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 cliché 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