Friday, December 05, 2003

Trail Run First Snow

I was looking forward to my first trail run in the snow. Just two week ago I was running the marathon in shorts and singlet. The snow had just started at 5 AM when I walked Max. The intensity picked up as I drove out to work and there was a nice snow cover when I started out on the path.

Winter woods have a special beauty. The disappearance of vegetation opens vistas and gives new perspectives on the landscape. It is very quiet in woods and even my own footfalls are muffled.

I realize that I am not the only one making use of the trail; animal tracks show a busy community that crosses the path, and often goes straight along it for some distance. I don’t recognize all the tracks but deer is plain and rabbits are distinct. Also some type of predator, probably fox. One rabbit went along quite deliberately, then did a 360 marking out a clear oval before continue on. What made him circle?

For a time I am following a deer and the tracks are quite fresh, suddenly there she is taking us both by surprise. I follow her flight into the woods but she quickly disappears. I am always amazed by that ability to simply vanish. How does so large an animal hide in these seemingly empty woods?

I have never encounter anyone in this section of the woods, but tracks leading from the Arboretum let me know that someone else has early been for a hike. I make a great circle before I recross my own tracks on my way back. They are already disappearing under a cover a snow. Shortly there will be no evidence I had come this way.

There’s the momentary jar as I come out to the Rt 352 and the heavy morning traffic. I wish I could have stayed out longer in the white stillness of those woods. I may not feel so friendly toward the snow later today as I put up with traffic and shoveling but right now it just seems beautiful.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Philadelphia Marathon

Sometime last week the maples finally caught up and changed color. Almost as if a switch was thrown. One day green and seemingly the next golden. Unfortunately the wind and rain of recent weeks had stripped quite a few of the leaves but they still are quite beautiful. Sunday was bright but some clouds soften the sun and the day while warm for November didn't get quite as warm as predicted. Still I was to run a great deal of the race soaking wet. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When I came into Mantua just across the river from the Art Museum I went to my usually parking space to find all the places taken - I ended much further then ever before and thought it must be because of so many more runners. I was surprised to see that there were only 5317 runners on the official finishers list (about the same as last year) especially since the weather was so nice. (Although this is the most spectators I have ever seen for this race - still sparse by many races' standards it was a notable increase over last year.)

Speaking to a runner before the race I asked if he was from Philadelphia. No but he has visited many times, as an immigrant he wants his children to appreciate liberty and this country's history. I was humbled by his enthusiastic description of the new constitution center since despite living nearby I still haven't got there.

Nice start to the race. The new course leaves out the parkway loop and takes you onto Arch (in the race packet Citizens Bank had included green gloves - someone had toss them away and a dog was holding one in his mouth. It made everyone laugh.)Then on down to Columbus Blvd. That portion is not pretty but gives a nice flat straight away.

Then it's urban running - South Street, Chestnut, 34th Street past the zoo and into Fairmount Park. My slowest mile is the hill up to Memorial Hall and my fastest is the mile right after.

I can gauge my Philly Marathon on how well the next miles go. If I still feel strong at the Art Museum (about mile 14) it will be a good race. Another good check point is mile 17 at Falls Bridge. On the out of Kelly Drive you have the chance to see the faster runners coming in. The lead runner who will set a course record is way in front of all others. The women's race is much more competitive. And in fact the woman I see second and urge on will past in last quarter miles and win. I have never much enjoy the mile or so into Manayunk but once there it's fun to see the other runners who have made the loop and are on their way back.

I'm always glad to get over the overpass that leads back to Kelly Drive. And then it’s downhill until boathouse row. I am spent but am able to maintain a slow steady pace. I keep checking the time. Sub 4 is possible but only just and only if I don't slow. I'm in danger of cramping and plenty of runners are walking or trying to stretch and I remember last year's disastrous run. But the succeed tablets are working. I don't dare stop. I skip the last water stop. Now it's push - keep steady and get ready for that last .2 and the small uphill to the finish. One final nice surprise - friends call my name - they are spectating with their new baby. Cute baby I call out.

And once again I'm approaching a finish as the clock ticks toward 4 hrs. But I will make it. 3:59:13 Clock. 3:57:13 Chip.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Fall Running

Yesterday was trail day. I headed south this day. For those of you familiar with mid Atlantic east coast institutions this is the trail that goes behind Wawa’s headquarters. This part of the trail is maintained by Middletown as part of their open space project.

I’m a big fan of headphones and usually run with them, but on my trail runs I forgo so as not to miss any of nature’s sounds.

The winds had been blowing for more than thirty hours and were still quite strong. You would hear a low roar gradually increasing until all the trees were swaying and rattling and then it would be gone and quiet again. The woods now are mostly bare and probably for that reason I saw quite a few deer. The path was only blocked in one place but it doozy – a large tree had taken down others and created quite a tangle to get thru. Other than that fall running is actually easier since the vegetation has died back (with the one exception the leaves tend to cover the wet spots and you can find yourself in deep mud without warning).

The trees are quite beautiful in their summer fullness but equally if not more so in their late fall barrenness as the branches frame the sky and you get long views into the woods.

The path goes out Darlington Road near which a memorial has been placed on a bench to remember a son who “died after battling bi-polar disease”. It is a beautiful pleasant spot – I hope it brings peace to the family and all who use it.

Today on a calm, bright morning I ran, on my usual route past Merion golf course where they are rebuilding greens – an interesting process. One of my favorite things about fall trees is seeing the squirrel nests which despite the winds seem quite secure in their high perches. The bright, clear weather makes for great running.

Next Sunday the marathon. Hope the weather stays cool.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Penn Wynne 5K

Four weeks, four races: marathon, 25K, 10K, 5K. I didn't plan it but it turned out to be an interesting pattern and fun to run each week a little faster. Maybe this racing has become an obsession. Well at least each was a decrease in distant. Yesterday’s speed was less then I expected since I felt strong and relaxed and the weather was crisp, but all that running has undoubtedly taken its toll and the course is very hilly. The 5K benefits a small local library and is nicely put together. It is thru very nice suburban streets; part of the last mile (and the only flat portion) is along Powdermill Drive which parallels Karakung Creek. The opposite side of the creek is Karakung Drive which is a major part of the Haverford Day 5K course.

I love running in the fall. It’s been unusually warm and very wet but yesterday and today chilly weather finally arrived. Today I ran an early morning run under a bright blue dome of sky with great pleasure. I stopped briefly to watch workman installing a cobblestone drive. I just had my drive redone with concrete to look like cobblestone but it was nice seeing craftsmen doing the real thing. When I commiserated about working in the cold, one fellow asked aren’t you cold; I completely forgot about how strange it seemed to be standing there in shorts and a t-shirt (although I was wearing gloves). Many trees especially the maples are still green. The wood which last year reminded me of Lothlorian’s golden trees is, this year, still green. Later on the same the nature trail (at Haverford College) I saw a fox, an unusual suburban encounter. A great weekend of joyful running. Three more races this year: Philadelphia Marathon, Jingle Bell Run, and Reindeer Romp. Then I will take a month off. Well unless something catches my eye.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Ben Franklin Bridge Challenge

I believe this race has gone thru a couple of renditions. Currently, it benefits the Larc School which provides services for children and young adults with multiple disabilities. The course is 10K.

The first three miles are from the Jersey side of the bridge to Philly and back. That means two tough hills in those first miles, but great views. The last three miles go thru Camden. For those of you not familiar with the east coast, Camden is a rather depressed community that has been trying to come back by taking advantage of the water front. The race makes use of Rutgers Camden campus. The course takes you by the minor league baseball field (Campbell Field – Campbell Soup was a big presence in Camden.) Here's another view of the field, and also here. Next is the newly renovated RCA building (Nipper after their mascot and now the Victor Building.
Past The Tweeter Center which is a concert venue. Down battleship way and past the USS New Jersey (a retired battleship) . Here's a nice view of the battleship.

You only see the back of the New Jersey Aquarium, but here's a nice view of the path you're on.

You end up back at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The run made me very nostalgic for the old Zoo run which was a 10K that went from the aquarium to the Philly Zoo.

After my race was finished I slowly ran back out about ¾ mile and cheered the runners still coming in.

