category : ‘RITZ Contributors in the News’


A PARTING TRIBUTE TO RITZ CONTRIBUTOR, MAE PALM

06.13.2018

I learned today that Mae Palm has died after a battle with lung cancer. She will be missed. When we were putting together “Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes“, co-editor Steve King told me we HAD to get a contribution from Mae Palm. You will see why when you read what follows. The only one who seemed to disagree was Mae, who felt, nay insisted, that she really didn’t have anything to contribute, and besides wasn’t much of a writer. Thankfully, WE insisted even more strongly, that she most certainly DID have something to say and told her not to worry about her writing – ‘just tell your story’, the editors will ensure it gets written. Following is her chapter, and (then) bio, direct from the book.

Mae Palm (Wilson)

Mae Palm with Frank Shorter

Born in South Africa in Johannesburg in 1939, Mae immigrated to England in 1956 and moved to Canada in 1966. Although she is also known by her married name, Wilson, Mae uses Palm for all her races in memory of her parents. Because of the apartheid problems in South Africa her father would often say “You are a Palm and you are Number One!” She is of mixed origin.

Mae started running in 1978 and started racing in 1980, at the age of 40. She only took up swimming at the age of 58 so she could compete in triathlons and has never looked back. She has not only completed over 100 marathons, but also regularly racks up a 1st place finish in her category! Known as “Marathon Mae”, Ms. Palm is a Canadian and North American record-holder and an inspiring individual to meet.

Mae is the mother of a son, Brendan and a daughter, Breanna and now a grandmother and even though she now resides in a seniors residence, she surely qualifies as the fastest senior in town!

One of Mae’s running highlights has been competing in the “Diamond Head Duet” a pre-marathon fun-run team event which is part of the Honolulu Marathon. For several years her partner was 1972 Olympic Marathon champion, Frank Shorter, shown with Mae in her photo, above.

Unfortunately, Mae finds the cost of entry fees, especially for international competitions prohibitive and in the past has had to pass up competing in events for which she has qualified, including the Boston Marathon and the Hawaiian Ironman due to the expense. She relies on sponsors to help offset the athletic costs involved with competing in triathlons and other events. Supported by Triathlon Canada, Mae was recently recognized with a grant from the Canadian Athletic Achievements of Women in Sport (CAAWS) and will use the WISE Fund for registration fees for upcoming competitions, including the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii. In 2005 Mae received an award from Sport BC, the Community Sports Hero Award (Sea to Sky Community Area) in recognition not only as a volunteer but as a motivator and promoter of sport.

[Ed. Note: Following is the un-edited text of Mae’s contribution, as published in 2005 (except that the original had no photographs, which have been added). No links were added, as is normal on the blog, as this is meant to be a faithful reproduction of what Mae gave us for the book. For more information, contact the editor at danbcumming@gmail.com]

They Call Me Marathon Mae!!

Mae Palm

I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 26, 1939. At that time my family lived as ‘coloured’ in an area that became known later as Soweto, but at that time it was known as Alexandra Township. It was for Blacks and Coloureds only. My father had the pride and inner courage to open a business in a town for Whites called Ferndale, so we hid our true identity to be accepted as White. My Dad had the audacity to claim our darker coloured skin was due to Portuguese heritage! I credit this upbringing and my experience from that time with empowering me to be the best at whatever I do, whether it is working as a maid (something I did for a time) or competing as an Ultra runner.

When it came time for me to find work, my birth certificate had to be shown and it told the real story. In those days my options and opportunities were severely limited due to apartheid. In 1956 I immigrated to England, where I lived until 1966. I was able to do this thanks to my Mum, who saved any money she could in her special little “brown bag”. Mum and Dad ran two stores side by side called – you guessed it – Palm Stores. My Dad was a very proud man, and did not want to ‘yes sir’/ ‘no sir’ anyone. He went into business for himself and became his own boss. When you go through hard times I believe it makes a better person out of you. Dad would often tell us: “You are a Palm and you are Number One”.

For me running started when I was in my late 30’s. It was about the time when I started driving a car, walking less and noticing that I was gaining weight. Being just 4’11” in height, I didn’t want to wind up as wide as I was high! As a ‘stay at home Mum’ of two children, it didn’t take too long to realize that if I was going to do it, I needed to walk or run at 6am to have my then-husband at home with the sleeping children. For me, this was simply the best timing. I think most people will quit running if they do not choose the right time of day. When I began working in Whistler in 1982, I found that this early morning exercise schedule could be continued with good effect. It is when I became a “5-9” person. That is right: five to nine. It included my 9-5pm work schedule, something with which most people are more familiar. I would be up at 5am to go for a run and hit my bed at about 9pm, soon after the kids. That has been my routine for over 25 years now. For me, it’s now just part of life. I guess I run for the health of it!

My first race was in 1980 in Squamish, BC and was an 8km run. Maybe more to my own surprise than anyone else’s, I placed first in my age category – the rest is history! This first race hooked me on racing. As most of my running and training has been achieved by self coaching, I really have nobody to blame but myself when I don’t do well. Still, I strongly believe that I have managed to stay uninjured by listening to my body and backing off when I need to do so. That is to say, I have never missed a race that I have entered due to injury. I live by a personal rule to never bite off more than I can chew and that has been a key component of any success I have achieved. I run because I love it and if I manage to place first in any competition, well that is just ‘icing on the cake’.

I truly thrive on other peoples achievements, especially if they are older or are physically challenged. It is seeing and hearing success stories in the sport world that inspires me. Knowing what others can do, especially those with some kind of extra challenge to meet or overcome, helps me to grow stronger. I have a great appreciation for the volunteers at races and always try to let them know that in real terms. I once had a running friend comment, ‘If you would only stop thanking all the volunteers you would improve on your time!’ To me that is neither important nor possible. It just isn’t my way. I love the healthy friendly enjoyment of the run itself, the longer the better. It’s like being at a big party where you dance for 3 or 4 or 5 hours.

There was a time (age 13-26) when I used to smoke and drink but that was the limit of my use of any kind of drugs, and I have always stayed away even from pain killers. I want to know what my body is feeling and how it is doing. I stopped smoking when I was three months pregnant with my son Brendan, more than 36 years ago. And, while on the subject of family, I also have a daughter, Breanna, who is a seven years younger than her brother.

