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!