If you run a race for the goomies this is the race for you. I have never seen so much food on display after a run. The choices were yogurt, cereal, snack foods, pastries not to mention the old standby bys bananas and bagels.

The course was beautiful (in an urban way) well marshaled and lots of volunteers. Minor complaint is water was in plastic (paper is always better). But I think the charity, the distance and the views make this a very nice race. I have a feeling this race will grow.

Congratulations to the organizers.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Mt. Desert Island Marathon

Advertised as the most beautiful marathon in the country it almost lives up to the hype. I had a great weekend and my longest vacation in many years. I left home last Wednesday (October 15th) and traveled as far as Danvers, Massachusetts. My wife and I had always wanted to visit the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem. I never thought to associate Salem, site of the infamous witch trials in the 17th Century, with Halloween and little did I know the Halloween crunch had already begun. It was strange to see all the shops dedicated to witchcraft (are witches part of the local ministerium?).

The wind followed me to Salem. After a very enjoyable visit to the Museum I talked my wife into having dinner in Salem rather than returning to Danvers. During that time a wind storm blew thru and knocked down trees and a light pole leading to widespread detours.

The trip to Winterport was uneventful (but long - Maine is a big state!). Saturday we checked out Bar Harbor and I got my number and chip; later we had a pasta dinner at the local high school where I got a beach rock (when the race director gave them out I heard some surprised remarks – will during the marathon I saw a sign that absolutely forbade removal of beach rocks) for being the only Pennsylvania resident at the dinner.

Sunday was overcast and chilly – just my kind of weather. As the name indicates the race takes place on Mt. Desert, the largest island off the Maine coast. Race began right on time. You start in Bar Harbor and head out to Arcadia where you run through private and park land for the first 10K. The next six miles is near the coast with great vistas. I would describe the first 14 miles as pretty but not spectacular but mile fifteen is wow! as you run between the sea (Somes Sound) and the rocks of Maine (I learned later that part of Arcadia was called Philadelphia on the rocks because of all the main liners who had homes there). I was told Somes Sound is the only true fjord in North America but this site disagrees and says it is fjord like. Still if you go to the link you get a feel for how spectacular it is. As expected it is a hilly race but most are not extremely steep and I found them manageable (although they do just keep coming).

The last six miles are the least scenic and you are on a busy highway. There is a long hill that lasts thru mile 25. I kept asking how can it be uphill to a harbor, but the pay off is a sharp downhill thru to the finish at Soutwest Harbor. Around mile 20 I realized I had a chance to go under 4 hours if I just pushed a little. I was quite proud of my finish and did a 3:59:15. I originally thought a 4:15 effort would great so this was quite a surprise.

Spectators are as few in any marathon I’ve done but those who did view are very enthusiastic and cheered for everyone. It’s quite easy for spectators to move forward through the course and I got use to seeing some spectators over and over. I think Mainers must be honest to a fault – at one of the water stops I jokingly said this is the last hill right. A fellow looking very concerned said well sorry no it’s not. It was kind of sweet and made me laugh. At one water stop they must have had a list of runners because they cheered me by name and home state and I don’t think that has every happen to me before.

All the volunteers were great and must have practiced their water hand offs because they did a great job. As sometimes happens in small marathons there were stretches where there was no one near me so I am especially pleased my pacing stayed so even – there was only one mile where I lost focus and I made it up over the next two miles.

I ran past and spoke briefly to a runner who had run a marathon in every state three times.

Well organized and presented marathon that I think will quickly reached it’s maximum attendance of 1000.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Haverford Township Day

This community event began 9 years ago. For years the first Saturday in October was the day that the township fire companies opened Fire Prevention Week activities.

The story I’ve been told is the Phil DiNenno who was with the Haverford Township Civic Counsel approached the Township Manager and asked about extending the parade. To be honest I really have no memory of those first years since I was only peripherally involved. But I believe that the form of the first event was very much as it continues today.

Six years ago I did add my own twist when I got my friend Jim Sims to direct a 5K race as part of the activities.

Last year and this year I acted as the chair of a very informal group of volunteers who really do all the work in pulling the day together.

Each person brings something to the mix whether crafts, flea market, amusements, food sales or entertainment. It’s been great to work with such a dedicated group who devote so many hours to pulling this event together.

Next year for the tenth I’m hoping that the Township will move toward a more professional approach. The infusion of volunteer spirit is important but I think it’s come time to have some guidelines on how things are done,

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Philadelphia Distance Run

This is one of the most popular races in Philadelphia. I think it should be a destination run with these qualifications: there is no crowd support and the weather can be very warm (even yesterday was a tad humid and warm).

It is both an interesting and beautiful course. You start on Market Street past the new Constitution Center and can see Independence Hall and though most runners won’t notice you past the shop where Ben Franklin did business. Up over Penn’s landing and on to Walnut where you will get another view of Independence Hall and past Washington Square.

Then cityscape for a mile or so before turning toward the Ben Franklin Parkway. There can’t be many more beautiful venues than the run up the Parkway around Logan Circle (which is really one of the original town squares). The Art Museum looms in its Grecian glory.

From there you turn onto West River Drive where you get a great view of Boathouse Row It mostly shaded and green if you look close you may even spot the lead runners miles ahead and across the river on Kelly Drive.

I slowed a little on the hill approaching Falls Bridge a beautiful iron bridge takes you over the Schuylkill to Kelly Drive. In both the Distance Run and the Philly Marathon this is the horse to the barn time. You can smell the finish. I’m not sure if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage but those of us who run Kelly Drive can now count down the miles practically by quarters to Boathouse Row. Go by Hunting Park Tunnel and the Ghost Tunnel five miles, Jack Kelly rowing three miles, General Grant mile and half, Remington’s cowboy and the stone tunnel, ¾ mile, Boathouse Row, then back in front of the art museum. And a push down the parkway to Logan Circle.

A comfortable run for me. Goal 8:30 miles. Average 8:34. But not good pacing - first three miles much too fast, mile seven because of a water stop and hill too slow, last three slow but steady.

In A Flash

Got up this morning to a light rain, gusty winds; walked the dog; did my morning routine and was just in the process of shaving when my wife said “These winds are worse then the hurricane” with that the lights went off. Still not aware of just how bad it was. Then I noticed that pieces of trees were everywhere. In the cemetery behind my house large obelisks were knocked off their pedestals. A fire engine came down the street (later I learned a trees had caught fire from fallen wires). As I drove down my street I saw tree after tree down. And when I entered the business district a short distance away I knew we had been hit with something dramatic. The “experts” are still debating whether it was wind shear or a tornado, but it doesn’t matter the damage is done. A huge old tree fell into a nearby church shattering the stain glass window. Cars were crushed under heavy trees. My daughter who lives nearby said not a street in her neighborhood didn’t have a tree down. A large tree just missed her car. The property losses are huge but fortunately no one was seriously hurt.

Of course there were no traffic lights and power which, strangely, briefly went back on is off again. Incredibly as often happens in these wind storms the damage is very localized. Go a mile and everything is normal. The local all news radio was still saying light rain with clearing by noon.

I have seen this kind of devastation on TV and I remember the damage from Floyd but I never experienced this sudden, terrific damage so close up. (This is suburban Philadelphia not Kansas.) My neighborhood will be different for a very long time. I’ve never seen so many large trees down. Some of the smaller ones were just snapped in two. Many streets are closed but crews are already hard at work.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

David Blaine

I'm curious if any one on DRM has been following the David Blaine furor. For those who don't know Blaine is a talented magician. His close up slight of hand is absolutely amazing. For the past couple of years he has been doing "stunts" like being sealed in a block of ice. His latest stunt is being sealed in a glass box over the Thames where he will stay 44 days without food (but will have water). Now remember he is an illusionist so I wonder. But last year (I think) he put out a very strange book and I wouldn't be surprise if he actually was doing it. He is very big on acts of will.

The unusual thing is this stunt has had a very strange affect on the British. They have been taunting him, hitting the case with eggs and golf balls. The other day someone tried to cut off his water supply. Now again since this is a stunt those acts may be staged for publicity. But Blaine has been savagely attack by both left and right; the kindest critics have said he's an idiot and even that he causing anti-Americanism (or is a victim of it).

