Rambling Roads: A DST Review

By George A. Hancock


March 1 begins Meteorological Spring. This official weather-keeping season runs through May 31, 2019. Weather scientists, forecasters and analysts use this time span for official seasonal weather-keeping purposes. These weather analysts appreciate a uniform weather-keeping system.

Traditionalists believe spring’s first day is the Vernal Equinox which falls this year on March 20, 2019. One point is clear for this daily runner; March is spring.

March is also a darker time for this daily runner. We begin DST or Daylight Saving Time on March 10. This means all the wonderful morning daylight gained during the waning winter months is lost to the time shift. Decent daylight for this runner is missing again for the next seven weeks. Morning darkness is again a running companion.

All DST does is shift daylight from the morning to the evening. There are no energy savings or benefits. There are health risks associated with this practice. This time shift creates lifestyle disruptions. Many individuals experience heart issues, panic attacks and sleep deprivation due to this practice.

Yet, DST is welcomed by many folks and is enhanced in law by our federal legislators. However, the current issues associated with this twice a year time shift need serious study. Many motorists are distracted now due to modern communication technology. Restless or sleep-deprived individuals operating motor vehicles is deadly.

One advantage of being a veteran 46-year road runner is the ability to look back on past running decades. I started road running back in 1973. The time shift was different in those days. DST began on the last Sunday in April and continued until October’s last Sunday.

Congress amended that practice in 1986. DST would begin on April’s first Sunday and continue until October’s last Sunday.

Congress again amended this time shift practice with the 2005 Energy Policy Act. This law stipulated that beginning in 2007 DST would begin on the second March Sunday and run through the first November Sunday.

We are now twelve years into this revised law. This legislation really impacted my daylight running hours. During my work days before my 2016 retirement, morning daylight running totaled about three months during any year. I was running at 5am during my weekday runs and at 6am on the weekends. Now thanks to work retirement every run begins at 6am. I gained some more daylight running time. It’s very nice on a clear late winter morning.

Older runners may recall the time shift that was mandated by Congress from January 1974 through April of 1975. I was a graduating Pitt-Johnstown student runner. Congress decided to have year round DST. Our nation was caught in the throes of a terrible oil energy crisis. This oil issue fueled the year round DST debate.

Crude oil was climbing in price and subject to the volatile world markets. Many U. S. service stations were running out of gasoline or operating on severely reduced hours. Locating an open gas station was a chore. I ran past and along huge lines of vehicles waiting for any gasoline. I also worked that previous summer and fall in a neighborhood gas station. That was an incredible experience. Once the gasoline shortfall began I routinely had gas lines one half-mile in length. The gas pumps frequently ran dry.

The end result was a year-round DST mandate. Year-round DST made for some peculiar evening runs. I was an evening runner in the ’70s. Thankfully, Congress rescinded this failed experiment in 1975.

I adapted well to dark running as a maturing runner. Our running clothing, shoes, and reflective items developed as the demand for these items increased. My run continued on despite the short daylight segments.

Two years ago I began using the Nathan Zephyr Fire 100 rechargeable hand-held light. I purchased this fantastic light from the National Running Center. This light has drastically changed my morning runs. I literally light up a huge road segment. I illuminate potholes, road cracks, black ice, dead and also alive scurrying critters. I routinely wave the light to slow traffic while alerting motorists to my presence. This light works.

There are two great books available concerning Daylight Saving Time. These books are a great place to begin if you are interested in exploring this topic. Both books remove the myths behind this time-shifting practice.

The first book is titled Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time written by David Perau. This book was published by Thunder Mountain Press in April of 2005.

The second book is Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time written by Michael Downing. Downing’s book was published by Shoemaker & Hoard also in 2005.

Both books are well written in-depth accounts of the history behind DST. Their conclusions may surprise everyone. Both writers reached the same conclusion too.

Daylight Saving Time exists today due to the work and effort of the recreation industry influencing congressional legislation.  DST has never had energy-saving benefits. Noted American Benjamin Franklin is not the father of DST. That honor belongs to Englishman William Willett. A man perhaps now lost in history. Yet, Willett was a tireless proponent of the DST benefits.

DST is a fascinating subject. I and many other runners have learned through trial and error what works best on a run. DST does not work well for my morning run. So, I adapted to the DST time shift. I found a solution. My run continues. Run smart, run well!

To Old Friends 

Including those I’ve never met

 by Sal Citarella

It’s great to see RG rising like a Phoenix from the ashes! If we all keep good thoughts in our hearts, it will succeed for another 20 years and then Freddi will be able to retire with honor, at age sixty-five. No one remembers Running Times or Marathon and Beyond, but we remember our last race and RG, too.

Sure, RW is still pushing diet and shoes. I’ve told Freddi time and again, if she wanted to boost circulation, she should have put Laurie Gordon on the front page. She’s probably a better poet than Alen, too.

One of the privileges of age is the ability to remember things, whether they ever happened or not. I clearly recall when Bernie Greene was an honored contributor to RG. Why, Bernie could overcome good taste and good sense month after month. Unfortunately, he started wearing spandex and took up indoor cycling. He and I met only once, but that did not prevent us from collaboration. Ask us about running The Sunbaked Trail 100.