Quitting willy-nilly is not in my nature, so I always try to make sure I can finish whatever I start. Experimenting in a new sport is a real ‘high’ for me. That attitude has taken me to marathons, Ultra running and Triathlon. But, let’s start at the beginning. After running for a bit I found out that I had the mental strength to endure long distance running, so over time I went from running 2 miles every day in the first couple of years of my regular running, to the slightly further distance of 100 miles. That transition took until 1994 at the Western States 100 Miler. I did that run in a time of 29 hours 54 minutes and some seconds, only 6 minutes to spare before the cut off of 30 hours! But, I did it!

I had the pleasure of meeting Helen Klein. She actually passed me in the dark of the night – what an amazing woman – she was in her early 70’s at the time. Even though she only started running in her mid-50’s, she is a superb senior athlete and has held many age category records. She is a great inspiration and gives me hopes for my own endeavours in the 65-69 age category.

One of the happiest, most pleasurable, and OK –luckiest, parts of my running career came when I partnered with Olympian Frank Shorter (1972 and 1976 gold and silver medalist for the marathon) in “the Diamond Head Duet” a pre-marathon fun run which is part of the Honolulu Marathon. The “Duet” is a 4.6 mile marathon primer and with our combined ages we were placed in the 100-119 age category. In the four or five years we competed together, we always placed first because Frank was so fast. Frank, through the inspiration he gave, drove me to compete at my highest level and to work very hard for him. He was always so gracious. He came, this Olympic hero and fantastic runner, to pick up Breanna and me and to take us to all the events he had to attend. We met his wife and their baby girl. We went to the beach with them and were treated like old friends.

I found myself amused and amazed to be standing side by side with Frank (after the main event “the marathon”) while waiting for the results to see how we did and discussing the race. It seemed so strange to be there along side an Olympian who just treated me like a buddy (in between signing autographs, of course!).

A good example of how running makes her ‘beam’. Peach City Marathon (near Penticton, BC)

I love running. It is really that simple. It has brought me through troubled times and is a great stress release. It just always makes me feel like I am beaming and smiling not only on the outside but from within. What keeps me going is really quite simple. I want to continue setting the best example I can for anyone who might be interested. But most of all, now that I have a grandson, my dream is to be able to do a run with him one day.

Dag Aabye, a Squamish forestry worker, and locally well-known skier and runner, encouraged me to believe in myself and believe that I could become a long distance runner. He used to see me on my early morning two-mile runs as I would pass his house and one day he just came dashing out of his house, stopped me and said: “You are a runner and you should do a marathon!” It was his encouragement that sparked a personal and ongoing passion for marathons even though I little knew what a marathon was at the time. It was also what inspired me to compete in the grueling Whistler Marathon in 1982 and again in 1983.

During my Ultra running days, I was so pleased to meet Ann Trason, female winner of the 1994 Western States 100 Miler. This was a real highlight for me. Ann is an amazing woman and, I think, very shy. Two weeks after the 100 Miler race, I completed the North Shore Knee Knacker 30-mile ultra marathon (North Vancouver, BC) and won my division. As I crossed the finish line, race organizer Enzo Federico announced that I had run the Western States 100 Miler as a “training run” for the Knee Knacker. I hadn’t actually thought of it that way, but……

In 1995, I raced again in the North Shore Knee Knacker wearing a pair of Nike racing flats and I elected to not carry any water. The bottom of my racing flats had slight ridges but no tread. I am pleased to say that I bettered the time of my previous year by over 1 hour and finished in 7:20:26, breaking my own race record of 8:21:33 which I set in 1993. In 1996, I was thrilled to be one of 10 trail-runners highlighted in the Discovery Channel’s show “Go For It!” The show followed the runners through the terrain of the 30 Mile Knee Knacker course and filmed the trail running experience.

Medals and ribbons and trophies are good, but my personal reward for running a marathon is Haagen Daz ice cream! Well, that is if I have done really well; actually any ice cream is good and originally my favorite treat was waffles with oodles of cream and blueberry sauce. Treats are rewards and not for all the time. I have to earn them. Of course, I am the only one keeping track, but that is the way it is.

As the clock and calendar tick away, I take nothing for granted. Even though I enjoy good health and do marathons and other such endurance races, I am grateful to be able to walk to the bathroom and just be able to be self sufficient. I feel very fortunate to be in good health, when I know that others are not and that there is no guarantee for any of us. I like to challenge myself, but not to the point of being ridiculous. I know my limits and run against my own times.

I think it was quite fitting and made a bit of personal history in planning my 100th marathon in Vancouver. Although I go by Mae Wilson for most things, I use my maiden name, Palm, for running. I do this as a memorial to my late mother who passed away in 1990 on the very date of the Vancouver International Marathon. When my good friend Steve King, announced this at the race, it was very special and heart warming. Steve always has a way of making one feel so good through his encouraging and nice words.

In September 2002, I was featured in the article ‘The Ages of an Athlete” in an issue of Sports Illustrated Women. The feature was on growing old gracefully and the changes an athlete experiences. I was the only Canadian featured in the article and represented the 60’s category. Like everyone, I have had lot’s of photographs taken by family, race photographers and even a reporter or two, but it was my first ‘photo shoot’ with a New York professional photographer. To say the least, it was a memorable experience and I felt truly honoured to be chosen. The article featured athletes from a 9 year old basketball player running through the decades to a 93 year old swimmer.

A local, internationally recognized triathlete, Bob McIntosh was tragically and brutally killed in 1999. In that same year, in recognition of him, the Bob McIntosh Triathlon was organized in Squamish, BC. While I didn’t know him well, he would joke with me about becoming a triathlete, little realizing that I could not swim with my face in the water or that when I first tried my hand at triathlon in 1989 in Whistler on a dare, I was the last one out of the lake. I did every stroke I knew (including the backstroke) to avoid putting my face or nose in the water. I concluded at that point that I was not triathlon material! So, I thought I would volunteer for the 1999 event. When the local paper called to find out if I would be entering, I laughed at the idea. Apparently, they didn’t know much about my swimming abilities either. After I put the phone down from the local reporter, I gave the race another thought. Why not try? Other people swim. I could take swimming lessons and I began to build my courage, telling myself that ‘you are never too old to try’. I still feel the swim is the scariest part of triathlons, but my determination and perseverance motivated me to take lessons, practice and force myself to swim more effectively and conquer my lifelong fear of swimming. I participated in the 1st Bob McIntosh Triathlon as a personal memorial to Bob.

