Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Art of Storytelling

Last night I heard six people get up on a stage and tell a story about the song that changed their life. Four of them knew ahead of time that they were going to perform, but the other two did not. They were willing tellers though, because they had thrown their names into the hat agreeing to speak if their name were drawn, but they’d had no time to plan or make notes.

This is an event presented four times a year by KUNC, the local Public Radio station in Greeley-Fort Collins. Admission is free. The venue is the newly-opened, funky art theatre, the Lyric in Fort Collins. The evening is reminiscent of the Moth Radio hour on National Public Radio.

This evening was special because after each story, a talented singer-guitar player played and sang the life-changing story.  One storyteller remembered how her dad’s rendition of Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore often followed by Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley and the one about that life-long ride on the MTA in Boston quieted six rambunctious kids bound for Cape Cod squeezed into the back of the family station wagon. Somehow, the repetition of round after round calmed down the fractious siblings and they made it to the beach in one piece every weekend, a routine that continued all summer.

Others remembered songs that helped them out of a tight spot, saved them from possible harm when they accepted a ride from a questionable hitchhiker, set them on the road to a singer-songwriter career or even saved their lives at a dark point.

These people were poised and funny, emotional and authentic, so willing to share, with a roomful of strangers, how a piece of music had changed their lives. I admire their guts and their talent. They make it look easy. I don’t think it is.

Thanks to KUNC and National Public Radio for giving them the opportunity and making possible a fun-filled and meaningful evening.

By the way, Still Running a book of stories about my life on the run will be available soon on Amazon. I’m waiting for a final proof.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Two races turn 40 the same week

Two of my favorite running races, the Bolder Boulder 10k and Friehofer’s Run for Women 5k in Albany, New York, are no longer youngsters. On May 28 and June 2, 2018, these events turned forty. I was lucky enough to take part in both races that celebration having done something very well for a very long time.

The experiences left me on a huge high. I was happy that I was physically able to be part of each of them. I loved everything: the training, the anticipation, lining up at the start amid the din of joyous enthusiasm, the opportunity to go for it, and then the sigh of relief at the finish.

It takes way more than a village to get these events off the ground and make sure that everything goes just right. There were more than 2,000 volunteers and nearly 50,000 participants in Boulder. At Freihofer’s there were 900 volunteers and more than 3,500 participants.

Both races have become important to their communities over the years. They interact with local schools and donate to good causes. Citizens of all ages turn out to cheer on the runners as they stream by. The towns are known by the races they have hosted for so long.

For several years now, I’ve run the Bolder Boulder on the last Monday in May and then headed for Albany to run Freihofer’s on the first Saturday in June. There are usually several women at the New York race who have done the same thing. It makes for an exciting few days.

The Bolder Boulder adds a new twist every year designed to make the race more friendly. Years ago they initiated the wave system with the fastest runners going first followed at intervals by everyone else. This year there were 97 waves. It took more than two hours to complete the start. Even though you are running with a cast of thousands, you never feel that you are in a tight crowd.

Freihofer’s is unique because it is women only. “Look at all those people ahead of me,” I said to myself, “and they are all women!” Because the invited runners stay together in an elegant hotel just across the street from the race start, we have a special opportunity to get to know each other. Many of the women speak at the schools in the area during the week before the race which means that they have several days to form friendships.

This year the former winners of the race were invited back to participate which meant that many of the fastest American women runners, past and present, were there. What an amazing group of women they are.

I came home on a cloud filled with memories of a luxurious hotel room, great food, two incredible massages, the thrill of meeting these terrific women, a sense of being appreciated and a race time a few seconds faster than last year. Lucky me.

The photo below is of me with Jacqueline Gareau, former Freihofer's champion and winner of the 1980 Boston Marathon, the year when Rosie Ruiz hopped a subway to finish ahead of Gareau. The real winner was not declared until the following day!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Getting together with Old Friends

Be prepared, if you decide to go to your 60th college reunion. If yours is a college where the graduates in attendance march through the campus in the order in which they graduated, you will be dangerously close to the end of the line. There were more than 40 of us who graduated in 1958, but there were only a few stragglers behind us leading me to believe this was likely to be our last roundup.

I’ve only been to two other reunions at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, home of the Battling Bishops, my 25th and 50th and overall, I have not been an active alum. Yet, it was such a kick to be there and to renew friendships from so long ago.

The university has grown and prospered. We were treated royally and spent Saturday night having a fancy reunion dinner together. We each received a booklet with photos of us all as freshmen in 1954. Some of us were even recognizable.

After the weekend festivities, seven women who have been special friends through all the years spent a few days together, something we do every other year. Once a dozen, we are now only nine and three of those were unable to make it to Delaware.

We’ve been pretty organized in our gatherings over the years. This time, when one of us asked, “What’s the agenda?” no one had an answer. We really didn’t need an agenda because the point was to just be together, to hang out, to eat and talk and take a little nap in the afternoon, to reminisce and to laugh, which we did plenty of. We’re a little goofier now than we once were and we also have a new awareness of the necessity for humor.

Sandy touted a restaurant/bar in Waldo, a little berg up the road from Delaware that specializes in fried bologna sandwiches. “You’ve got to try one,” she insisted. And so we piled into one car and off we went.

These sandwiches are serious business. The hunk of bologna is more than a quarter inch thick, fried until kinda crispy and served topped with cheese and sweet pickles. It’s a sandwich with some heft to it. Sandy remembered them as going for $2.85. They’d gone up to $4—still a deal, if not for the food, then certainly for the atmosphere. The place was filled with customers and wait people who had obviously been feasting on these favorites frequently and for a long time. The place made a nice contrast with the fancy, white tablecloth dinner we’d been served at the reunion.