Now I agree the stunt is pointless but what the heck -who's he hurting. It may be because I regularly engage in an activity (running in general and marathoning in particular) that many if not most see as pointless and worse (I remember the screams directed at us during the Baltimore Marathon by those caught in traffic) (not to mention that I correspond with even nuttier people who do ultras), but I kinda admire the gustiness of pulling this off. There is something sublime in the essence of this in your face, pointless, look at me, arrogance of this stunt.

I’d be interested in how other runners look at this.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Got my long run in. Not pretty. Much too hot and humid. Used the walk run method and was glad of it. I'm tired but not trashed. I went out on unfamilar roads thinking it would be easy to loop back, but I didn't count on how convoluted the roads can get (roads where the 90 degree right keeps the name and the straight ahead changes name - what's that about). So I stopped and asked directions. A very patient woman gave me directions then either noticing I was very tired or just presuming that men don't pay attention asked me to repeat them. She did it in a manner that convinced me she was a retired teacher - kind but firmed. I was glad to pass the test! (And the directions while complex were perfect.)

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Edward Teller, Johnny Cash, and John Ritter all died this week. Each a generation apart. Although two were entertainers, all three lives were very different. I wonder how to measure the impact of a life. Ritter seemed a nice person who made likeable entertainment but nothing that was an enduring contribution. Teller although a scientist made his mark in politics. Some hated him for his cold warrior mentality. But would the world be better if the Soviets had the Hydrogen Bomb and the US didn’t. Teller was important but anonymous – one of many. Cash was also one of many and perhaps his entertainment will be as ephemeral as Ritter’s. Musical tastes change and the famous of one generation are forgotten by the next. But in the short haul of the long I think it likely that 20 years from now Cash will still be known, his music played and copied. What’s sad is that in 20 years Ritter would have been only a little older than Cash when he died and Cash would just be catching up to Teller’s long life. Historians would probably argue that Napolean made a bigger impact than Beethoven but oh to have written the Ninth.

This morning was cloudy and rainy and I was uncertain about running. I played with the idea of just going to the gym, but finally took a chance and headed out. Turned out to be one of those great runs. A light misty rain fell most of the time with winds and clouds adding texture. The miles sped by and seemed easy. Perhaps because I was considering the lives of others short and long that my own embrace of the world around me seemed so satisfying. Tomorrow is a long run – I hope it goes as well.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Friends of the Dove 10K

Peace Valley Park

Lake Galena

I entered this race on a last minute whim. I was checking races for a friend and chanced on this race (go to events). It sounded so interesting I decided I would give it a try. This race was about the edge of how far I’m willing to go for a small local race. Actually on a Sunday morning it wasn’t too bad; about 45 minutes up the blue route, turnpike and Rt 309. 309 is highly commercialized with lots of the newer big box centers reflecting the increasing development of this area. The back road areas are still quite beautiful. But it seems obvious that these towns are going to have to deal with congestion issues quite soon. I did get a little lost at the end but a very nice homeowner saw me puzzling over a map and gave me directions. She added that the park was a treasure and I would really enjoy it. It was and I did.

This was a no excuses race. Perfect weather (well maybe a little warm but lots of shade) and although it was crowded at the start, I was able to run at my pace quickly. I had hoped for 8 minute miles and averaged a bit slower 8:13. I had done 10 miles yesterday so that may have contributed. One long uphill in mile two but I did quite well in that part. The course is a loop around Lake Galena. Mostly on a bike path but a couple of miles on fairly well controlled lroads (amateur radio group served as marshals). After the first mile I always had plenty of room to run. At mile three you go past the nature center. A little further on we passed birders who were training their binoculars and scopes on a birding area closed to humans.

Great finish – last half mile is a straight on a causeway over a dam. Out of 266 runners I was 114.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Labor Day

It’s summer’s end. Astronomically, summer ends in three weeks with the autumnal equinox but every one knows that summer really ends with Labor Day. Perhaps it was because it was already on my mind but the woods seemed ready for summer’s end. Although there were deer and rabbits about, the woods were quiet and the growth had that tired end of season feel. Already, although it’s still warm, leaves are changing and dropping.

We had a Haverford Township Day meeting tonight. Good meeting. The tension picks up a bit as we get closer. Every year Labor Day seems to jump on us and suddenly it’s obvious that we (ok I) don’t have enough done. In July and even August it seemed so far away and now it’s on us. But an event like this does seem to happen all on its own. Would be easier though if I still worked in town.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Schuylkill River Trail

Don’t be fooled by the title. This is not a trail run. The Schuylkill River Trail is a rails to trails project. This is a multi-use trail that is used mostly by bikers. My understanding is that the trail will extend for 110 miles from Philadelphia north into Berks County. I began in Conshohocken – from there to Norristown the trail is bounded by old industrial America and rail tracks still in use. Below the tracks you glimpse views of the river. A couple miles past Norristown you encounter a private community (isn’t that an oxymoron) that almost has a resort feel. About two miles from Valley Forge you enter an arbor of trees. This stretch is very pretty in the fall. Since the last time I was here a vast half mile stretch on the west side of trail has been cleared of all vegetation. Apparently some development is afoot here but just what I don’t know. Just before Valley Forge there are the remains of the Betzwood Studios where silent films were made. I ran a little further into the park along a new portion of the trail. I understand that you can continue on for at least seven more miles – I will have to try that portion soon. At the park I refilled my camel pack and started back. I have been in trouble on return journey when it was very hot and I didn’t take in enough fluid. But today, I was in good shape attributed I think to using Succeed, the camel pack to stay hydrated, and the great temps (75F) and low humidity. I estimate I got about 18 miles in. The trail has mile markers which are different from the last time I ran. Not sure what the start is, possibly the Art Museum since mile 30, is in Valley Forge Park.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Friday Trail Run

I am finding trail running addictive. Roads are ok. But it is so nice to slip off the road and into the woods. This morning it was the Rocky Run and Darlington. Hot and humid low misty clouds hung in the air. The last time I went this way the bridges were in disarray but someone has repair, righted or replaced them all. I’m not as familiar with Darlington as Rocky Run and portions of the trail aren’t clearly marked but I stayed on course. The last couple of weeks I haven’t seen much wild life but today there was a beautiful blue egret and a strange bird black and yellow and orange. A pair of deer let me get quite close before they ran off through the trees. I had a choice to run back to a bridge or cross the creek, I thought I would give the stream crossing a try. The water was about 2 feet deep but there were plenty of stones. Unfortunately midway across the stones were very small and slippery but I danced on and managed not to fall in (not that it would have much mattered since I was soaking wet by then). These aren’t classically beautiful woods, just the remains of an old dairy farm spared from the developer by some far sighted individuals and given this day to me as a wonderful gift of peace and tranquility.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Civil Society

The other morning while walking Max I found a driver’s license. Contacted the owner and made arrangements for him to pick it up. He was somewhat chagrined. He had stopped to get gas and left his wallet on the pump. He had only gone a short distance when he realized he had forgotten his wallet but when he went back it was already gone. He quickly cancelled the cards and it’s doubtful taking the wallet much benefited the thief. (Although he will have to worry about identity theft.) His biggest regret was the photos of his children.

Last week in the midst of the power failures we had good news. Society generally remained civil. In my own neighborhood I generally feel very safe (even to the point of not always locking cars doors, etc. – and I notice lots of the neighborhood kids don’t always bring their bikes in). Yet as the wallet incident shows you can’t depend on people’s honesty. In fact it is quite foolish to expect it. Someone had the option of doing a good deed and returning the wallet or doing evil and taking it. Yet wouldn't it be nice if only we could depend on someone returning the wallet.

Doesn’t this small incident illustrate all the issues of how we conduct ourselves in this world? Do you choose to do good or evil? Is the wallet thief just a smaller version of the murderer who entered a bus in Israel and killed children?

Philosophers, psychologists and sociologist may argue over free will but at the end of the day you have the choice to return the wallet or do evil.

But wouldn’t all the world be better if we always did return the wallet?

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Half Wit Half Marathon

As my friend Nick Price said when I asked him if he was doing this race again, “You would be a half wit to do that race twice.” The Japanese have a similar proverb anout climbing Mt. Fuji – You are a fool to never climb Mt. Fuji and a bigger fool to climb it twice.” Of course I did climb it twice. And I did the Half Wit for a second year in row.