IronMan Championship 2001 – Kona.

In 2001, I won, my age category, in the very windy and scary World Ironman Championship Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. As far as I know, I was the only Canadian representing my age category at the World Championships. As someone who has always been content to finish each race this was an achievement I had never even considered. This win was definitely ‘icing on the cake’! Sadly, my family was unable to attend the race and celebrate that special victory. Still, it was a glorious moment to share the win with fellow Ironman athletes while sitting at the awards ceremony with an ‘all Canadian’ table. I will admit that there is some loneliness in being a long distance athlete, especially when you are self coached. However, the win in 2001 was a very proud moment that makes it all worthwhile. It was like a dream, but it encouraged me and makes me feel there still so much to learn and improve on with triathlons. More than that, it gives me the confidence to know I can achieve both the learning and the improvement.

The goal today is to remain healthy and injury free so I can enjoy having athletic fun with my grandson and the rest of the family. I sometimes dream of ‘finishing’ what my young hero, Terry Fox, could not do, at least in a physical sense. It is my dream and my ambition to do runs and events for a cause rather than just selfishly doing them for my own achievement and satisfaction. I often dedicate a given run to the memory of someone, but would like to be doing more. The inspiration of Terry Fox tells me there is something out there that is one day going to click with me and then I will know what my cause will be. I truly believe in being careful and listening to my body. With this attitude and approach, I think I could do a marathon a day for as many days as it would take.

 

Rest in peace, Mae. This marathon is done. We will miss you.

BRAND NEW PROJECT AND A NEW ERA

04.30.2017
Coach Dan

Coach Dan – Forerunners Learn to Run 5K Clinic

I’ve been waiting for some while to make this post. I am pretty excited about it, too.

I get to talk about something new to the Vancouver running community and a new challenge for me, that also marks the ‘new era’ of the title.

As I write this, Forerunners is in the midst of a SOFT OPENING of its brand new Vancouver store at 23rd and Main. That means there is the original store on Fourth Ave, the one in North Van and now this one on Main Street. The official opening is still a few weeks away and will include all sorts of celebrations, runs and I’m sure a few specials. They have taken advantage of a brand new space to do it just how they want, including facilities you don’t find in most running stores and lots of technology.

MY brand new project, because that is what the title is about, is a new running clinic focus that I have been asked to lead. Forerunners has always been about running for the whole running community, top to bottom. However, because of the accomplishments of the owners and staff, some people have felt it probably wasn’t ‘for them’. It always has been. As an older, not as quick as I once was runner, I am living proof of that.

Welcome to YOUR RUN BEGINS HERE – LEARN TO RUN 5K CLINIC. This is the direct link to the sign-up page.

That’s right, Learn to Run. No experience needed!

OK, so that isn’t quite true. Ideally, we’d like participants to be able to walk briskly for 30 minutes, but we won’t insist. Beyond that, we are going to start with the basics and go from there. When the clinic is done in Twelve Weeks, participants should be able to RUN 5K. Nobody is saying how fast. That will be up to each individual. For those that want to translate this newfound ability into something more, racing 5K should also be an option by the time the clinic is done. The clinic won’t stress racing, but we will provide enough of the basics to let the new 5K runner feel comfortable to give it a try.

Forerunners clinic training group (full and half marathon)

Forerunners clinic training group (full and half marathon)

I have been leading longer distance clinic pace groups at Forerunners for about eight years now. I am somewhat humbled by the fact that I’ve been asked to develop and direct this program. Must be my fatherly (OK, maybe grandfatherly) approach to new runners. Truth is that my pace group tends to attract people wanting to try moving up to the longer challenges of the half or full marathon. In many instances, having made the fundamental decision, they still aren’t always sure about whether or not they can actually do it. Breaking News!!! They generally ARE. I just help them realize it. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing the newbies arrive and then as confidence builds, run ‘right through’ my pace group into the quicker pace groups.

Before becoming involved with Forerunners as a clinic pace group leader, I spent five years as a Leader and Clinic Coordinator for the Sun Run InTraining program. I suppose that is where a lot of my experience with new runners originates. That was a most rewarding experience and at least part of the reason I am excited about this new opportunity.

First "Very Social" Run from Forerunners Main Street (April 2017)

First “Very Social” Run from Forerunners Main Street (April 2017)

NOW, before we go any further, you may wonder why a blogger who writes almost entirely for a community of people that are ALREADY accomplished runners, is talking about this as much more than a headline. Well, partly it is personal, but mostly it is because we all know or encounter friends and family, sometimes just acquaintances, who muse about learning to run. Well, for my regular readers, this is my invitation to you to pass this on or make these folks aware of what is happening at Forerunners on Main.

We are going to make this fun and definitely non-threatening. Without getting deep into the weeds on how it will all work, everyone will be able to run comfortably within their capacities, and progress at a personal pace. We’ll start slow and build as we go.  We are mindful that even if some people may not be runners, they could be rather fit and will progress quickly. We have a spot for them, but there are still important things to learn if you are just coming to running: things that will help with training in the long-term and prevention of injury.

I should be clear. This really is for people who consider they are just starting with running. People who maybe run a bit, jog for fitness, or used to be runners and want to come back, may want to consider some of the other clinic options available. There will be options at all three Forerunners locations. BUT, the Learn to Run 5K clinic is happening at Main Street. We are going to start at a very basic level. That said, everyone is welcome, as long as it is understood that the clinic is for new runners.

Most runners know that we do this because it is “FUN”. We enjoy it, and probably all understand why I put the emphasis I did on the term fun. We derive our pleasure from a great many aspects of this thing called running, and pounding through a tough hill repeat session may not look like all that much fun, at least not while in the middle of it. But, when it is over, it usually does feel pretty good to know you did it.

