Letter from the President (October 2020)

The political handling of the swine flu fiasco had elements of farce (Credit: Getty Images)

With a pandemic looming, the US president announced a warp-speed effort to vaccinate every man, woman, and child in the country. 

Pascal Imperato was waiting in line for his vaccine shot. So were the cameras.

It was around 10:30 in the morning on October 12th, and Imperato was at the Chelsea Health Clinic, an Art Deco building in the lower west side of Manhattan. The clinic was one of around 60 locations dotted around New York, preparing to vaccinate almost everyone in the city.

The President had ordered an unprecedented mass vaccination of everyone in the United States. As Imperato rolled up his sleeve, it was the first day of the effort in New York.

Imperato was deputy health commissioner and the chair of the task force charged with rolling out the program in the city, so he’d volunteered to be photographed for the newspapers as he got his shot. The mayor of New York City, when asked, had refused, so Imperato had stepped up. Turnout was strong across the city that morning.

But what was meant to be a ceremonial opening and positive public relations effort would turn sour. That week, the papers had begun reporting troubling news from vaccine clinics in Pittsburgh: three apparently unexplained deaths due to heart attacks.

“I remember that day. I remember it vividly,” recalls Imperato. “I saw those headlines on the subway. And I said, ‘Good God. All hell is breaking loose here.’”

The headlines would get worse. Two days later, the New York Post tabloid wrote of “The Scene at the Pennsylvania Death Clinic”, featuring emotional but almost certainly embellished tales: “One of the old people, 75-year old Julia Bucci, had winced at the hypodermic needle in her arm, had taken a few feeble steps, then dropped dead on the floor of the health station. Right in front of their eyes.”

The stories, it would turn out, were false and misleading. But it was just one of many problems that plagued the “swine flu affair of 1976”, when a US president decided to rush a vaccine to the entire American population based on ill-founded science and political imprudence.  Lawsuits, side-effects, and negative media coverage followed, and the events dented confidence in public health for years to come. 

from Richard Fisher’s “The Fiasco of the 1976 ‘Swine Flue Affair’

The above was taken from a September 20th article written by Richard Fisher, a senior journalist for BBC–well worth the entire read. Given this was some 40-plus years ago, it’s not something I recall, but a bit surreal given our current climate.   

More likely for that time my memory points to trying to jump sidewalk cracks with friends pretending we were Evil Knievel. Yep, while the government was proposing mass vaccination, we were awestruck by a Harley rider that jumped cars, vans, and buses. (Side note–the Evil Knievel toy is back, available via Amazon.)

Times have changed, and the world is decades smarter, bigger, and faster. The entire population of the US during the Spanish Flu (1918) is about the equivalent population added from 1976 to today. No wonder getting on a podium is tougher with 120 million more people.   

While we thought we’d be watching a sub 2-hour marathon in 2020, we are instead binge-watching reruns on Netflix. If you were unfortunate enough to catch the Presidential debate, I’d suggest before the next sparring match you might seek suggestions from friends and tee up something like the 2019 Backyard Ultra that follows our former local Maggie Guterl.   Watch it in advance so you can channel the amazing level of fortitude Maggie and many of our club’s ultra runners have exhibited at races, or save it for the broadcast moment to drift off to a different time or place.    

Hopefully we’ll get a race report from one of our ultra runners or pacers this month that attended Worlds End Ultra late this September. This is the site of a well-known aid station organized and supported by Pacer volunteers. The bonus would be something from Alan Cook, who’s an amazing crew chief and support for Elaine and others.   

About this time last year, I may have been commenting about ketchup and how its origin was Chinese and not tomato based. It was my segue into Blues Cruise that would have been the weekend of October 4th. Unfortunately, as we’ve communicated, both the State and the Army Corps have put restrictions in place that forced the cancelation of the event this year. Posted on the FB discussion page we have proposed a group fun run for the date which will cover various distances up to about half of the 50k course.  If you’re not on FB, please reach out to President@pagodapacers.com, and I will share the details. Watch for additional similar events through the fall. 

Getting in some long runs on the weekends might be the key to keep pace with Beth Kohl’s 130-mile October and the group of gluttons she’s encouraged to participate in this year’s Reading Hospital 2020 Virtual event. I’d encourage you to support the Friends of Reading Hospital who have supported the Pacers in the past and this year they are targeting funds to purchase a Mobile Mammography Coach. Try and say that three times fast. Ok, try once. Ok, just mumble.  

