The Runner (with apologies to E. A. Poe)

February 2, 2015

The Runner

(with apologies to E. A. Poe)

aid8Once upon a hillside dreary, a man pondered, weak and weary

Fifty miles had left him teary, pain that he could not ignore

As the sweat dripped, nearly blinding, and the blisters kept on grinding

He made a choice that was binding, finding that he’d run no more.

“This’s the last one,” said the runner, grateful that he’d run no more

“Damn, my knees are really sore.”


After running fifty miles, even death would give him smiles

If it meant that running’s trials – pain and boredom – were done for

Over the thunderous beating of his heart he stood, repeating

“I no longer am competing. It stops here,” he truly swore

“I am really done competing,” once again he truly swore

“Running stops forever more.”


For all his life he kept that oath, to run one more step he was loath

His stomach showed a rapid growth, a tighter belt that he deplored

On the couch he faced each morrow, in larger clothes he had to borrow

Hiding in the fear of sorrow—sorrow from pain he abhored

When asked if he would run again, mindful of what he abhored

Quoth the runner; “Nevermore.”


Don’t worry – no one’s quitting. ;-) Ruth and I are just going through an annoying patch of injuries, which will pass, sooner or later.

This piece was originally intended to go with the photoshopped finish line picture I recently published at Queen Mobs Place. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

“Death at the Finish Line” at Queen Mob’s Teahouse

January 30, 2015

Queen Mob’s Teahouse has published a finish-line photo of me and a frequent running partner.


#tbt – the First Woman To Run a Marathon (wasn’t Kathrine Switzer)

January 29, 2015

As we all know, the first woman to gain official entry into a marathon (albeit unbeknownst to race organizers) was Kathrine Switzer at Boston in 1967. But she certainly wasn’t the first woman to run 26.2 miles – Roberta Gibb had covered the same course unofficially just the year before. So who was the first woman to run a marathon?

51 years ago, in December, 1963, Merry Lepper became the first US woman to finish a 26.2 mile marathon. Merry, a 20-year-old community college student, entered the Western Hemisphere Marathon in Culver City, Nevada along with her friend, Lyn Carmen. Lyn dropped out, but Merry completed the race in 3:37:07, an unofficial world record.

Merry’s run was the cover story in the Feb. 1964 Long Distance Log:

(click on images to enlarge them)

At that time, women weren’t allowed as official entrants in sanctioned marathons, so Merry’s time was not included in the official results sent in by race organizers:

However, they did mention the efforts of “Mary” and “Lynn” in a sidebar:

Arlene Pieper, on Pikes Peak before the race

A few years earlier, in 1959, Arlene Pieper had entered and finished the Pikes Peak Marathon. However, that course was almost 2 miles short of the standard 26.2 mile distance. Personally, I think racing up Pikes Peak makes up for that. For that matter, some reports say that the 1963 Culver City course may have been a bit short.

Merry Lepper’s time beat the unofficial women’s marathon record of 3:40:22 set by Violet Piercy of Great Britain on October 3, 1926 on the Polytechnic Marathon course (though Piercy did not run on the same day as the race).

Stamatis Rovithi may have been first woman to run a marathon when she ran the Marathon-to-Athens course a month before the 1896 Olympics. There are reports that say a woman named Melpomene tried to enter the actual Olympic Marathon that year, and when organizers did not let her in, she jumped in at the start anyhow and made it to the finish in about 4:30, an hour and a half after the winner. However, other reports credit that run to Rovithi (sometimes on the day following the Olympic race).

Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if a woman had run 26 miles or more sometime before then. If Ada Anderson could walk 2,700 quarter miles in 2,700 quarter hours in 1879, 24 miles a day for over 28 days, it’s not unlikely that some woman somewhere ran 26.

Anyhow, through the efforts of these women, along with Grace Butcher, Katherine Heard, and many others, marathons finally began accepting women as official entrants in the early 1970’s. Today, about 43% of the people who run marathons in the US are women, and if recent trends continue, by 2020 there may be just as many women running marathons as men.

#tbt – Imagine How They’d Feel About Spandex

January 22, 2015

This interview with Bill Bowerman, published in 1964, predates the running boom, modern high-tech synthetic fabrics,  and the boom in dedicated (and revealing) running gear that followed.


Bowerman, of course, was the long-time Oregon (thus the green dye) and US track coach known for his innovative ideas. He might be most famous today for co-founding NIKE and using his wife’s waffle iron to develop prototype outsoles for the company’s shoes.

Age-Grouper Motivational Poster

January 20, 2015

#tbt – Relentless Gardner Spooner

January 15, 2015

One of my long-term running goals is to be a long-term runner. With any luck, I’ll find a way to keep running into my 70s and beyond, following in the footsteps first laid down by people like Gardner Spooner.

Gardner Spooner was born in 1887. Growing up, he played baseball, soccer, football, and ice hockey every weekend, even though he was born without a right hand.

Spooner started running when he was 50. He turned to competitive racing when the cycling events he had been competing in shut down because of World War II. His first Boston Marathon was in 1941; he ran the race 15 times (finishing 12). He had his best finish in 1945 at age 57 (33rd, in 3:37). Some of his later Bostons were unofficial after the BAA deemed him “too old”.

In November, 1963, the then 70 -year old Spooner started the North Medford Club’s 10-mile race in Haverhill, MA. When he didn’t show up at the end, race officials started searching. They found him off-course, but still running for the finish line. The article (below) has Spooner more than an hour behind the second-to-last finisher; the results have him only about 22 minutes behind.



In 1969, Spooner was out for a run in his hometown of New Bedford when he collapsed and died from a heart attack at age 81. This past October, the Greater New Bedford Track Club held the 36th annual Spooner 10K in his memory.

#tbt – “I think I’ll have to die from some other cause”

January 8, 2015

Dr. Tyrus Peace began running at age 43 to combat againa pectoris (chest pain due to coronary heart disease). “The exercise has improved my heart condition to a point where I think I’ll have to die from some other cause.”

It must have worked – he lived until 1999, when he was 85 years old.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

A reminder that it wasn’t always common knowledge that exercise was good for you.


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