Whatever, my personal goal in developing this Learn to Run 5K program is to help people join this community called runners. My number one goal is to ensure that it is a good experience that is welcoming and comfortable. Big challenges can come later. At this point it is going to be more like: “Come on in! The water’s fine!”

Early Morning Beach Runners - my Favourite!

Early Morning Beach Runners – my Favourite!

As we all know, running is a lifestyle choice: a healthy lifestyle choice. Experienced runners probably don’t much think about it most of the time, but that makes it no less real. I doubt any of us runs to specifically achieve any of the health-based wonders touted on every internet home page you will ever land on these days. But, that doesn’t mean we aren’t achieving at least some of them as a bonus to what we love doing. One of the biggies is the mounting evidence that even relatively modest but regular exercise has huge health benefits. Running is one of the easiest of these to perform. Get yourself a decent pair of shoes. Dress for the weather and off you go. Of course, we all know there is so much more than that to a running life, but at the most fundamental level, that really is about all there is to it.

The Butlers: Peter and Karen (4th Ave Store)

The Butlers: Peter and Karen (4th Ave Store)

Now, let’s back up just a bit. As much as I have been asked to develop and coordinate this new program, it is really the concept of Forerunners owners and management. Peter and Karen Butler have been the founders and back-bone of the business from the beginning in 1986. The whole thing has been a passion and vocation for them from the very start. They have always supported the running community with high quality shoes and clothing and a rigorous policy on delivery of goods and services. From the earliest days, Forerunners has sponsored running events in Metro Vancouver. They have brought in accomplished runners as part of their staff and in more recent times as business partners. The Main Street Forerunners is no exception. “Coach Carey”, Carey Nelson, is now partnering with the Butlers and long-time manager, Todd Jangula in the new venture. For the past 10 years, Coach Carey has directed a range of clinics including the Saturday ‘long run’ sessions for various marathon and half marathon events as well as the mid-week ‘speed work’ clinics.

Participant Guide Book and Log

Participant Guide Book and Log

The ‘new kid’ in all of this is going to be the Learn to Run 5K program. The fist session will begin May 27, near the end of the Grand Opening Week for the store. It will be a 12 week program. Like each clinic session, there will be a ‘target’ 5K race for those who want to try out their new talent. Nobody has to race if they don’t want to. That isn’t the focus of this clinic. It is called the ‘learn to run’ not ‘learn to race’ 5K clinic. For those who don’t want to race, there will be a “Very Social 5K” from the store or close by, with refreshments after. (I’ve heard there could even be pancakes!) For this inaugural session, the primary focus race will be the PNE Do-Nut Dash (August 20). There is no official linkage and there may be other similar events around the same time. For that matter, one’s ability to run 5K is quite portable and the clinic will finish in mid-August, so a ‘new runner’ may want to take the show on the road to a favourite vacation site. Nothing like a destination race, I always say.

That’s it for now. As I said, I know this isn’t really for my normal audience, but we all know people who WANT to run, so pass this on to them. They’ll be glad you did!

SPIRIT OF THE MARATHON – The Challenge and the Journey

05.15.2014
Book Cover - Spirit of the Marathon (by Roger Robinson)

Book Cover – Spirit of the Marathon (by Roger Robinson)

When you aren’t actually running, what else can you do? Well, you can read about running. Watch movies about running. OR, both!

What follows is primarily a book review of Roger Robinson’s newest book: Spirit of the Marathon – The Challenge and the Journey (Humphries Books ©2014). I say ‘primarily’, because the book “….follows and expands on the film Spirit of the Marathon II ……. taking a journey in words and images through the astonishing phenomenon of the marathon, its history, and its meaning in the lives of millions of runners.”

This humble reviewer decided that it was important to understand the movie in order to understand the book. He started by watching the DVD – Spirit of the Marathon II, produced by Jon Dunham. Without giving anything away, the film is based on the Rome Marathon (2012) and the specific experiences of several runners, a pretty fair cross-section of all who participate in such events. As a runner, and particularly as a marathoner who has run marathons with fewer than 200 finishers and more than 40,000, it was a wonderful reminder of why – why I and so many others do this thing called the marathon.

Roger Robinson’s book comes good on its promise to ‘follow and expand’ on the film. The nice thing about a book is that it sits there and waits for you to take from it what you need. All that is necessary if you aren’t sure what you just saw, is to shift your eyes back a few lines or flip back a page or so. That is not to say I don’t know my way around a remote, but there is something nice about being able to pause, without having to “PAUSE”. You can stop and think and even debate, although it is admittedly going to be kind of one sided. And, Robinson gives us lots of reasons to pause and ponder his words, not so much because you might disagree (you might, of course), but rather that he has a knack for getting way under the surface and into the history or background of events. You will likely learn a things about the marathon, how it came to be, came to be what it is and how there is not only a history to the marathon itself, but also to Women’s Marathons.

As a book, with or without (better with) the film, I recommend it highly to anyone interested in running whether currently active or not. For that matter, I would recommend this combo to all those who support us somewhat addicted runners. It just might explain what we are about and why we do what we do.

Roger Robinson contributed to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes, bringing his special talent for telling the tale of running as an activity as well as its history, modern and ancient. Again, this latest book gives perspective like few others on the modern sport of running as we know it today. For someone of my age, the truth of the modern phenomenon of running comes crashing in with the realization of just how NEW it really is. The true pioneers of modern (distance) running still walk, nay run, among us. This fine little book introduces us to a number of them, as does the ‘special features’ segment of the DVD.

We all run for our own reasons, with our own personal goals to be realized. Whether first time marathoners or elite runners striving for podium finishes, we all have personal goals. A dominating theme throughout, and in following the seven individuals profiled in Spirit of the Marathon II, is this matter of how personal the whole thing is. The luminaries who helped get us to where we are today are also profiled in terms of their contributions in this regard.

One of those leaders is Jeff Galloway. Although I never really forgot, seeing the words on paper reminded me that it was Galloway’s Book on Running that got me to and through my own very first marathon back in 1988 – me and so, so many others. From elite runner, Jeff Galloway became one of the trail blazers for modern training and running among the ‘everyman’ (and woman) crowd, where most of us live. He made it OK to take approaches different from the elites and more appropriate for us regular folk. It was Galloway who said it is OK to walk some of the time and actually created the whole ‘run-walk’ approach to distance running.