Last year was very hot and humid and my time was awfully slow. It was the only time I have ever sat down in a race and I think I was very close to heat exhaustion.

This year was still hot and humid but about 10 degrees cooler. It had been stormy yesterday and thru the night. The morning was overcast but cleared as I headed west and north. Glad of no rain because several parts of the course seem to be stream beds, however, it was less muddy then I expected with really only two areas of shoe sucking mud. There were a lot of trees down though and by the end I was looking to go around rather then over.

About 11 miles into the run I was with a small group. One women asked what mile are we at and are we still on the right path. I had to laugh because I had asked the same question about the same place last year. She couldn’t believe her time and said it was the hardest race she had ever run much harder then a marathon. There was a chorus of agreement. Ditto for me. The good news was we were very close to the finish; the bad news is two of the steepest hills were just before us.

Because of the problems I experienced last year I ran this race very conservatively. I stopped at each water stop and made sure I got plenty of water. I used Succeed and they certainly helped – no cramping like last year (although I wish I had taken one more succeed with me as I felt on the verge of a cramp in the last mile.) Still I finished strong and comfortably.

The race director says he measures this course with a survey wheel – I wonder how he does it I can’t imagine the wheel even turning over most of this course. The trail is all rock, downhills that are vertical drops, and the infamous 120 steps from hell. At the six mile mark there is a serious of granite blocks (like the material used for curbs in some areas) laid into a hillside. The bottom blocks are askewed and jumbled and you need to climb under a tree to get to the upper portin. Here the blocks do seem like steps but with very steep risers. These “steps” are a myserty . Why are they there - they don’t seem to connect anything – when were they built and why were they abandoned?

If you looked at the application you know the race director has a devilish, sarcastic sense of humor.e He puts burma shave signs out on the course. My favorite this year was his proposed ESPN show – Runners Eye For The Sloth Guy. One suggestion to the sloth – you belt goes around your stomach not under it.

One other experience before I close out – when I picked up my number I got the number for Charles Brooks III. I wanted to meet number 32 my namesake but despite looking for him at the beginning and end I never did see him. Maybe another race.

Friday, August 15, 2003


Sometimes you know exactly when you got interested in some activity. For example I know exactly when and how I began running and in particular began running races. (The impulse to do a marathon is a little fuzzier.)

However, I don’t remember when I got interested in beer. I know it had something to do with the advent of micro breweries and the possibility to get real beer (not to be snobby) as oppose to the big commercial breweries.

Despite my wife buying me a number of beer books and having gone to a beer tasting I am still vague to all the various terminology surrounding beer. It is definitely as arcane a discipline as wine. There are beer styles, beer color, gravity, alcohol content, glass type, and on and on.

Still I am developing a taste for what I like.

Wednesday six of us went for dinner to Monk’s CafĂ©. They have hundreds of beers and a good selection on tap. If you know anything about beer you’ll know from the name that they specialize in Belgian beers. I haven’t decided about Belgian beers. The taste is very distinctive but not as robust as I come to like. On the other hand my friend Denis loves stouts. I like them occasional but they are a little much to have on a regular basis.

At Monk’s I tried Hoegaarden, a wheat beer brewed with a bit of coriander & orange peel. And later I tried triple ale. Both were light beers and good summer drinking.

Service was pleasant and we were lucky to be taken almost immediately and get a great corner table. We had a pleasant meal together. I got my friend Joe to try octopus but no one else would nibble. My wife had a wonderful bottle beer DeKonnick.
All of my favorite things - good food, good beer and especially good friends.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Weekend Running

This weekend we were house guests in Ventnor NJ. Ventnor is a seaside community that shares the same island as Atlantic City. The other towns on the island are Margate and Longport.

It had been more than 40 years since I had been in Atlantic City. My parents took us to Atlantic City for vacation many times in the late 50's, early 60's. My memories were those fuzzy kid memories of salt air, sunburns, Steel Pier, and Ripley's.

On Saturday I went for an early morning run on the boardwalk that extends from Ventnor to the end of Atlantic City. Frankly I was surprised by how ugly Atlantic City is. I'm not talking about kitsch - I expect that on the boardwalk and that can have a charm and energy but the Atlantic City boardwalk has a rather a run-down, beat up, lack of vitality feel. I don't know how the casinos are inside but the outsides add nothing to the boardwalk. In fact the lack of retail seems to rob the area of something. Ironically the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer had a column about how casino money is renovating the town. It wasn’t visible to me on Saturday.

Once past the Showboat casino you look out on real devastation. If there is money for development what happened to this area. You finally reach a point where the boardwalk exists but is closed even to pedestrian traffic. Along the boardwalk, I noticed the remains of some tile work that show where some old building once existed. It was kind of sad to imagine what must have been there at one time.

For years I've heard that the casinos shine but go a block off the boardwalk you find ruin - I found ruin right up against the boardwalk and the exteriors of the casinos neither appealing nor interesting.

I can't imagine why the city can't look better - isn't it a win-win for everyone if that area is improved and filled with interesting, pristine attractions.

I'm glad that some good things are happening but it seems much too slow, to too little effect after so much time and wealth has been expended.

The run was great for people watching and the contrast between downtrodden AC and solidly middle class Ventnor. Ventnor feels more like a real place where people live rather than visit.

Sunday I went out the other direction. The boardwalk ends in Ventnor so I headed out on the beach. The tide was just past full so I had hard sand to run on. There were very few people out; I had the beach mostly to my self and the sand pipers. Very cute birds that follow the waves in and out in an exact mimic of the wave shape. Margate is the home of Lucy the Elephant and you get a great view from the beach.

The homes in Margate are impressive but it’s in Longport that the architecture gets really spectacular. The homes toward the end the Island really jump out at you but there’s not much beach here and I would think that a big coastal storm and these properties are gone. On my way back I tried running a couple of miles shoeless. Felt quite different – I think I prefer the support shoes give – but it was nice to splash thru the water. And it was great to finish but soaking in the chilly, salt water.

Friday, August 08, 2003


In addition to the very real possibility that soon parents will be tempted to make changes to their children's genetic code there is the increasing likelihood that humans will be part machine (cyborg). Of course we already heavily use external devices to enhance our senses. And prostheses to aid amputees have also been around for centuries with current improvements both more human (hands that look human and respond to nerve impulses) and more tech (high tech replacements that allow sprinting). Glasses have been in use for hundreds of years and it is probably only a matter of time until a blind person is permanently connected to an external device that provides vision. Hearing aids are common and cochlear implants despite controversies are commonly done. Hip replacements are done with steel. Wearable computers are frequently the subject of tech shows. There was a buzz recently about humans being implanted with the id chips already used for dogs. In what I think was a parody but maybe not there was an illustration of how a cell phone could be placed into a tooth filling. I recently met a friend in the drug store; just casually she mentioned that she would soon go in for a surgical procedure so the battery on her pacemaker could be changed. Could it even be argued that our high-tech running shoes are cyborg devices in that they change how we run? Are we already bio-mechanical beings?

Yet all these things are just parts.

But my question is how biomechanical would you be willing to be. If a chip could be planted in you head that would give always on wireless access to the web would you do it? Could your bio brain process all the information available from your silicon implant? This is kind of the flip side of the matrix. You don't enter the net it enters you. This isn't as far fetch as it might seem. Already listservs, email and googling change how I relate to the world. It is one of the big questions that still out there just waiting for the next big step.

Do you feel that you are fundamentally different than say a hunter-gatherer. Or is human nature, human nature and these externalities have barely scratched that what makes us human?

Friday Run

Because there has been so much rain and the morning looked so wet I opted to use the multi-use trail at Ridley Creek Park rather then in the woods.
The trail is a good hill workout. Usually I take the loop by going right which leads up but at what seems a more relaxed grade then the left fork which goes sharply up hill for almost a full mile. This morning I chose to do the hard uphill first. Quiet, peaceful morning. Last year when I first took to this path we were in a drought and the creek was quite low, but this morning it churns and roils noisily. A few other runners, dog walkers, and strollers but mostly I have the trail to myself. There is a field of corn that seems to in the park and I wonder who farms it and why and what happens to the produce. There's actually a little sunshine by the finish and despite the high dew point it's a very nice morning. Just above Sycamore Mills Dam the water is cover by water striders who flash like winking lights. The link is to a story published just yesterday about these fascinating insects who seem to walk on water.

