Reminiscences of an Auld Trail Dawg

By Sal Citarella

Recently, Freddi asked me if I could offer any assistance in recalling the names of pioneering women Ultra Runners. What she overlooked, was that anyone old enough to have any experiences with the pioneers would also be old enough to have forgotten who they were. So, I reached for my scrapbooks.

Just like Quentin Cassidy, I’ve kept scrapbooks going back to my high school days at the start of my running in the late ’50s. The reminiscing was great but what disappointed me was the deterioration not just in my frequency of racing but in the frequency of entries of any sort.

“Back then,” things were done on paper. Magazines and newspapers flourished, not just Runner’s Gazette but Mad, too. There were numerous national and regional running periodicals. Race Directors mailed out results. Local papers published the event. It was satisfying to clip and save.

As we know too well, things have changed and the loss of the 2020 racing season merely exacerbated it.

Sure, the info is now available online but, at least for this curmudgeon, it ain’t the same. Not only do I have to keep a ream of paper on my desk but remember to replace the cartridge in my printer. What comes out is just too neat and sterile. It doesn’t have the “feel” of authenticity; it didn’t come from the Race Director. We pay more for our races and get less tangible evidence of our efforts. Oh sure, we got a nice T, but so did the thousands of other entrants.

In the past, I kept training logs periodically when prepping for a major marathon. I recorded individual workouts and experiences that just needed to be captured and saved. I clipped articles of other peoples’ exploits. 

Seeing race results on a computer screen and saving to a disc is just too impersonal. What are you going to put on the floor of the birdcage or the bathroom if the toilet overflows, CDs? There’s nothing like the feel of well-turned paper in your hands to bring back the time and the place. All those trees going to waste!

Getting back to pioneering women runners, when I first encountered them on the trails, I got the impression that they always ran in small groups and chatted nonchalantly all the way. In my mind I composed the following little ditty, “Knit one, pearl two. Move over honey, we’re coming on through.”

There have been many outstanding marathon racers, both male and female, and I use the word “racers” purposely. For me, neither the strongest nor fastest guy off the Start line, the point of doing an ultra was not necessarilyto race but to enjoy and endure. “Just a long day in the woods” was always my mindset.

Perhaps you remember the Ultra Runner’s prayer:

Lord, if I stand here clutching a tree
I’ll never get to the Finish nor Thee.
So, fix in my mind the one simple notion of
Relentless Forward Motion.

 Amen.

What does any of this have to do with the pioneering women Ultra Runners? Well, even if I can’t spontaneously remember your names, I thank you for the miles, the memories, and experiences you helped to provide for me and others, female or male.



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