe, long second toe) may need an arch support in the shoe. If a shoe works, train in it, and wear it to work

6) The fitness equation is 30 minutes at a comfortable pace four times a week. Your body should be able to tell you that “comfortable” pace. If in doubt use the “talk test”. Run at a speed at which you can carry on a conversation with a companion.

7) Wait for your second wind. It takes six to 10 minutes and one degree in body temperature to shunt the blood to the working muscles. When that happens you will experience a light warm sweat and know what the “second wind” means. You must run quite slowly until this occurs. Then you can dial yourself to “comfortable,” put yourself on automatic pilot, and enjoy.

8) Do not cheat on your sleep. Add an extra hour when in heavy training. Also arrange for at least one or two naps a week and take a long one after your weekend run.

9) Most injuries result from a change in your training. A change in shoes, an increase in mileage (25 miles per week is the dividing line; at 50 miles per week the injury rate is doubled), hill or speed work, or a change in surface. Almost always there is some associated weakness of the foot, muscle strength/flexibility imbalance, or one leg shorter than the other. Use of heel lifts, arch supports, modification of shoes and corrective exercises may be necessary before you are able to return to pain-free running.

10) Training is a practical application of Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome. Stress is applied, the organism reacts, a suitable time is given to reestablish equilibrium. Then stress is applied again. Each of us can stand different loads and need different amounts of time to adapt. You are an experiment of one. Establish your own schedule, do not follow anyone else’s.

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A Word from the Weary

I’m running a bath having just returned from an evening track workout at U of  T.  I thought about missing a post today but then decided that I’ll do a short post until the bathtub is full.  The workout went well, 4 times 1000 meters at a fairly hard pace, with 3 x 60 meters before the longer sections and 6 x 60 meters afterward.  The circuit training was not nearly as grueling as the other week.  No hopping upstairs on one leg.   This coach was subbing for the more demanding task master.

And in gala news, we are down to the last 20 tickets.  I mentioned the event to one of my teammates and she was interested.  She does a lot of work in Africa as a feminist lawyer, specializing in girls and women’s rights.  She is also a Canadian age-group record holder at various track distances and can do 2 sets of 25 push-ups, no problemo.  What a woman!  Now if she decides to buy a gala ticket, she will be perfect in my eyes 🙂

Good night all.



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Running Through the Ages

Age-graded tables use a number of variables to compare performances at different ages in track and road running events. These age-graded tables quantify the typical decline in athletic performance as we age as well as the improvement that comes as a young athlete reaches their prime. The World Association of Veteran Athletes (WAVA), the world governing body for masters (veterans) track and long distance running athletes are responsible for the development of these tables as well as ongoing updates.

Check out the latest age-graded calculator HERE

Masters athletes thrive on the interesting comparisons to open-age athletes made possible by these tables. The tables were updated in 2006 and recently adopted, and to my delight I discovered that the 3:10:02 marathon I ran at age 50 to set an Ontario 50-54 record has been upgraded considerably.  According to the 1994 tables my time was equivalent to a 2:50:05 marathon but in the past year I had a look and my time is now thought to be the equivalent to a 2:40:00 marathon.  Gee, if I had run one second faster, I would have (virtually) broken the 2:40 barrier.

I’m not sure why they changed the tables but suffice to say that as a 2:50 equivalent I expected that it would not take long for this record to be broken.  As far as I know, the record still stands so it seems the table-makers have grounds for their changes.  I should mention that I have no aspirations to try and break the Ontario 55-59 record as that mark is an outstanding 3:11:56 run by Paula Hickman of Ottawa which is also the Canadian record.  That time is equivalent to a 2:30 marathon and not far off Sylvia Ruegger’s 2:28:36 the Canadian open record that has stood for 36 years.  CLICK HERE to read an article about speedster Paula Hickman who is planning to go for it when she turns 60.

Paul Hickman setting a stellar Canadian age-group marathon record. (Photo from Digital Journal)

Regarding the discovery of my lowered age-graded equivalent, who knew that you could improve your marathon time without taking a single step.


A Toast to Ed Whitlock

I attended a birthday celebration for Ed Whitlock held this afternoon.

Ed is most proud of the 2:54 marathon her ran at age 73. His all-time personal record (PR) is 2:31:23 run at the relatively youthful age of 48. While in the 75-79 age group he has run a 3:04:54 marathon and a 39:25 10K. He is still the only 70 year old to have run under 3 hours for a marathon.

All were encouraged to share Ed anecdotes. I told the story about the pre-marathon lunch with Ed that I had blogged about earlier this week.

Ed's Birthday Bash

Yesterday I had a free cupcake at Starbuck’s to celebrate its 40th Anniversary. Today, I felt I could not say no to a piece of Ed’s 80th birthday cake. We went to a Scottish pub for dinner and my husband insisted that since he had given up alcohol for Lent I should use up my one night of the week for a drink and order a drink given the pub ambience. I’m going to have to rethink my lenten sacrifices as I don’t think I’m off to a good start here.

Earlier in the day I ran 14.5 miles but in spite of the good conditions never felt great on the run although I did feel good about the run afterward. Good things happening in the Gala department. My sister and her family are going to be Family-Patron Sponsors and Franklin Templeton is going to buy ten tickets and the Royal York is donating a certificate for a one-night stay to the Silent Auction. WooHoo!