Monday, August 04, 2003


Humans and dogs have a long history. Natural History did an article about pariah dogs. (No link available) While in the west dogs have become companion animals, in many parts of the world the dog/human association is more coexistence than friendship. Dogs act as scavengers tolerated in and near the village but not cared for. Yet the dogs play important role in warding off predators. It is an interesting symbiosis.

As anyone who has lived with dogs knows they relate to humans in different ways. Marty, our first dog, was a toy poodle. I’m not sure how I would fit him into the social status scale. He didn’t like other dogs but was fine with most people and while never aggressive there were a few he was cold too. He was amazing attuned to human mood and would always seek to comfort those in distress. He liked being next to you, the closer the better.

Now Max, our current companion, definitely fits the Independent description. He’s a great character, doesn’t let too much bother him, and tolerant of all. But once he has check things out he will settle down (unless food is in the offing). He also has the ability cited in the Washington Post article to expect solutions from his humans. No endless repetition for him – get the human to do it is his answer.

Max is a miniature schnauzer. He loves to root and is fascinated by moving things like squirrels, rabbits, but especially bugs. Flying insects are worthy of great attention. He will study there movements and pounce. Not too fussy (he’s a shreck) he'll eat just about anything (worms, moths, and the worst a slug). Once he leapt up and actually caught a bumblebee. I guess they don’t sting – there seemed to be no ill effects. But last night, bug world had its revenge. I noticed just before we got home from a walk that he was limping and fussing with his left paw. When I got home I told my wife that something was wrong and we examined his paw but could find nothing even using a magnifying glass. But then something interesting happened. Max who always has his place near you but separate, insisted on being right next to me. He pushed his paw right up next to me. My wife who had consulted our dog first aid book was convinced that his injury was a sting. I found on examination that there was a swelling on his paw. I got some ice but it was up to my wife to administer it since I had to go to the nursing home. When I got home Francine was triumphant. She had found a stinger – small but quite lethal looking. Max milked it a little more (I think he liked the attention) but by his night walk he was just fine and this morning there was no evidence anything had happened. But I found it interesting how he came to be comforted with the expectation we would make it better. It is an awesome responsibility we undertake when we let these creatures into our lives.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Friday Trail Run

Those of you who truly run the trails over long distances in true wilderness must get a chuckle out of my trail run accounts. As someone said if you get lost on Rocky Run just listen for the sound of traffic and go to it. Still once I leave Route 352 I am a thousand miles from civilization (or perhaps a thousand years). This time of year you enter a green tunnel. The undergrowth is dense and the canopy covers completely.

Last time the woods were lousy with deer but today none. Perhaps they have sought out dryer spaces. A light rain is falling creating its own background noise to the birdsong. Occasionally there are other creaks and groans – are the trees shifting position? No wonder our ancestors found the forest so mysterious and dangerous. As the brambles reach out and clutch at me I know why fairy tales have the trees grabbing people.

There are mysteries here. Someone has laid large block stones in a 20 foot section of the trail and covered them with a heavy wire meshed. Erosion control I suppose, but why there and nowhere else. Further on there is a stone structure about ten feet off the trail. It’s not like the abandoned houses you see in Ridley Creek Park, it looks more like an abandoned bridge but there is nothing to connect and it is near no other human construct. It’s as mysterious to me as Stonehenge.

Can humidity be more than 100% - I’m not especially hot but I am soaking wet – not from rain, the canopy keeps most of it away – but from my own sweat.

A while back I read Oliver Sack’s book about ferns and today I noticed that there is a riot of ferns all through the woods. I guess they like the damp weather. These prehistoric survivors reinforce my sense of being in an older age.

All too soon I have circled around and am back on busy Rt.352 and have burst back into the 21st Century. Well it will be nice to go in and get a nice hot shower and some coffee which I couldn’t do if I was well out in the wilderness.

Thursday, July 31, 2003


There are many good reasons to run but the desire to run a marathon is not one of them. Each year people pick out a marathon, sometimes for a charity (you pledge to raise a certain amount and the charity supports you with training, travel arrangements, etc.), train for that event and then never run again. There is usually no problem with this but sometimes it leads to injuries, poor preparation and a bad experience.

The marathon is based on the legend of Pheidippides who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce a great Greek victory. It was an event in the 1896 Olympics (although it was in the 1908 London Olympics that created 26 miles and the 1924 Paris Olympics where 26.2 miles was set).

It is often said that the Marathon is race of two parts. The first 20 miles and then a 10K (the last 6.2). Another bromide is that anyone can run 20 miles but only the prepared can run 26.2.

Talk to anyone who has done the distance and they will tell you that at some time during the race you are going to think this is the dumbest thing I ever did and I will never do this again. But inevitably some of us finish and say I could do that better, faster, different and will do it again (and again).

Truth be told there is nothing sensible about doing a marathon. It is physically demanding and will take its toll in injuries. It takes a great deal of training (I like to joke that it becomes a part time job.) But ... it is addictive. There is that feeling that you have used up ever ounce of your being - that you will never be that exhausted and spent. And while this is an exaggeration it comes close - you feel you have challenged death itself and defied it. The death march to the finished is swiftly followed by the exhilaration of conquest. You have survived and as the life flows back into your aching body a feeling of superiority infuses you. You have accomplished something unique. It's probably similar to the feeling marines have on completion of boot camp. You look on others as mere mortals - you have glimpse the other side and have come back.

There is much more to say about the marathon but I will leave you with one of the best sites about the marathon. MarathonGuide links to almost all the marathons in the US and many throughout the world. It will give you links to history, training, and much more.

Just remember the marathon is a long term commitment. Preparation should take a least a year and better yet two years. Later I talk about a training program.

Sunday, July 27, 2003


Many races are run to benefit a charity. The charity benefits not from entry fees but from sponsors. The sponsors give for a variety of reasons but one is probably the exposure they get on race shirts and other connections to the race. While there are many good causes they are usually rather anonymous. But the organizers of Run For The Hill of It personalize their giving. The organizers FRIENDS OF ERIK have a committee that works on the race and also a dinner race in the fall. Today, at the race the timer said that of the 50 races they time every year this is the hardest working committee he knows.

The committee which includes family members of previous recipients selects a family with a child with special needs to assist with expenses not covered by medical insurance.

I always believe it’s beneficial for runners about to race to reflect on those who are unable to run. Last year, it was one of the reasons I gave runners for our Haverford Township 5K that benefits Merry Place . They can run for those who can’t.

This race attracted 660 runners. It’s a great course that uses Forbidden Drive (see my 13 July blog). Starting not far from Northwestern Avenue the course is a wide cinder path that goes downhill for 2.5 miles to Valley Green, a turn around and back up.

Last year I strategize that I would go out carefully and save energy for the uphill. Well the hill was still a struggle (and it was terribly hot last year). So this year I just decided to enjoy the downhill and let the uphill take care of itself. I didn’t actually go all out but kept a fair pace and the splits show it. I actually felt good coming back. Looks like I had one slow mile - three as usual. Finish time 40:08. My 8:02 pace put me in the middle of the pack 287 (660) and my age group 14(30). Lots of fast runners. A 60 year old finished in 33 minutes and the winner in my age group ran 6:25 miles. Wow.

After the race a group of us were talking running (what else) and a fellow who finished just in front of me said you use to beat me. Alas it’s true, however, I said but I’m having a lot more fun. I have enjoyed these hard but easy efforts. But maybe it’s time to get back to hard training and hard racing. 60 years and 33 minutes. Wow. I must say these guys are an inspiration.

Friday, July 25, 2003


One of the great things about the web is the connections it makes between things. The web has connected me with a diverse group of people all over the world. It also reconnects. Last year I was randomly googling places from my youth when I saw an article about a place where I spent those important teen age years. The writer was my English high school teacher. There are teachers who make no impression and then there are those who profoundly change your life. Jim Atwell was the latter. Just one small example: Jim introduced me to haiku and because of that I became interested in Japan. Later that interest would lead me to request assignment to Japan and to my surprise the Army did just that and I spent three years in Japan.