Breaking down 130 miles for the month, it’s only 4.2 miles per day, so I’d encourage you to join the Wednesday runs where 3-6 miles is an average night. Some will be there for fun and socializing, while others (aka me) might be there because otherwise we’d suffer Halloween because of procrastinating to month’s end. Our group run attendance has been good, considering, and the respect of COVID-related issues is being well observed. 

Our volunteer opportunities have been fewer this year, but we’re going to ask for your help Saturday, October 24th to support Tom Chobot and the running of the junior high cross country event. This is one of our give-back events, supporting the sport, coaches, parents, and the athletes themselves. Tom will fill in the details closer to the October 8th General Membership meeting. This is important, really important, for the kids that have had their world turned upside down. 

As a club, we’ve avoided the path of the virtual races, so we’ll need to come up with a catch phrase similar to “No-shave-November.” With your best Dutchie voice, how about, “No-Oley”? Lenny, Brandon, and a few others are working out the details to Strava-map the Oley 10 miler for a non-race event. You’ll have the month to run the course as often as plausible to achieve the best between fame, fortune, and accolades only a mother could share.

Polly Corvaia and Sue Jackson are moving forward with preparations for Kris Kringle and the Shiver series respectively, making adjustments and adopting best practices we’re learning as group races return. There will be limits to the participants and spectators, so sign up early and train often.

Financially the club remains on a path of prudence, and if you’ve read this far, the Board felt you should be rewarded. For the members in good standing going into 2021, the club is going to waive all membership fees. We will still solicit for new members and ask that they contribute the standard fees to join the worthy cause.   

Speaking of the Board, we’ll be having elections in the month of November, so stay tuned and watch for updates on how electronically we will be collecting applicants and votes. 

I’ll apologize now for the length and rambling of this letter along with the lack of content recently.  It’s a struggle to capture topics to write about when all you’re dreaming of is that new Evil Knievel toy heading to home.   

Got to wash my hands, put on my mask, and run.   


October Means High School Cross Country

by Tom Chobot

There are two youth events that Pacers get involved with this time of year; one is an official Pacer event, and one is where club members help with and provide volunteers for.

The “FALL RUN OFF INVITATIONAL” is a junior high 2-mile cross country race which will be held at the Reading Fairgrounds on October 24th. The club presents and supports this race as a community service activity, which is in its twelfth year and serves about 220 Berks County 7th and 8 grade runners. We need volunteers for race day activities, as well as for some clerical duties for a few evenings leading up to race day. Pacers have reported that they enjoy working at this race and get a great deal of satisfaction out of watching and supporting these young harriers. The entire event takes about 4 hours from start to finish ( 7AM to 11AM) but any amount of time you can provide is greatly appreciated.  

The other event is the Berks County High School Cross Country Championship Meet to be held on October 20th from 11:30AM to 2PM at Schuylkill Valley High School in Leesport. Club members provide manpower for finish line management and course marshaling. This is an ideal opportunity for retirees who wish to contribute to the running community. Also, since spectators will be substantially reduced because of COVID compliance, this is a great opportunity for members who are parents of these runners to get a front row seat on the course or at the finish. 

Both events are COVID compliant and every precaution will be taken to safely protect runners and workers.

For more details, please contact Tom Chobot at 484-269-2889 or chobot7957@msn.com

‘Tis the Hunting Season

It’s that time of year again–the time to be careful on the trails, wear orange, and be aware of the calendar.

While Sunday has traditionally been a hunting-free option during the season, this year there will be limited hunting on a few Sundays. Be sure to check the PA Game Commission website for more details about when each season begins and ends.

Many of our favorite running spots in Berks–including French Creek and Blue Marsh–will have hunters out and about this fall, so make sure you know when it’s safe to hit the trails and when it’s better to stick to the roads.

And if you do choose to run in State Game Lands or any place where hunting is permitted, make sure you wear lots of orange.

Your Membership Is Renewed!

Due to the limitations placed on our ability to hold events this year, the Pagoda Pacers Board of Directors has decided to waive all membership fees for current members in good standing for 2021.

If you’re currently a member, you don’t need to do anything to renew your membership for next year. We got you.

Let’s hope we’ll see more of each other in 2021.

Club Election: 2020

Each fall the club holds an election for members of the Board of Directors and the Club President.

Members of the Board of Directors serve 2 year terms, and the President serves a 1 year term.

