Let’s Play Tag — with Flamingos

How do you know if you are “IT”?

If you find a pink flamingo in your yard…. you’re IT!!  

I found a flamingo in my yard… Now what?

Devise a running route that goes past another Pacer’s house and place the flamingo in their yard. Take a picture and post it on the Pagoda Pacers Facebook page with #PacerFlamingoTag. Try to keep the flamingo on its travels and pass him along within a few days! The more our lovely bird flies, the more fun this will be.  

Do I have to run to the Pacer’s house from my house?

No! Your route can start anywhere. You can run from your house to the Pacer’s house of your choice, or just drive somewhere close to the person you want to “tag” and do a “run by” tagging. No need to even post your run map. We’ll trust that you ran past the house in order to place the flamingo.  

Have fun!!!  Can’t wait to see the fun Flamingo pictures!!

Summer Races Canceled

The race directors for our summer races have announced that, sadly, both races must be canceled due to the ongoing public health crisis.

The Run for the Ages 10k Trail Chase (originally scheduled for June 28th) and the Gring’s Mill Run (originally scheduled for August 2nd) will hopefully resurface next summer, once the spread of COVID-19 is under control.

The next Pagoda Pacers race in 2020 currently on our schedule is Blues Cruise (10/4/20). Race directors Dan Govern and Mike Yoder have not made a final decision yet about whether or not this race will take place. The Army Corps of Engineers has NOT ruled out events for the fall at Blue Marsh, but there is a good deal of uncertainty about what specific restrictions will be in place by October. Please stay tuned for more information, and be sure to follow the Blues Cruise Facebook Page for updates.

Lou D’Onofrio’s Neighborhood Quarantine Ultra

The weather was great the weekend of May 9th — great to go long.  I ran a neighborhood quarantine ultra event as part of three virtual races: Dawn to Dusk to Dawn 24 hour, Athletic Equation Social Distance Ultra, and the Yeti 24 hour Challenge.

We loved making my run a community event that exposed first hand many of our neighbors to ultrarunning.  It was great to enjoy the run with so many people while keeping physical distance. I was happy that it provided inspiration and positivity during these challenging times. 

Although I didn’t race it, I was pleased with a 106.44 mile result along with 4,728 feet of ascent, by covering a 1.5 mile neighborhood road loop for the full 24 hours.  

Letter from the President (May 2020)

If you’re reading this now, I’ve squeezed in under the wire, and I’m busy celebrating La Fete du Muguet, the festival of the lily-of-the-valley. Of French origin, this celebration includes giving bouquets of lilies to loved ones, wishing them health and happiness. How timely and difficult as we continue on this path of Pennsylvania Quarantine life from around mid-March. Yes, there are parents who could recite the moment it all began.

We’re going to get to the other side of this and have the greatest discussion of hindsight ever documented. At this moment, however, there is some elder going rhino, hippo, and what the hell is a hypotenuse. Add the algebra questions and solving for zero and that’s only middle school. This is going to push some to drink. Tequila, I say, as we’re only days away from Cinco-de-Mayo. The late Mayans from Central America would tell us: “Don’t trust visitors!” That Spanish sailor, so friendly, Jolly-Jack I’ll call him, probably had no understanding of the reach of his actions as he unwittingly spread small pox with a more deadly outcome than the worst bottom shelf bottle of Cuervo could deliver. 

Jolly-Jack only had his friend Portly-Pete and Captain Bob in his group of friends that he felt knew anything about the ways of life. Over many a beer, they shared tales of ports, fish, and women, some they hooked, some they spoiled, and some happy never to see them again. The outcome of his actions reflected what little they knew could be communicated at the time. 

Our Race Directors, however, through the use of technology provided by Mike Whalen, recently shared their combined knowledge (and that of our RRCA insurance) to stay current with the potential expectations to organize a running event. Donna Hey, as the Race Director for Run for the Ages (6/28), has put all spending on hold, similar to the steps of the Charlie Horse RDs, and recently shut down the signups for the event. Early May will provide some insight to how the state, county, and Nolde Environmental Center will view the gathering of 400+ participants, but it does not look good. We do expect all races organized by the club will be “no frills” if and when they do occur. The reality that the Berlin Marathon already cancelled a September 27th date does not bode well for large running events. Boston today is about 20 weeks out for a 9/14 rescheduled date, which has a host of implications where participants can’t run a race, prior to a race, to qualify for race, for a race that may not occur. 