Jim’s article appeared in the Cooperstown Crier so I emailed the paper and eventually was put in touch with Jim. Since then we have occasionally corresponded and I read his column every week. Most are about his life in the Cooperstown area but now and then he remembers other places. Recently he wrote about the Mummers.

Curious how strong the influence of this tradition. I doubt if anyone who grown up in the Philadelphia area hasn't been affected by the tradition (even if it's hate and a determination to watch the Rose Parade).

Wednesday, July 23, 2003


If you have come here knowing about racing let me know what you think of my analysis.

I'm writing this as if the reader knows nothing about road racing.

You have probably seen them running through your community. Haverford is especially runner rich – there’s hardly a place or time of day you won’t see someone out for a run. Some, perhaps, most are just getting in some aerobic exercise (more on aerobic vs. anaerobic in a future post). But some are preparing for a future race. There are the most common distances:

K = kilometers

5K (3.1 miles), 10K, half-marathon (13.1 miles), marathon (26.2)

(I thought a cool vanity plate would be 5101326)

You may also see 8K, 15K, 20K, 10 miles and more the popular 5 miles.

I’ll leave the marathon for a future discussion.

5K is probably the most popular distance for road races. On a least two runner discussion groups I have seen threads that bemoan the disappearance of the longer distances especially 5 miles and 10Ks. Part of this is due to the difficulty of setting up the longer distances (more road closures and more marshals mean more costs). But part is the perception that 5K rules as the preferred distance.

Personally I like the longer distance. When I first starting racing, an older runner told me that he preferred the longer distance. At the time I thought he was crazy – 5K seemed impossibly long, but now I understand. A 5K is a hard run where you are gearing up to run at your max for 3.1 miles. It feels hard the whole time. It is strictly anaerobic.

This is quote from a fitness site that captures the 5K: Caution: Exercise performed at more than 85% of your maximum heart rate is classified as anaerobic and is more likely to cause injury compared with aerobic exercise.

Yikes! But that is exactly the feeling 5K gives. But apparently most people like the fact that it will be over quickly.

A 10K is also anaerobic and in fact gives you your lactate threshold.

The half marathon is a favorite distance for runners since it tests your long distance ability but doesn’t beat you up like the marathon. It’s a good distance to try if you are planning a marathon. Because it takes a great deal of organization, halfs (halves?) are as rare as marathons. (Some marathons like this year’s Baltimore include a half.) This area has two great half-marathons Caesar Rodney (Wilmington, DE) and the
Philadelphia Distance Run .

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Running and Racing

There are all kinds of running. It is a very good way to get in your aerobic exercise. Alberto Salazar has written a book recommending fitness running. Short (20 minute) runs, three times a week will serve for good health. But ... I like to race. Racing is the spice that adds flavor to running. Now I have accepted that I am going to be mid-pack and only rarely even placing in my age group. So why race? It's because racing forces you to an effort you will not otherwise exert. There is the fun atmosphere of a race day as the runners converge on the race site. The rituals varied but similar as runners warm up, attach numbers, hydrate and unhydrate. The tension of the start when even the casual runner suddenly get serious. The watches being clicked and off. The effort through the course and into the finish chute. Tearing off the finish tag (unless it's the rare chip race). Then the after race lies, excuses, bragging - and of course the ritual meal which may be bagels and bananas but could be something quite exotic and good
It was a very nice weekend for running. But my pleasure in the run was tempered by the news that last Sunday a woman was murdered while running in Fairmount Park. I had just recently written about the joys of running in the park.

I didn’t know Rebecca Park, but I know dozens of Rebecca Parks. I train with them, race with them, and run the trails and roads with them.

It’s a clichĂ© to say life isn’t fair – but it isn’t. It saddens and angers me that this kind of violence is visited who someone who was doing nothing more than I do everyday without concern.

Don’t have any answers or wise words just deep sadness that it is so.

Friday, July 18, 2003

A quick post on an article that bothered me. There were three plots of land that the Township was looking to acquire. One is in Ardmore and has been the subject of much community pressure. The tract of land there is surrounded by mostly twin homes and the neighbors feared the plan to place additional homes and the impact it would have on parking, flood control, etc.. One is a small triangle of land at the intersection of West Chester Pike and Darby Roads. It has been abandoned for years. Although zone commerical it is too small for any practical development and is an eyesore. But the owner wants some ridiculous amount of money. The idea is for the Township to acquire and make a pocket park.

The last tract is occupied by a private home currently on the market. It sits on Karakung Drive a greenway between Manoa Road and Haverford Road. On one side is Karakung Creek and the other is the Route 100 trolly line (know by old timers as the P&W). The Fanelli Tract has a nice enough house and an ugly garage. A developer would probably buy the property and subdive it and built several homes. It would definitely impact the greeway. I can't imagine anyone buying there but I have seen stranger places built on and the properties sold.

The Township is using HUD money to buy the Ardmore Tract. There was a vote to condemn the Fanelli tract to give the Township the opportunity to purchase the property. The vote 5-4 was strictly along the standard division of the Board of Commissioners (5 Republicans vs 3 Independents and a Democrat). The rhetoric sounded very partisan and sure sounded like a payback (control of the board switched last January when a former Independent went back to the fold).

It seems a shame. I had really hoped the Township would acquire this property. I hope I'm wrong but it sure seems like the politics of revenge took precedence over the long term good of the Township. Check the link and see what you think.
Trail run

After missing last week I returned to the trail for my Friday morning run. I noticed that it is already a little darker when I take Max out for his walk, but by the time I have eaten and driven to work it’s bright morning. Quite a beautiful morning at that.

This time I head out on the path that runs thru Tyler Arboretum toward Ridley Creek Park. This path too has changed greatly since I was last on it. The growth is lush and encroaches on the path. My legs are scratched by briers. I cross an opening where power lines run and it is filled with purple flowers. The streams have returned to their sedate levels and are easier to cross although one passage has become a 20 yard bog where I slow to a walk. The woods seem very quiet and then suddenly a crashing – deer are running. I haven’t seen deer in the last several runs. But today I would encounter them several times – I wonder why? I feel a satisfaction since I must have been running very quietly since I can get quite close before they are startled into flight. Usually the deer quickly disappear but today one bounds several yards and stops and watches me. Very dangerous behavior – in the fall there will be hunters, but perhaps a runner seems like some other creature not so dangerous.

On the way back I change route slightly and run on the edge of a field. By the woods edge just into the open are rabbits. Again although most scatter, a few seem reluctant to hide and one even runs with me a short distance.

As has happened before on trail runs I also fine myself reluctant. In my case, I am reluctant to finish and come out of the woods onto the hard roads and the tyranny of the office. But, inevitably, I am back on the highway that leads to work. Well it will be nice to get out of my wet clothes and have a warm shower.

Mileage no idea – time about sixty minutes.

Eating Out

Haverford Township is a great place to eat out. There are dozens and dozens of restaurants and just about every cuisine either in town or quite close by. I am no food critic, and not qualified to judge not having highly developed taste but many of these restaurants are quite highly rated. It is one of the benefits of living in an inner ring suburb that it is so easy to eat out or to order in. One of my favorite strips has a Pizza/Hoagie place (run by Greeks), a Chinese take out, and a Japanese Restaurant (run by Koreans). Is America a great place or what?

All that said sometimes you want to adventure further a field. Our friends Joe and Rosemary happened on an Italian Restaurant, Varallo Cucina, in South Philadelphia.

We first ate there a couple of weeks ago and made a return visit last night. There is a wonderful bakery attached to the restaurant. Last time it was closed when we left so I made sure to visit it first this time and get a treat for today. The restaurant is a small place but for most of the night we had it all to ourselves. A small menu but specials offered in pasta, chicken, veal and fish. A very pleasant evening – I had a spinach/egg soup, an eggplant appetizer (I love eggplant) that everyone shared (thank goodness), and a chicken breast stuffed with cheeses and prosciutto. My cholesteral must be thru the roof.

To be with friends easy and relaxed that is the best kind of meal.