And Mike Strzelecki (you try spelling it) met me maybe once or twice on the JFK 50 trail, when I linked up with the VHTC. His story, Running Because of My Father, sits on my bookshelf, too.

I’d mention that George Hancock has never had the pleasure of meeting me, but he’s still at RG and still has time, because he is a stayer. He has a cot right by the side of the copy machine. Think he also has pictures.

For years, whenever I’ve said to my doctor that my running was going bad, he’d just refer me to a specialist.  So, I met a Sports Med doctor recently and noticed her certificate from the University of Huntsville, AL. I told her I had run the Rocket City Marathon and we bonded instantly. Then she told me to drop my shorts and bend over. Huh?

“Ahah!” she said. “You have a Use by date stamped on your ass and you’ve expired. But since your mind has deteriorated even more than your body, you can just keep on running.”

Running with Elwood Blues.

Well, Freddi, as I’ve said before, come on out and we’ll run the Dipsea Trail. Or, we can just tell people we have. I’ll hold a sign up at the arrivals gate. Because you and I have never met. Yet.

Rambling Roads: Looking Back

By George A. Hancock


February at 28 days is our shortest month. Every four years we add an extra day, February 29. This event is known as Leap Year. Leap Year coincides with the presidential election and the summer Olympic Games. But that anomaly is a mere coincidence.

February is also our last winter month. March 1 begins Meteorological Spring. This date is observed for weather-keeping purposes. Weather scientists and forecasters use this date for uniform weather records.

Of course, many runners see winter-like weather throughout March and April. Yes, it is cold. Snow does cover the ground. But, for official weather standards those March and April snowy events are recorded as spring snowfalls.

Despite February’s short run, there are several memorable events associated with our second month during my lengthy running odyssey. Late winter is a great time to look back and reflect on our intriguing running past.

February 2018 found me running in shorts on many mornings. My very first February run was on a nice 42-degree morning. Of course, it’s still winter. The next morning was 16 F.

Nonetheless, I had 13 February 2018 mornings with temperatures at 32 F. or better. There were also eight mornings with outside running temperatures at 40 F. or warmer. Those were superb running mornings. Clearly, winter was ending. We would see an early spring.

However, this was not the case. March and April were snowy cold. Winter-like weather would not end. Thank goodness for my ice and snow spikes.

I actually raked the debris out of my yard during February’s final 2018 days. I also swept the lose anti-skid material from the street. Many neighbors were out working on this same task.

Those final February days were warm and sunny. I raked all the thatch and debris from my yard. I also applied lime to neutralize all the winter road salt.

I had no idea shoveling snow would resume in a week. I thought an early spring was graciously enveloping our region. Nah! It was not to be.

My winter months were a time for base building. Base building is where the runner concentrates on weekly mileage foregoing any road racing. Basically it was a time for healing injuries while getting stronger and faster. I skip racing in December, January, and February.

My road-racing legs were ready once we reached March. Now, over the years I did occasionally race in December and January. These winter races numbered only a handful.

I checked my race book. I ran just one February road race. The race occurred on February 28, 1982. This race was the 6th Annual Spring Thaw Marathon. The marathon was held in Pittsburgh’s North Park.

It was a unique race. We ran a mile segment than circled the park lake five times. Various spotters were on the course tracking the runners. I wore my Windber Striders singlet over my running shirt. Of course, I heard continually,  “Nice run Windber!”

I remember that race day as cool but not cold. I did run in shorts with gloves and a tossel cap. I ran a comfortable pace. I placed 29th in 2:51:58. Now think about that time for a minute. I was 29th. All 29 of us finished under three hours. Plus, there were several other runners finishing behind me also under three hours. That’s not bad for a smaller regional marathon.

I had two notable February runs. The first was February 26, 1978. This date is important because it began a 24-year running streak. That’s 8,854 straight running days. I was weeks away from my 25th birthday. I was 49 when this streak ended in 2002. Of course, I began a new running streak once those physical issues were addressed and corrected.

I remain very proud of that running achievement. There never was any monetary value or a trophy attached to that long consecutive run. This run streak was personal. I ran for me.

The other notable February date was February 24, 2015. That February date became my all-time cold weather run. The morning temperature was -18 F. My previous coldest run was a year earlier on January 7, 2014 at -16 F. Now, before those dates the previous cold record was set on Christmas Day December 25, 1983. That run was at -13 F. It took 21 years to break that record- cold run.

I have no great wish to break my current cold weather record run. I was nearly 62 years old in 2015. There were no issues on that run. I was surprised how easy the run was in those conditions. However, when I left for work that morning the temperature dropped to -22 F.

So, what late winter weather condition will 2019 offer? Weather projections, at this writing, are bleak. The National Weather Service and the Weather Channel are projecting colder than normal temperatures for our region. But, some unusual sun spots could weaken or strengthen this projection. Mother Nature has the final word here.

My advice is prepare for the worst scenario. Also, become a weather-aware person. A smart runner is weather aware. February is a short run. Enjoy the roadside view. Run smart, run well!