Ron Marinucci: July Grab Bag and Musings

Ron Marinucci:  July Grab Bag and Musings

by Ron Marinucci

Belated congratulations are due several Michigan runners. Back in April, Desiree Davila place second in the Boston Marathon. Training with the Hanson-Brooks Distance Project, she battled eventual winner Kenyan Caroline Kilel down to the wire, finishing a mere two seconds behind. Davila’s time, 2 hours, 22 minutes, 38 seconds, was the fastest American woman’s time ever at Boston. No US woman has won there since Lisa Larsen Rainsberger in 1985 (with a time of 2:34:06). Davila was the first runner-up from this country since 1993. Congratulations to her and the entire Hanson-Brooks Distance Project family.

In his weekly running e-newsletter, Stu Allen noted Mark Baumann completed his 42nd consecutive Boston Marathon. He also pointed out that the Flint runner has run every Crim, every Volkslaufe, every Free Press, and “every” of many other races. “That’s real endurance running,” Allen understated.

In April, the Road Runners Club of America announced its 2010 award winners. Two Michiganders were among them. Doug Goodhue was named the Male Masters Road Runner of the Year. The award recognizes not only outstanding performances in races over a variety of distances, but also “participation in the local running community by being involved in a local club, youth programs, or coaching new runners.” Among other things, Goodhue has been an active member of the Ann Arbor Track Club for more than 25 years, directs the National 10K Masters Championship as part of the Dexter-Ann Arbor races and the Kensington Challenge, and teaches classes for beginning runners. And, of course, in 2010 he added to the number of national age-group records and championships he holds.

Former Olympian Gary Morgan received the RRCA Outstanding State Representative Award. The Clarkston racewalker and runner seems to be everywhere and writing about it nowadays, picking up the nickname “Mr. Ubiquitous” from his Michigan Runner editor Jennie McCafferty. Morgan “fufills [his] role with ambitious enthusiasm…[including] promotion of RRCA programs and services at the local level, support to the local running club, and general promotion of the running community within [his] home state.”

On a sadder note, the Michigan community lost one of its finest members in June. Although not a runner herself, Dolores Hensley was a gift to thousands of state runners. Is there any Southeast Michigan runner who didn’t receive a finish-line medal or hug or both from Dolores? She died of lingering complications from a stroke she suffered almost three years ago. She will be missed.

In June, I had an opportunity to attend “a delivery” for Medals4Mettle in Dearborn. M4M collects and distributes runners’ medals to children who suffer from debilitating illnesses. Beth Voyles of Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit put together a great program for a couple of dozen seriously ill kids and their siblings. There were Princesses and Superheroes, along with hot dogs, brightly decorated cupcakes, and other goodies. One of the highlights was the presentation of medals to the kids. It didn’t take much persuasion to get the Hulk, Batman, Spiderman, Snow White, and Cinderella to put the medals around the kids’ necks. The smiles on the children’s faces—and on their parents’—were, as the commercial says, “priceless.”

Speaking of kids, I ran into a group of 50 of them at the Run Fit 5K in Novi at the end of April. They attend Novi Meadows Middle School and are members of the Math Boot Camp there. Math teacher Tom Michalski explained, “It’s a before- and after-school math review for students.” As an added inducement for the kids, he started a running program for them, too. “We have 45 students from this year and 5 holdovers. On Monday afternoon and Thursday morning we do half an hour of math and half an hour of running.” He added with obvious pride, “They’ve done well! They increased their scores and the average of the class showed more than a year’s growth.” And, all 50 completed the 5K! Boot Camper Krista Abner-Bennett said of math and running, “It was awesome! It’s fun sometimes [to learn] how to push yourself.” Krista has learned about more than math and running.

I met with another teacher over the Memorial Day weekend, a teacher of mine. Professor Robert Romer taught me physics, that I still remember!, at Amherst and he was great, especially to a history major like me. We had a couple of lengthy discussions, some serious, some not, about teaching and education, some of my classmates, baseball (his son was the batboy on our college baseball team), and history, too. Our talks led me to recall that, to celebrate his 50th birthday, Professor Romer ran a marathon, his own marathon. He dubbed it the Echo Valley Marathon after the street on which he lived, a quarter mile cul-de-sac. The entire marathon, 26.2 miles, was run on his street. That was 104 laps! Shortly afterward, he admitted, “It was dumb.” I wouldn’t agree; nothing Professor Romer does is “dumb.” But I will admit it was a bit eccentric. Alas, due to advancing age and injuries, he no longer runs. But he still bikes and walks. And he has retained that keen mind, even writing another book a couple of years ago—imagine a physics professor writing a history of slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts!

Not quite a marathon, but one of my favorite racing distances is the half-marathon. Include with that 15Ks, 10-milers, and 20Ks, too. And apparently I’m not alone. A recent Detroit Free Press article cited the recent growth of half-marathon participation. In the past ten years, the number of half-marathoners increased almost threefold, to nearly 1.4 million in 2010. In 2001, two 13.1-mile races had more than 10,000 finishers. Last year there were 24 such races.

So it was with interest that I listened to Royal Oak’s Oak Apple race director Kim Frentz say he was considering the addition of a 10-mile race to the traditional 10K (this year was the 34th) next year. It’s far from definite and a lot of things have to fall in place. But he did get my attention and that of blind runner Michael Holmes. Holmes considers the Oak Apple 10K “my hometown race.” I’ve guided him in about ten of them. Frentz, Paul Perkins, and the entire Oak Apple staff have gone out of their way each year to accommodate Holmes and me. We get an early start to avoid crowding mishaps and even our own timer each year. It’s a special race to both of us. Thanks.

A couple weeks later, I ran (alone this time) Flirt with Dirt, a trail race in Novi. It has a couple of challenging courses—5K and 10K—with plenty of twists and turns, roots and rocks. It’s not a surprise to encounter limbs and branches that must be hurdled, too. Recent wet springs have left the courses slick with mud, often with many deep puddles. This year, Whit Neubauer ran the 5K in minimalist shoes. “It was great,” he later said, “no trouble at all.” He admitted, “I did catch one root,” but noted, “a lot of others did, too.”

June 20—“Bug Day!” for 2011. That’s the day the deer flies begin their nipping while I run the trails of the nearby state park. They haven’t been too bad, but maybe that’s because I get out there before 6 AM—they aren’t up yet? But I’ve had to swat a few and it’s time to pull out my Tred-Not Deer Fly Strips and my clothes dryer sheets. They, along with a yellow tee shirt, seem to keep the little pests at bay.

A coyote! Yep, last month, running through a fairly isolated subdivision, I came upon a small, scrawny one. (A friend of mine, Carrie Farnum, knowingly asked, “Aren’t they all ‘scrawny?’”) It might have been a pup, pretty tiny. I’ve seen a few coyotes before, mostly as roadkill, but never while running. I actually came quite close to this one, maybe 20-30 yards, before it heard my footstep. Turning and glancing at me for just an instant, it then broke into a trot toward a treed area. Adventure over…