This year, we must elect 5 members to the Board of Directors and 1 Club President.

If you are interested in running for a seat on the Board or the office of President, please email Beth Kohl at bethauman@gmail.com to nominate yourself.

The deadline for nominations is October 29th.

In the November newsletter, candidates will have an opportunity to share some information about themselves and their commitment to the club.

This year, due to COVID, we will conduct the election online. Voting will take place in early November. Instructions for how to vote will be forthcoming at the end of October. You will be able to vote anytime from November 1st until November 11th.

Race Results (September 2020)

Email race results to Race Results Coordinator Karen Rule at raceresults@pagodapacers.com.

September 2020
Worlds End 100K
23/64Diane Grim16:51:31
26Anna Piskorska16:56:51
43Andy Styer18:04:34
52Joanne Van Horn18:28:57
60Elaine Cook18:49:41
Lori Johnson19:02
Worlds End Fall Classic
46/141Mike Zimmerman3:07:44
87Ty Zimmerman3:40:58
135April Zimmerman4:44:41

Registration for Shiver ’20 – ’21 Is Open!

We have finalized plans for the Shiver – as final as anything can be in 2020!!!!!   Please see the new application, posted on the Pacer website, for details.  We realize not everyone will be happy with our decisions but our focus is on holding a safe race that complies with current restrictions.  Some of this information is the same as last month, some of it is new.

  • No series, only 4 individual races.  Because we don’t know how Covid may change everything over a period of 4 months, it will be easier to have 4 separate events, not tied together.  As before, the races will be held on the 2nd Sunday:  12/13/20, 1/10/21, 2/14/21, 3/14/21.
  • Limit of 200 runners each month, combined total of the 5K and 10K.  
  • On-line preregistration only.  No mail-in or day of registrations. 
  • Awards only for the 1st M/F in the 5K and 10K each month.  Everyone will receive a finisher award each month.
  • We are not doing age group awards because we chose to give everyone something to take home during this crazy race time. Also, giving awards encourages runners to remain at the race longer and also results in more interaction as awards are distributed.  We are trying to make this work for everyone.  Some runners may choose to hang out in the park with their fellow runners but others may wish to run and leave and not worry about waiting for awards.   
  • Covid designed shirt – The shirt must be pre-ordered.
  • On race day, runners will receive a bag containing their bib, safety pins, finisher award, a variety of individually wrapped snacks and a shirt (if pre-ordered).
  • To create further separation, 10K will start 10 minutes after the 5K.  Therefore, runners must register for the distance they want to run each month.  Runners can change the distance from month to month.
  • We ask runners to wear a mask as they approach registration.  Masks are NOT required during the race.  

If you run the Shiver each year or have never run a Shiver please consider joining us this season!! Feel free to contact any of the race directors with questions or comments.


Sue Jackson, Georgine McCool, Tiffany Pantoja

Minutes from the General Meeting (September 2020)

General Meeting Minutes

Date: September 10, 2020

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: Mike Whalen’s house and via Zoom

Treasury Report – Shaun Luther—117% of target. Some larger amount checks written for Nolde Forest and the Berks County Coaches Association. Received refunds for music licenses we didn’t use. One large expense coming up: we were never charged for the food for the 2019 Christmas Party, but the club never received an invoice . . . so, this is the only outstanding expenditure.