Another pioneer in the field is Kathrine Switzer. Yes, there was that single moment in time when she dared to intrude into the exclusive man’s world of the Boston Marathon, but that was truly only the ‘starting gun’ for what followed. Who can forget the images of a young woman being physically attacked by one of the angriest men you may ever see? The angry man was Jock Semple, Race Director. Yet, as Kathrine herself puts it, Jock was just doing what he thought was right and protecting his beloved race. Later, he became a good friend and great supporter of women’s running – it just took a while. On April 19, 1967, K. V. Switzer (#261) only intended to personally challenge the marathon and test her own ability. Little did she know as she stepped over the start line, the path and journey she had launched herself upon. Instead of a weekend adventure, she found herself embroiled in a life’s work, a mission that has changed running across the board.

We learn how women’s running may be an even bigger phenomenon than popular running itself. With the exception of the full marathon, women now out-number men as participants. Women were apparently too fragile to run even 800m in stiff competition. That only changed at the Olympic level in 1960. The marathon had to wait until 1984 for inclusion in the Olympics. I could not help thinking, as I read Roger Robinson’s coverage of all this, that none of these officials who felt women were too fragile for endurance running (ie anything more than 800m) had ever been witness to the process of child-birth – the very thing which they were apparently ‘protecting’ with their ban on women in hard competitive events.

We oldsters need reminding of the things brought out in this book. The ‘youngsters’ who take today’s running as a given, need it even more. The marathon as a mass participation event is a mere blip in time. It is far less than 50 years, probably not much more than 30 that we have seen the real growth and expansion to where 40,000 and more people take to the streets of one or another of our world cities and challenge themselves in the most profound manner. Spirit of the Marathon – The Challenge and the Journey will go a long way to putting these matters into context. It introduces many of the pioneers and heroines and heroes of modern running as well as expanding on the philosophy behind the film and the individuals featured as they take on the 18th Maratona di Roma. Here you will find context – the context that makes it possible for Mimmo, Ylenia, Cliff, Epiphanie, Julie, Vasyl and Domenico to take on their personal challenges.

While I have mentioned just one or two of our sport’s trail-blazers in this review, the book and the movie bring us the stories, thoughts and words of not only Galloway and Switzer, but also Shorter, Rodgers, Higdon, Wittenberg, Radcliffe, Waitz, Gebrselassie, Dixon, Gorman and Kuscsick, with a nod to Bingham (aka The Penguin).

Make no mistake, the story is still being written, but if you want to catch up fast and prepare yourself to watch it unfold, to be part of that unfolding, I would suggest that you get yourself a copy of Spirit of the Marathon – The Challenge and the Journey. And, if you want to meet the everyday heroes of Spirit of the Marathon II and the Maratona di Roma 2012, maybe you should get yourself the DVD too. I’m pretty sure you won’t be sorry!

[Editor’s Note about the Author: Roger Robinson knows a thing or two about running as well as writing. Among his running achievements are Masters records at Boston, New York, Canberra and Vancouver (at 2:18:43 a record that still stands). He ran competitively for England and New Zealand. He has often worked (and continues to do so) as stadium announcer and radio/TV commentator, and as an Olympic analyst. His career as Professor of English Literature has now come to an official end (retired) allowing him to concentrate on the world of running – something he still does himself, though strictly for personal enjoyment. Roger has many publications including his books on running: Heroes and Sparrows, Running in Literature, 26.2 Marathon Stories (with his wife, Kathrine Switzer), and he is a senior writer for Running Times, where you can regularly find his perspectives on running.]

‘RITZ’ ENTERS THE WORLD OF THE E-BOOK

02.26.2013

As most readers know, this blog sprang from the book: Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes. Most readers also know that down to the right of the blog page is a link to Trafford Publishing, where it is possible to go purchase one of those old-fashioned hold it in your hand, turn the pages things called A BOOK. Some of you have even done that! We thank you.

More and more often though, I have been asked, “But can’t I get Running in the Zone as an E-Book?”. Well, until just a short while ago, the answer was “No”. I am pleased to say the answer has just become “YES”, and I must add, at quite a bargain, especially when you have to include the various shipping and handling charges for the paper version – and then wait for it to arrive.

So, if you had thought about buying a copy of this book with its 26 outstanding contributors including well known writers and runners such as Bart Yasso, Joe Henderson, Lynn Kanuka,  Roger Robinson, Don Kardong, Rich Benyo, Diane Palmason, Steve King and so, so many more, now is your chance. We covered topics from the how-to of it (Bart), through the long-term magic (Diane) and even the history, both ancient and recent (Roger). Once at the Trafford Publishing site, you can ‘wander around’ through some bits and pieces of preview material before you have to pull your digital trigger on a purchase. Almost like going into a book store and thumbing through a few pages of the paper model. And, if you are the kind of person who just doesn’t think it is a book unless it has paper, and covers and pages, well that option is available at the very same place. The choice is yours.

We are excited to see this option available and hope some of you will be too. One of the great things about the RITZ book is that it is really 26 relatively short and readable pieces by 26 different and authoritative contributors. Everyone was asked to stay to around 2500 to 3000 words, which is kind of what guides most of my blog posts. I’ve tried to stay true to the book format. So, if you like the idea of something with a bit more meat on its bones than the average modern blog piece and yet very consumable in a short time, please do go see what the e-version of Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes, looks like. We’ll be glad you did!