When we left , a group of men all speaking Italian were gathered in front of the bakery. As we traveled through the narrow streets of row homes with impossible parking, someone said nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live here. Indeed. But it is so nice to know it’s there to be sampled and enjoyed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Prediction Runs

Well I went to the prediction run but only because my wife is so kind. I was held up at work. (Why does anyone think a meeting 15 minutes before quitting etime is a good idea?) Well I knew that if I got the the nursing home at 5:30 there was no hope of being in Bryn Mawr in time for the run. My wife offered to pick up Aunt Peg - it really was nice of her since she had already done her bit by taking my Aunt to the doctor. I better come up big time for her birthday Sunday.

So what is a prediction run. You pick a distance and run without a watch. You predict your finish time. The winner is whoever comes closest to their predicted time. Speed is not necessary. Of course the fast runners are ofter runners who have a metronome in their heads. I just go out and run hard and figure if I pick a fast time I might get there on schedule. Now some people run this course every Wednesday and I believe that would help. Although, I had done this course twice before I had conveniently forgotten just how hilly it was. Well if I do it again I'll be ready (yeah that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Nice part of this run is that afterwards there is a meal and drink. Great fun.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Nursing Home and Bodies

Tuesdays are track night, but first I stop at the nursing home. For the past couple of years my Aunt Sarah has been a resident of Haverford Nursing Home. Her sister my Aunt Margaret, visits her everyday. I pick Aunt Peg up on my way home to take her home. It can be very tedious. Haverford appears to be a well run nursing home. The residents are clean and all seem well cared for. But still, what a depressing place. Yesterday was a resident’s birthday. Elsie was ninety years old. Several people wished her many more years. Elsie said, “I certainly hope not.” There are two types in the nursing home – residents in some stage of dementia and those still sharp but with some physical disability that makes it impossible to live on their own. Elsie is in the latter category and for residents like her the nursing home must be especially difficult. Imagine having a roommate not of your choosing, of having no privacy, of never being able to be alone, of not being able to go wherever, whenever. Sound like another institution. Yet these have done nothing but to get old.

Tonight at the run we were talking about races and I mentioned I had done three marathons this year. You’re really working that body someone said. Yes, indeed working and running, running from that nursing home. It may be inevitable but until then I will rejoice in everyday and every footstep. And I will work that body.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

I have attempted to add comments to this page - I will have to check to see if it will work.
Fairmount Park

This morning the CBS news did a couple of stories on Central Park. This is truly a public space with gardens. Late this morning I ran in a section of Fairmount Park . Fairmount Park is Philadelphia’s great public space. Unlike Central Park which has clearly defined boundaries. Fairmount Park wanders on both sides of the Schuylkill and up the Wissahickon. My impression is that Central Park is very much a creation of man. Fairmount Park has less obvious artifice but is probably also very much a creation. In fact, Olmsted and Vaux who designed Central Park also worked on parts of Fairmount Park.

I ran in the northwest section of the park. In two weeks I will do the Run For The Hill Of It along Forbidden Drive and this morning’s run was to be a rehearsal. The last time I ran this route it was very dry and dusty. But last night’s rain left many puddles in the roadway. The story is that the name Forbidden Drive came about because carriages were forbidden on this stretch of road to prevent the young men from racing. (The more prosaic story is the prohibition dates to the 1920's and forbade cars. I like the racing carriages version.) Forbidden Drive goes from the Andorra section of Philadelphia all the way to Kelly Drive/Ridge Avenue. I ran to Valley Green. It is 2.5 miles each way. All downhill to Valley Green and then an uphill return. That’s what makes it a hard race (that and the fact it is always brutally hot).

Lots and lots of people out on a beautiful day. About a mile in I passed a horse and rider. Shortly after I heard the horse right behind – no longer at a walk it seemed to be cantering. No problem plenty of room to pass and then a huge puddle. I had visions of the passing the puddle just as the horse galloped thru but then the rider pulled up. Very considerate if she saw the same problem I did.

It is great to have these public places. I feel ready for the race. Hope that day is as beautiful as this Sunday.

Saturday, July 12, 2003


I cut the grass today. That is about all the gardening we have done this year. Well that’s not quite true – my wife has planted several pots. Pots are nice because they are relatively easy and allow for creativity in both the mix in the pot and the mix of pots. However, pots dry out quickly and need constant attention. Forget a day of water and they are quickly in trouble. Especially our pots this year which are in the front of the house which faces south. The brick and stone capture the heat and make if very warm.

Last year was very hot and dry and we eventually gave up on the garden and concentrated on keeping a few pots going. Because we were planning some major renovations in the rear of the garden we never got the flower beds going. The garden has return to nature (ok it’s gone to seed). It’s a mess, but for me there is great beauty in that wildness. I wouldn’t want it permanently but it has been interesting to see the wild (ok weeds) that grow up. We have perennials that survived the hot summer and a cold wet spring and have spilled out of their beds in a wild array.

I enjoy gardens. There are the semi public gardens around us. A favorite is Chanticleer
just around the corner it is small enough to be enjoyed in a quiet afternoon, and it's entrance fee is quite reasonable. It has great trees, wonderful flower beds, and interesting structures including a faux house.

We also have Longwood Gardens; this is the former Dupont estate. I haven’t been there in several years but I have always loved it. My father took us there where we were children and I never forgot the pleasure of its grounds – and especially the exotic green houses.

My wife and I had a very enjoyable day at Morris Arboretum.

This like the other two is an old estate and has the name indicates is more about trees than flowers. It also has wonderful sculptures.

If you are a gardener thank you. You bring great beauty into the world, and bring happiness to many. And if you haven't been to a garden lately you really should treat yourself and go.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Haverford Township Day

We had our monthly meeting last night. For the most part the core parts of this process are set in place. We know we are going to have a parade, a flea market, a craft fair, children’s rides and entertainment. The thing that changes each year is how to keep the event interesting. What new things can we do without getting overly ambitious. A subset of all this is how best to let people know about the event so that we can maximize participation while keeping all our various constituencies (public, merchants, political leaders, neighbors, etc.) as happy as possible. You can’t do an event this big with inconveniencing someone so the issue becomes how can we minimize the bad and maximize the good.

In a future post I will try to discuss why I think it should be done at all.

Last night we spent a great deal of time on the idea of having a talent contest whose emphasis would be on teenagers. The concept is to capitalize on the popularity of American Idol. I like the idea but I am concern with 1) how much work would be involved in setting up eliminations and 2) is the term “Idol” a trademark that we would be infringing on. The originator of the idea wants to use “Idol” because of name recognition and perhaps we would slip under the radar screen of those who monitor this kind of thing. I and another member suggested that we get a written guide to what resources are needed to make this work and then proceed. It may indeed be a case of going forward and if someone objects say sorry and drop the name.

A sub-debate is whether it should be Delco Idol (for Delaware County), or Havertown Idol. There are arguments for both.

It is amazing how many small things come up. That is the advantage of a group, while things can get off track and the group can meander, you are constantly getting different perspectives which help ensure things aren’t being missed.

Monday, July 07, 2003


I am curious about what creates friendships – common interests would seem obvious but surely there is more to it than that. Saturday I attended the wedding of a daughter of someone I have known for thirty years (the 25 years previously sited shows how fast time is slipping away). It seems an unlikely friendship – my wife has always thought so and yet enthusiastically approves of the friendship. Someone at the wedding who has also known Dale for a long time described him as a smart aleck and it seems perfect shorthand: (dictionary definition – obnoxiously self assured, impudent.) That’s Dale – they should put his picture beside the definition. But there’s more there and although he would blush to hear, there is a fundamental decency in Dale. Don’t ask him for his opinion if you don’t want to hear for you will get it full barreled. I have another friend quite different from Dale, but the same. A truth lover and teller not in awe of other’s opinions but neither will do anything to hurt someone out of spite or meanness.

I like rule breakers who know the importance of rules and respect them but know when to push the envelope for what is right (the rule is sometimes it better to say I'm sorry then asks permission. But you better think three times and be prepared for the consequences.)

I have been very lucky in my friends. I have never felt I had to agree with them to keep their friendship. They are secure in who they are and when I’m full of it they will be glad to tell me without animosity but with that world weariness that says there you go again let me set you straight.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

I will be going to a wedding today. The father of the bride has been a friend for more then 25 years. We met during basic training at Ft. Dix. It was pure happenstance that we ended up together in the same room. Most of the rooms had four people but somehow we ended at the end of the hall in a two person room. It turned out that we were both headed for the same MOS (military occupational specialty) - intelligence. We were both older (23 in my case) then the average recruit. There were a couple of others in that unit (including my future brother-in-law) who were older. We were mostly college graduates whose deferments had run out and had opted not to avoid the draft and in fact decided to enlist. In those days the draft was done by lottery. Get a low number based on your birthdate and you knew the draft was in your future. Some of us decided that enlisting would get us more control over our military careers.