                                          En route to Waldo.

These gatherings get more precious every time we meet. It’s going to be next to impossible to get us all together again, but we will probably try because we’ve been getting together to talk and laugh since 1986 and we’re not ready to quit—not just yet.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

First bike ride of the season

I almost forgot. I tend to zero in on running and ignore the cool blue bike that sits in my garage waiting for a passenger. But not today. It was a day I had planned to run but then I got an invitation to go for a bike ride. I’m so glad I said yes.

The weather was perfect and the Power Trail leading south from Fort Collins to Loveland is a treat. Miles and miles of traffic-free cruising with lake and mountain views and the occasional hill to make it interesting. Just a tiny spring breeze to make a long-sleeved shirt comfortable. A nice wide path making it possible to visit much of the time. Early enough on a weekday that there was very little biking or walking traffic. Enough twists and turns to make it just a bit challenging if you didn’t know exactly where to go.

The world is green again and now in all its glory. Weeds have not had a chance to become overgrown and enormous. Fruit trees are in full and gorgeous bloom.

A few campers had settled in to spots around Boyd Lake. Maintenance crews were out trimming weeds along the trail and repairing a roadway here and there making a couple of detours necessary.

We did a 35-mile round trip which seemed plenty for the first ride of any distance for the season. In a week or so, I’d like to ride the trail again just to see if having done it once, it might seem  easier than it did today.

Just to make sure we knew it was a bike trail, one inventive soul had created a wall of old bikes along the trail. A much better solution than relegating them to the junkyard, I thought.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

A memorable photo

In the course of putting together a little book I’m calling Still Running, I spent a few hours yesterday looking through most of the 7,000 photos on my computer in search of a few specific ones that I needed. My task was made tedious because I had failed to name most of them—in fact didn’t even know how to do that until a few months ago.

It was a long and boring job punctuated by some bright moments when I ran across memorable pix. One of those moments was when I came upon Marcia and Rui Benfica’s son and daughter hanging out in the hot tub in my backyard. I got to know Marcia when she had done her best to teach me some Portuguese when I was in Mozambique more than a decade ago. 

A few years after I was back home, my good friend, Hope Cassidy, organized a fundraising effort in Greeley, Colorado for a school in Mozambique and Marcia, then living in the U.S., came to Colorado to help promote it. We had a fun visit. The school got built.

I couldn’t resist sending the photo to Marcia. I got an immediate reply. She enjoyed reliving that memory and reported that the kids are now teenagers attending high school in North Potomac, Maryland. Rui, who has a Ph.D in agricultural economics from Michigan State, now works as an international development economist in Washington, DC.

Marcia’s exciting news is that along with her husband and three friends, she is spearheading Mozambique Orphans Charity, a new non-profit organization whose mission is to provide education, job training and meet the medical, emotional and spiritual needs of orphans in Mozambique. I remember how many orphans there were in the country when I was there, many as a result of the AIDS crisis.

“I’m so happy and very motivated doing this. It’s a dream come true,” Marcia wrote. On Friday, May 4 she will speak about the organization on the Voice of America radio. The first fundraising event is scheduled for June 16.

Marcia comes by her passion quite naturally. Her dad was an Anglican pastor. She has worked in expat relocation for the World Bank and was an active Rotary Club volunteer in Maputo.

The website is beautifully done. Check it out at:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Creatures of the Culture

I am on fairly intimate terms with a certain group of young people, ages 20 to 29. It is my continuing pleasure to see them growing up, getting educated, making friends, travelling the world, interacting with each other and beginning to settle into the world of work. They are in many different stages right now. But one thing they have in common: They are creatures of their generation.

Seems to me we all are. Many college kids in the 1950s, when I went to school, tended to pair up early, go through the dating, “pinning,” and engagement process and then marry shortly after graduation. Of course not everyone followed that scenario, but it was a common trend that I bought into without giving it a second thought.

I started dating my husband-to-be in October of my senior year, got pinned in January, engaged shortly after that and married in August, two months after graduation. I taught school for a year, then had my first child in July. By age 28 I had four children. It wasn’t until my husband died when I was 55 that I experienced real independence. That included holding down a job, buying a house, a car, having my own bank account and deciding for myself where I wanted to travel and how I wanted to live my life.

I see these young people I know doing things the other way around. After seven years as a partner with his wonderful girlfriend, the 29 year-old will marry this fall. The 27-year-old has found herself a challenging career and is moving up the ladder fast. No permanent relationship in sight. Age 25 has spent two extended periods abroad, worked in an office setting for a year and will soon set off for a Fulbright year before entering graduate school. No permanent relationship in sight. Age 25 #2 has one more year in law school. One past relationship. No permanent relationship in sight.

Age 24. Living the life of the young finance person in NYC. One past relationship. No permanent relationship in sight. Age 23. Living the same NYC life as age 24. In a very nice relationship. No future plans in sight. Age 23, still getting educated. No permanent relationship in sight. Age 22, still in school, in long-time relationship. Future plans unknown. Two 20 year-olds, in school, both playing the field. Age 20, still in school, in long-time relationship.

It is too soon to see if my theory will apply to those at the younger end of this group. Still, I think it is interesting to reflect on how times have changed. These young people will have a world of experience behind them if and when they decide to “settle down” with a permanent partner.