LATEST UPDATE ON CONTRIBUTORS TO RUNNING IN THE ZONE: A HANDBOOK FOR SEASONED ATHLETES – EVAN FAGAN

02.19.2013

Evan Fagan - Runner, Triathlete, Volunteer

Evan Fagan is well known in the triathlon and running worlds. He is now 76! Evan started running in 1986 at age 49 and completed his first marathon in 1988. To date Evan has completed 140 marathons plus two 50km ultra marathons!! Evan completed his first triathlon at age 59 in 1996 and has completed 77 triathlons since then including 3 Ironman events in 2004, 2005 and 2010.( getting a podium spot in third place). Evan has also been a member of Team Canada at three World Age Group Olympic Distance Championships – Cancun in 2002, Hawaii in 2005, and Vancouver in 2008. Evan is one of several authors who contributed chapters in the 2005 book “RUNNING IN THE ZONE, edited by Steve King and Dan Cumming. Evan is also featured in a new book on runners who have completed 100 or more marathons, called, “THE MESSENGERS”, compiled by Malcolm Anderson, and published in 2010. Evan is a valued member of Team West Coast. He joined the Tri-Star’s Training team in 2011. In 2011 Evan took part in the Oliver 1/2 Ironman, placing second. Soon after, he underwent radiation treatment and went on medication for prostate cancer which greatly affected his ability to participate in any events for the next several months. He returned to competition in early 2012 and participated in the Island Road Race Series, finishing fourth in his age category. He also won his age category in the 2012 Triathlon BC Provincial Race Series. While in Hawaii soon after, he won his age category in both the Waikiki Swim Club Biathlon (5 km run followed by a 1 km ocean swim). and the 10 km portion of the Xterra World Championship Trail Run on the island of Oahu. While he would very much like to return to long distance events as he did prior to dealing with prostate cancer, he will probably have to be satisfied with the shorter or middle distance events. He is looking forward to more of the same in 2013.

This biographical overview was prepared for updates on the TriStar website.

 

STEVE KING RECOGNIZED BY BC ATHLETICS

12.17.2012

Steve King - Vancouver Scotiabank Half Marathon - 2011

In what many of us would call absolutely natural, Steve King has been inducted into the BC Athletics Hall of Fame. It has been my pleasure and honour to call Steve FRIEND for a good many years. Although I can’t identify the precise day we met, it would have been about 1985 when we both lived and ran in the Okanagan Valley of BC. At the time, Steve was a member of the Penticton Pounders and I was running with the Summerland Road Runners. Later we became members of the same club when the two amalgamated. Steve’s induction and reasons for deserving this honour are found on this link, and near the bottom of the document. If there was ever a doubt as to why he has been recognized, well, a quick scan of the lists of his accomplishments should settle that matter! And, I will warn you that just reading his list of achievements and ongoing activities may wear you out, but get a second wind and keep on with my commentary here. I think there is more to learn – at least I hope so.

Bob's Border Busters - Hood to Coast

I want to offer my personal congratulations and a few brief comments that may be a little different from the official ones. As may be obvious from the first bit of this posting, my first introduction to Steve was as an athlete – and a mighty fine one at that. Steve was still in a prime part of his competing days, maybe not even quite advanced enough to be a ‘seasoned athlete’. For my part, I didn’t even start this road running thing until I was already qualified as ‘seasoned’. So, not that I was ever in Steve’s class as an athlete although I considered myself a decent runner in those days, my memories of competing against him were mostly the sight of the back of his singlet, as he raced away from me. We were members of several relay teams, including my very first Hood to Coast team. Don’t we all look a good deal younger!?!  (Steve, standing third from left – me, standing second from right.)

But, as good an athlete as he has been (race walker, runner, triathlete) what most people remember about Steve is his warmth and caring approach to other people. Who in our communities has not thrilled to hear him call out our names as we hit the finish of some race? It is always so personal. I will never forget the impact it had on a club member of Pacific Road Runners who was doing his first triathlon. I knew Steve was calling the race, so fed him just a wee bit of information about this chap. Afterwards, I casually asked how that first ‘Tri’ had gone and listened while he described how Steve had given him the treatment every time he passed through transition and at the finish! I know this guy will never forget that race. OK, so there was just a little collusion there, but just because I had passed on the information, nothing said Steve had to do anything with it.

So many times we don’t see the little things that encourage people outside the lime-light. The words of encouragement to new athletes trying something for the first time, including my own daughter Danielle as she prepared to do her very first triathlon. His perspective and encouragement on those of us maybe trying to overcome issues such as injuries is another part of the package. I venture to say that almost everyone who encounters Steve King has their own story, and that is why I am going to just stop now. This is where you can insert your own Steve Stories. And, if you think they are really good, why not add them here by way of a comment?

What I do know is that this recognition is so very well deserved and I want to offer personal congratulations to Steve. I also want to go one step further in noting that behind every good man is a good woman and I know Steve would be first to say that without the support of his goodly wife Jean, so much of what he is recognized for, might just not be possible.

THINGS TO DO WHEN A SEASONED ATHLETE ISN’T RUNNING

07.13.2012

Past Glory

You mean there are times when we don’t run?  Well, of course there are!

In my own case there are several things.  One is now history, in more than one sense, and the other two are “coming soon”.

In the past history category is a story-telling event entitled ‘Before They Were Grandparents’, with a theme of sport for this particular session.  In the coming soon category are the Run For Change 5K Fun Run/Walk taking place August 18, not to mention some related fund raising events. And, in the coming pretty soon category is my newest ‘gig’ as Technical Race Director for the Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation – Great Pumpkin Run Walk, happening later in October.

In the case of Run for Change and the Great Pumpkin Run Walk you can definitely expect to hear more as the events get nearer in time. This will probably be the only time I talk about Before They Were Grandparents, so I think I will start with that one.

Before I do, get going, that is I want to say a few words about the title.  The book (Running in the Zone: A Handbook For Seasoned Athletes) and some of its contributors specifically talked about the things related to running that people can do for their own interest, pleasure and benefit, but also to give back to and enhance the community.  I really believe that many people can do more of this sort of thing and have a ball doing it while creating a benefit at the same time.  In the three examples I am going to talk about, not a single step was taken and not a single running shoe was harmed!  In the story-telling, naturally I talked about running and my more or less life-long love affair with it.  In the other two, my role has been and is, to help others enjoy participating in the sport while enhancing their own as well as community benefit from that participation.  The older, seasoned runner is an ideal candidate for this kind of thing.  Experience and love of the sport let us share with others, the place running (of any sort) can have in a person’s life, and because of that love of the sport involvement in the volunteer or charity side of it is an ideal means to ‘give back’.  What better way to contribute than through something you already love?  Thus endeth the sermon.  Now, here is a bit of the story on the three specific topics introduced earlier.