The Drill Instrucrtor never did quite figure us out. For the most part older guys were more unflappable. We knew just how far to push and when to back off. Because we were slated for intelligence MOS I think the drill instructor gave us more slack than he would others. Once the drill instructor asked me why I seemed so calm in the face of all the abuse. When I told him I had been a monk for six years (not quite but it was a shorthand he could understand and that getting up early, following a strict schedule, and knowing howto be silent was old hat. I think it only added to the mystery.

It was a good thing that he was willing to give us some slack. Dale and I figure out the combination to a storage closet in our room. We stored all our extra junk in the closet. This made inspections a breeze. We had almost nothing in the room making it easy to keep neat. Well one day the drillinstructor went into the closet. All our stuff can tumbling out. He was amazed and enraged and confused all at once. How the hell had we gotten into the closet. I was sure we were in deep trouble but after a lot of yelling and threats all we had to do was clean out the closet. I think he was more impressed that we had the guts and the brains to break into his closet. Beside this was late into the training and he'd be getting rid of us soon.

Dale and I went through intelligence school together but then went our separate ways. Dale studied Spainish and ended up the the Canal Zone and got out of the Army as soon as he could. I ended up in Japan and ending up staying in the Army five years. But we stayed in touch and when we got back to the States we visited often. Gradually our lives took different trajectories. But we never lost touch completely and when we did meet it was as if no time had past - we easily took up where we left off. Last year when I ran the Baltimore Marathon we had a great reunion.

I am glad we are going to Megan's wedding. It will be a tie to the past that will bring great pleasure.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Good Neighbor Day (Downingtown) 5K-10k-15K

First time I’ve run a race like this where there are three loops of the same course. I was fooled into thinking since the event takes place in Kerr Park that at least part of the course would be thru parkland. But the course is strictly urban with the largest part of the course on the commercial section of Lancaster Avenue. Who ever claimed this was flat and fast must have worked for Iraq Information Ministry. There is a very long uphill on Lancaster. No shade. Not many spectators but there were a couple of spots where the neighbors sat out in lawn chairs. I did my obnoxious “clap with both hands” but it seemed to work. The 2nd and 3rd times around I did get some cheers. I was going to ask it if was ok to drop down a loop if you felt like it but I didn’t want to be tempted if you could (looking at the tag board my guess is that you couldn’t since each leg had its own color code and I didn’t see any intermixed.) Not only you could be tempted to drop out each leg, but the loop was such that mid way on Lancaster Avenue there was a direct, short cut to the start/finished.

I started out way too far back in the pack. I had wanted an easy start but not this slow. First mile was very slow. Unfortunately I don’t quite know how slow since I missed the mile marker. Nevertheless, the first 5K went quickly and I was somewhere around 25:00.
(So I should finish in 75 minutes right?). It was interesting seeing the drop off of the 5K runners. Much smaller crowd now. Loop around not bad going – but very hot and no shade. Sheesh couldn’t they plant some trees I never realized how much trees gentled the landscape. Don’t expect trees on Lancaster but even the residential streets have only a few. Water stops are adequate although some the volunteers don’t quite get handing off the cups. The end of the 1OK has two surprises: walkers – dozens and dozens – and they don’t seem to realize the runners need room to pass. And I get lapped – a runner flies by – where does someone get that much energy to finish a 10K then I realize it must be someone doing the 15K and I still have 3+ miles – yikes.

Once more around – now I am very hot and I am slowing but still steady. The remaining runners are very spread out. A couple of dropouts, some passes, but mostly being passed. In the last mile a paramedic on a bike comes by and asks are you alright sir. Jeesh do I look that bad. No he’s checking on everyone at this point – only a little further he says – that’s what I’m hoping I say. Now the last 300 yards. A little guy asks – are you the last one? Uh oh I must be really slow. Well there are a least a couple of runners behind me (the last guy in by the way was pushing a stroller with 4 seats. Now how did he do 9 miles?)

Finished about 80 minutes and change (I think the fall off was the long hill). That’s about 8:40’s slow but not bad considering how slow the first mile was and the heat. I had thought that 8 minutes like I did in Broad Street would be possible but that was before the hills and that heat. (My two least favorite things).

Plenty of water at end. And bags of ice – a nice treat courtesy of the fire department.
Nothing to eat but potato chips but I treat myself to a funnel cake.

This Fourth of July run is part of Downingtown’s Good Neighbor Day. I (blush) think Haverford Township is better (but for them it’s still early in the day – they will go until fireworks tonight so maybe I shouldn’t be too quick to judge).

The flea / craft market was disappointing. I would have liked to have stayed for the canoe race but it was getting late and I wanted to be home by noon.

Will I do it again – don’t think so – but it was interesting and fun.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

My mind today is swirling with thoughts of what it is to be an American. Some of the politically correct would deny us that title – but what other shorthand is so evocative of who we are. For unlike so many other places, in these United States your nationality doesn’t come from race or ethnicity but from your dedication to these principles: that all men are created equally, that they have natural rights not given by the state, but rather they must give their consent to be governed.

Just today I saw a reference to a Lincoln speech that I liked very much. Lincoln speaking of the Fourth said: “but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," and then they feel that the moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are.”

I don’t for a moment contend that all issues are resolved and that we have all the answers that will allow us to live in harmony without acrimony and conflict. But our core principle that the individual matters informs all our debates. We will continue to strive among ourselves on how to best realize the promise of that founding document and the Constitution that follow, but we will do so as Americans all.

Have a great Fourth.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I was running home from my Tuesday track workout at Haverford College when I saw an announcement for the Oakmont Civic Association's 4th of July celebrations. I have always enjoyed these small celebrations of local community. Although some towns have large community celebrations (I will be going to Downingtown for a 4th of July run and will scope out their community celebration for ideas about Haverford Township Day), I think these small neighborhood celebrations are perfect for the fourth. Each civic association gets to plan, have a small parade, and celebrate those freedoms first laid out in Declaration of Independence. Robert Putman in Bowling Alone reminds how important the social capital of being community is. When I was a police officer in Haverford and visited the various civic association celebrations, I always reflected that these quiet gatherings of neighbors was why we served and protected and represented the very best instincts of Americans.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

One of the pleasures of road running is getting to see the incremental changes in the world around you. If you are an early morning runner you are much more aware of the seasonal changes in light and landscape. But I have found that trail running intensifies that awareness. The woodland trails here are greatly different season to season and last week I became aware that other forces can make dramatic changes.

Last year was very dry. Although my run crosses and recrosses Rocky Run and several smaller streams they were barely noticeable during the drought. But this year has been very rainy and June was the 2nd wettest June ever.

I was given proof on my last trail run. I have already related how during the Double Trouble Trail Run there was a very interesting stream crossing because a bridge at French Creek Park was completely washed away. Similarly when I came on the first bridge I realized it had moved. It’s a well built bridge designed to hold horses and crosses a small stream – normally hardly noticeable. But during one of the storms the water had risen high enough that it had lifted the bridge and moved it 15 feet downstream.

As I moved on I saw evidence that most of the trail must have been under water recently and there were areas where the water still had not drained. The next couple of bridges I came to had sustained damaged and were either moved or tilted at crazy angles. Finally I came to a bridge that was completely gone although there were pieces of timber around that were parts of the bridge.

It was fascinating to see the changes wrought by the water both subtle and not so subtle – new stream courses, trees down, and even boulders rearranged. I can only imagine what must happen during major flooding.

I’m glad that even in this well settled land there’s a place where I can get a small taste of what truly wild areas must be like.

Here's a link to the Rocky Run Trails

Monday, June 30, 2003

This will be a blog of life in Haverford Township and links to things that interest me.

I like running and racing so expect thoughts on running and race descriptions.

Let's start with a link to ,

Haverford Township Day

and to my running club:

Bryn Mawr Running Club