  • Charlie Horse Half Marathon—Shaun Luther—Typically, registration for the event is open on Oct 1st. The plan is to still do this, and then adjust plans accordingly.
  • Run for the Ages 10K Trail Race—Donna Hey—The club’s donation check was presented to Nolde, and they were very appreciative of the gift. Donna is keeping her eye on things for next year. The construction at the mansion and education center has been put on hold for the current time. 
  • Grings Mill 5K and 10K Run—Laura Yoder—no news as yet.
  • Blues Cruise 50K (for 2021)—Mike Yoder—Nothing planned yet.
  • Oley Valley Country Classic—Lenny Burton—details to follow about the course he has created for people to run, which will be loaded onto Strava, and can be tracked via that application. Swag—thinking about masks with a hex printed on it. Details to follow.
  • Kris Kringle 5K (distance change for 2020)—Polly Corvaia—race is still scheduled for about 200 runners with limited spectators. New location is the Berks County Fairgrounds, which has a large outdoor, covered pavilion. She is using a new artist for the hoodies—Audrey Kohl. Awards will be 2-deep, due to fewer runners, and based on the 5K results. Large gnomes for the overall winners, and smaller gnomes for the age-groupers. Polly has a 5K course to measure, and will be on the grass/turf the whole time. (Adding a road piece is an additional $300 for fire/police.) If the course is snowy, potential volunteers needed to pack snow—runners, snow mobile, etc. Awards are based on 5K, but runners are encouraged to do an extra loop and make it a 10K. More information will be made available via email and the discussion page on Facebook.
  • Shiver by the River Series—Sue Jackson—all races are still a go. Probably will do a staggered start with the 10K first. Limited at this point to 200 runners, and encouraged to not bring spectators unless the runner is a minor. Talking about a goody bag with the race items enclosed. Still no day-of registration planned, no paper applications, and each race will be registered for individually (i.e., no series registration). Registration is online only through Pretzel City Sports. Awards will be very limited. Water and wrapped snack only at the finish, with the intent for runners to leave immediately from the race at the end. No congregating on the inside of the farmhouse. Considering opening the online registration first for people who ran last year. More information will be made available via email and the discussion page on Facebook.
  • Jr. High Cross Country Fall Invitational—no update.
  • Race director comments—Donna Hey—mentioned that she can get single-serving bags of Dieffenbach potatoes chips as wrapped items to give out at races.

Committee Reports

Social Committee: Caroline Hill is working on a bike ride on a weekend soon. Details to follow.

Communications Committee—Jon Durand—nothing to add (he’s trying to do IT support for 5,000 students in Exeter). Anything: send to Jane who has been posting on the discussion page.

Community Service

  • Weekly runs—have been well attended, and Matt is doing a good job of collecting names and signatures. Thanks to Phil for scheduling these runs. 

Charity Committee: no update

Membership committee: Deferring membership dues for 2021 is under consideration due to the savings of not holding meetings and other events. (Annual dues raise about $2200/year.) Still trying to attract new members.

Old business: Restaurants are moving to 50% capacity, so this may be an option to have a few people attend in person. Venue suggestions are welcome—perhaps a hotel, Canal Street, Mimmo’s, a fire company, etc. Contact Steve with any ideas about this.

New business

  • Discussion of membership dues, as noted above. Further discussion needed about this.
  • Worlds End Ultramarathon (100K) is 9/26. Mike Yoder—the Pacer station will be there, and it’s business as usual. He wants to make sure there isn’t an issue with doing this. No issues noted. He is looking for about 10 people, if anyone is interested. There will be some Pacer women running the ultra, and results to follow.
  • Nominations for executive positions—Seeking nominations for a few executive board positions (3 or 4), and the president’s position is open. Contact Beth with any names for consideration. Candidates will be announced at the October meeting, with voting done at the November meeting.

Registration Is Open for the 2020 Kris Kringle!

Kris Kringle registration opens October 1st and ends when 200 runners have signed up.

HOODIE UPDATE: you may order your hoodie online too! Registration with hoodie is $38 (or without hoodie, $20).

Race date is Sunday, December 27 at 10am.

NEW location is the Berks County Fairgrounds (next to Berks Ag Center where the race normally is).

The distance is 5k; semi-flat and fast! You will run cross country and no roads. You can choose to run the course twice for a 10k distance but awards will be for your 5k time.

5 year age group and fabulous finisher awards.

Online registration only at pagodapacers.comno race day entries.

Sponsored by the Pagoda Pacers Athletic Club and benefits the Berks County XC Coaches Assn.

The goal is a simple, fun, safe, in-person race that fits within the state guidelines. No indoor facility. There is a large pavilion that will allow for social distancing during bib pick up, refreshments, and awards.

Be sure to bring a dry bag so you can comfortably hang out after the run and catch up with runners you didn’t see most of the year.

–Polly Corvaia, Race Director

Wednesday Night Runs: October 2020 locations

Time to break out the reflective gear and the head-lamp!

Reminder: We need everyone to sign in (and sign a waiver) before EACH Wednesday Night Run. This is necessary for our insurance and for contact tracing (if necessary). Make sure you familiarize yourself with the GROUP RUN GUIDELINES AND WAIVER before attending.

–October 7: Cumru Elementary School: 601 Philadelphia Ave.

–October 14: Wilson West Middle School: 450 Faust Rd.

–October 21: Stoudts Ferry Park: Stoudts Ferry Bridge Rd and and Tuckerton Rd, Muhlenberg

–October 28: Weis near Albright College: Rockland and 13th Streets, Reading