Before They Were Grandparents is an initiative of Bayshore Home Health through community outreach.  We see so-called old people, too often, as a snap-shot in time.  They (we?) weren’t always old.  There is a rich story and history behind each and every person.  BTWG as it is sometimes called by the organizers, celebrates that history and has hit upon the story-telling format to share the things they find in the client group they serve.  When contacted by Bayshore, I was identified by the Pacific Road Runners as “an older runner, who likes to talk and isn’t afraid of a video camera”.  Me?  OK, guilty as charged.

The particular event was to involve several individuals with interesting sport stories to tell.  When I found out who I was to be paired with, my first thought was ‘what am I doing in this crowd?’.  Then, I learned I only had ten minutes!  Seems like I would have to be quite prepared.  There is nothing harder than speaking for 10 minutes unless it is speaking for 5 minutes.  There is a long story about a famous speaker who was asked to address a particular audience.  Without going into the whole thing, his response in a nutshell was if you want me for an hour – I’m ready to go right now.  But, if you want me for 10 minutes, I will need at least a week to prepare.

The clip I have linked here is even more distilled and covers just one part of my ‘story’.  What I decided to do was talk about how running became and remains such an important and satisfying part of my life.  The clip talks about my teen years and very early introduction to running, including an up close and personal interaction with Harry Jerome, something I covered in this blog after seeing Mighty Jerome, the movie about Harry’s life.  What you won’t see, but the attendees saw and heard was how and why I left running for some years and then got back to it, continuing right up to current time and beyond.  And yes, I did cover it in 10 minutes!

A particular thrill was to find that the MC for the event was none other than Red Robinson of radio and rock and roll fame. Turns out we both attended King Ed High and remembered a lot of the same things including the Vancouver Mounties baseball and what a great time it was to sit in the fabulous venue of Cap Stadium (now Nat Bailey Stadium) or when you didn’t have the money, a seat on ‘Scotchman’s Hill’ (aka Queen Elizabeth Park, aka Little Mountain) and watch that Triple A baseball.  My heart sank a little, knowing I was first up, when Red started things off with his own story about being MC for the big Elvis Presley show at Empire Stadium.  Hard act to follow – but I gave it my best!

 

Finishers - First Annual Run for Change

Run For Change is a small but growing program intended to help individuals intent on regaining control of things in their lives. Although I have been involved almost from the beginning, my main involvement is as the Technical Race Director for the 5K Fun Run and Walk, now officially pending in the calendar as the Third Annual Run For Change Fun Run.  The actual event is scheduled for August 18, starting and finishing at the Athlete’s Plaza in the Olympic Village area at the East End of False Creek.  The first year there were just 25 participants.  The second, the number grew to about 50 and for the Third Annual Run For Change we are thinking there could be as many as 100 participants.  When life has turned on you, it can be a long road back.  Some have found that literally running down that road can help.  Taking on the challenge of a regular training program and from time to time, the challenge of an event like this 5K fun run gives confidence and pride just in the taking on and completing of it.  We have seen people wanting to go beyond the 5K, to the point of training through and organized program for the Vancouver Sun Run 10K.  In 2012 there were 31 people who stepped up to that personal challenge.  Then, to the surprise of many, a small but really eager group went on to challenge the half marathon distance at the Vancouver Marathon and again at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. 

Is this a solution to all the problems of such individuals?  Hardly.  Is it a tool by which they might steady themselves and take the next necessary steps?  Absolutely.  Run For Change was started by Benji Chu and a small group of friends inspired by his leadership but as time has gone on, many more have joined in to assist in building a sound base, including financially, to allow the core work to continue.  Participants are not asked to pay for their activities either on a regular basis or in the actual running events. Even ‘fun’ events cost money so Run For Change has now become the Run For Change Society, and able to raise modest funds to support the goals and vision of the program.  This is a great cause and when you meet the people who have commited themselves to the challenge you have little question in your mind as to why you want to support the effort.

Pumkin Runners in Costume

The Great Pumpkin Run Walk.  I am delighted to announce, and with much yet to come, that I have just agreed (with the Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation) to serve as the Technical Race Director for this event.  Naturally, the goal of the Foundation is to engage the community and provide significant funds to support the work of the Hospital. My personal role is to relieve Foundation Staff of some of the nuts and bolts aspects of staging the event, giving them more time to concentrate on the raising of funds, in 2012 to support the work of the Emergency Room.  All of us are planning a great and fun event for the community with family friendly activities, a 5K run or walk route and for those who want to participate, but maybe not do a full 5K, a 1K event option. There will be costumes, prizes, music, post-event food and more at the Great Pumpkin Run Fairground (aka the Peace Arch Hospital parking lot).

This event doesn’t happen until October 21, so this is just a bit of an advance notice on the event and another fine example of the kind of thing we seasoned athletes can do when we aren’t running.  Around the beginning of August the web site will begin to present, in detail, the 2012 Great Pumpkin Run Walk.  Everyone is welcome!  There is no formal registration fee.  Entry is by donation and everyone can participate in raising funds through pledges.  Stay tuned for all the details.  You can expect more from me on this as we move along toward the big day.

IN THE ZONE!

06.28.2011
In the Zone

New CD by Bill Head and the HeadBand

No, I’m not stuttering.  That is the title of a CD with creative ties to Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes and this blog.  Exactly how, you ask?  Well, Steve King, co-editor of Running in the Zone, is a member of the HeadBand and contributes on drums, vocals and what he calls narration.  He collaborated on writing of about half the original pieces, as the lyricist.  Bill Head (and now you see the cleverness factor in the name of the band) is the musical genius, sometimes not only writing the songs, but performing all instrumental parts.  Now that is something I would like to see, live on stage.  I guess he would really have to put his experience as a runner to good use!  Yes, Bill is also a seasoned athlete, too.

Before going on further, I should say that if you want to know a bit more about In the Zone and the HeadBand, just follow the embedded link, but don’t get lost over there at Steve’s site and forget to come back.  I’ve got more to say on the subject. 

Part of the inspiration for this project came as far back as when we were writing Running in the Zone (the book).  As I wrote the last line, I realized that after our first meeting at Steve’s place he took my down to see his new drum set.  He had returned from a band practice just before my arrival for our meeting.  Yep, the very same band!  At the end of the book’s Introduction, you will find a poem written by Steve, entitled “Running in the Zone”.  It is that poem that largely became the lyrics for the song of the same name on this new CD.  Want a preview of that, including a Video treatment?  Then follow the link to Youtube, where you can listen and watch.  Yet another runner, Dirk Handke,  provided the photo montage.  Dirk, who is an awesome photographer is often found prowling about the Interior Road Running races, many trail running events and just about anywhere out in the hills of the Okanagan.  Seems like Dirk  loves running and cycling and takes his camera wherever he goes.  See if you can spot Steve King among the photo snippets of all those people ‘running in the zone’!

What follows is a bit of an aside, but this all reminds me of how multi-faceted most ‘seasoned athletes’ actually are.  It also reminds me how often we become buddies with fellow runners, even running, training and racing with them, forming close bonds and yet not really knowing much about them otherwise.  How often do we go to some event and almost not recognize a fellow runner “with his clothes on”?  No, it isn’t what it sounds like (well unless you are into the Bare Buns kind of running and then maybe it could be just what it sounds like).  What it really means is, in regular street clothes rather than shorts or tights or tech shirts.  But, if we don’t know what our friends look like when not being runners, how often do we also lack a perspective of what they do in the non-running rest of their lives?

Here we have three different people in Bill, Steve and Dirk, all runners, but also musicians, photographers, writers and that doesn’t even begin to touch on their “day jobs”.  I could include myself in the list, because I encounter a lot of people through training clinics where I sometimes lead pace groups or organize the actual clinic, and I can tell you that most of those people only know me as the Leader or Clinic Coordinator.  I am actually having some fun these days as some of my running friends see me performing in a TV commercial, and almost all saying, “Did I see you in a commercial for big screen TV’s?”.  Yep, it was me.  And, that isn’t my day job, either!

Steve King, Race Announcer

Steve King at Scotiabank Half Marathon June 2011

Steve is probably best known as a race announcer and sport commentator these days (although he can claim some pretty fine running accomplishments as well), but none of that is related to his day job.

The last running clinic I took part in, I found out there was a student (or two), an accountant, a ‘head hunter’, a Crown prosecutor and a retired architect to mention only a few.  If you want some fun, the next time you are with a running group where you aren’t all close personal friends, see if you can find out what at least a couple of them do when they aren’t “Running in the Zone”.

And, while you are “Running in the Zone” you may just want to add that inspirational tune to your play-list.  It should keep you bouncing!  So, if you haven’t already, why not head on over to Steve’s site and look into this CD “IN THE ZONE”?

RUNNING WRITING ROBINSON

03.20.2011

Roger in full flight

I was thrilled a few days ago, to receive a notice about a new book of the same title as this post.  To those familiar with running (the doing) and writing (about it) the name Robinson will be quite familiar.  Roger, among his many other credits is a contributor to Running in the Zone, both the original book and this blog – just a matter of days ago, as it happens.  When I first saw the title and handsome cover, my first thought was that Roger had published something of a memoir.  On further inspection and communication with the man himself, I learned that the book is ABOUT Roger and written and published BY his many friends from both his professional career and his life as a runner and writer on that topic.  The best way to introduce this book is to just quote from the release I received.

Running Writing Robinson

Edited by David Carnegie, Paul Millar, David Norton & Harry Ricketts 

Roger Robinson, Emeritus Professor of English, has been honoured by his wide circle of close friends and admirers from the worlds of elite distance running, sports journalism, creative writing, academia and many others with the publication of Running, Writing, Robinson by Victoria University Press.

Edited by colleagues in the School of English, Film, Theatre, and Media Studies, the volume has over fifty contributors, ranging from Lorraine Moller and Roger’s own son Jim among the runners, Tim Chamberlain and Lynn McConnell among the journalists, Fiona Kidman and Joy Cowley among the creative writers, Patrick Evans and Lawrence Jones among the academics, and Mike Hill, Phillip Mann, and Jeremy Commons among former colleagues at Victoria University Wellington.

Anne Else read the poem with which that her late husband, Harvey McQueen, saluted Roger in the book, including lines that acknowledge Roger’s service to both running and university:

            I recall gyroscopic feet pounding

            track & pavement, mile stretching to

            marathon, athlete’s gossip, speaker’s

            rostrum, announcer’s microphone

                                    * * *

            Unsung, the diplomatic bureaucrat

            weaving easily through university,

            educational & public service politics

Another contributor and colleague, Stephanie Pietkiewicz, was quoted at the launch for her reminder of Roger as a teacher and writer as well as a runner: “He opened the lecture. . . . His objective not merely to get to the destination, but to show us meaning’s journey through language. This was no mere intellectual examination; it was textual cross-country. . . . His writing pulls you into its pace, all slow acceleration or sudden surge, unput-downable, unstoppable till the very last full stop.”

Made up of memoirs, tributes, poems, running essays and literary essays this book will please anyone who shares Roger’s love of running, writing and fascinating people.

Even the few words of the release information will create an appetite among those who know Roger’s career from any of the many obvious perspectives mentioned.  Just to be clear, Roger is still very much with us.  Most people never get to read such writings about themselves as they seldom get written until the subject has gone on to that “great marathon in the sky”.  No, Roger, is not only “with” us, for those in Vancouver, he will be physically with us at the beginning of May when he and Kathrine Switzer, his goodly wife, will be helping to celebrate the BMO Vancouver Marathon’s 40th Anniversary running.  Roger has a long and glorious history with the Vancouver Marathon including that in 1981 he set (and still holds) the masters event record at 2:18:45, which in that particular running was also good enough for third place overall and many years could have been good enough to take the win.

So, if you are a fan of Roger, get yourself a copy of this fine tribute, then come out and hear him speak in Vancouver (details from the marathon web site).  Maybe you can come up with some out of the ordinary questions to put to him that go beyond the usual “so what was your favorite – best –  most satisfying race?”

Congratulations Roger!