With all the big races that have been postponed and moved to the fall, it is yet to be seen how this will impact races such as Blues Cruise in October or Oley in November. The smaller races may be viewed to participants as more manageable and nimble to the conditions of the time.  With the green light to start organizing again, will come the training to our volunteers on best practices, what we can provide, and what becomes the “new normal”.   The food spreads of our regionally know festive aid stations may be put on the back burner for a bit. This is not a time our club needs to be the leader.  

Remember Jolly-Jack? Well, he could tell a tale of the biggest fish. Spread your arms wide as you may, but Jack’s was bigger. (Size matters.) Under the stars, as they crossed the vast ocean from Spain, Jack told of great battles with detail where you could almost see the shimmer as the fish jumped in the distance. The coxswain, quiet in shadows, had tales closer to his heart.  You see without boast he did the work, honed his skills, and found challenge while the boat was in port. Call this his virtual fishing trip.

The solo events are not new; however, they have become an organized outlet to challenge, motivate, and set goals while the physical distancing is in place. Who would have thought the Big Dog Backyard Ultra could be executed globally as a virtual race with participants running 4.2 miles every hour until……  Yes: Michael Wardian went 63 hours and felt the race shouldn’t have ended at 264 miles. Check the FB page out, as it’s worth seeing the runners that used treadmills, coffee shops, and even a frozen lake as their course. In more sane distances, we’ve seen many of the Pagoda Pacers participate in similar virtual events, and some were willing to share in this newsletter. 

So why don’t the Pagoda Pacers organize a virtual race? At least from my eyes, let’s head back to the Spanish fleet and reference Captain Bob. You see one of the Dutch Uncles (everybody know that phrase?), let’s call him Sheldon (aka, RRCA), suggested some guidelines early in this quagmire that stepping on the toes of other races wasn’t akin to the best interest of the whole.

Many races are planned well in advance, and there wasn’t a clear understanding when to cancel and how large the impact would become. What they have instructed, to be fair, was to respect your dates, and if you had a race and wanted to convert to something virtual, that was reasonable. They didn’t support new events taking participants others needed simply to survive or break even. So what about something new or random we pose to Captain Bob, Jack’s buddy. In the harshest of seafaring cursing, he’ll tell ya don’t do nut’n that brings more boats to a fish’n hole. Anybody that runs Nolde, Grings, Blue Marsh, and Neversink will tell you that the last thing we needed to encourage is more people to get on common roads and trails. 

Times are changing, and the next 3 weeks of May will bring some insight to how the state will open back up and what the economy will look like.  Personally I’ve seen an outpouring to those that work in the health field and the admiration of being on the front line, but let us not forget those with tremendous financial cuts, lost wages, and possibly jobs not there to return to. If you have a free dime, give it, spend it, and share it locally. Thankfully the club is healthy as the membership has done a prudent job of cost containment and preparing for a rainy day.   

Soon it will be time for the group to band together, organize, and encourage athletic activity simply to help the community reach a new normal. This is our mission statement: not a race, not a singular event, but a culture. 

Time to quit typing–got to go put on my mask and wash my hands ……. Steve

Brophy’s Bucket

Without races or Wednesday Night Runs or my normal commute to Downingtown, I decided to check a few things off my “to do” list this month.

(1) Beat Shaun Luther’s FKT around Blue Marsh Lake: Right after reading Shaun’s cool article from last month’s newsletter, I knew I wanted to take up his challenge of recording an FKT circumnavigating Blue Marsh Lake. If I didn’t do it soon, I thought, someone much faster than me would do it, and the opportunity would be gone forever. So I looked at a few maps, did a little planning, and went out to make the attempt on April 5th–almost exactly a year after Shaun made his FKT run.

I started at the northern end of the lake, to get the State Game Land section out of the way first, and of course–having done zero recon of this area–I got turned around and a little lost. But once I was through, it was pretty smooth sailing (not literally–boats are not allowed) around the rest of the lake. I ended up edging out Shaun’s time by 8 minutes (a 20-mile route in 3:29:22).

(2) Peak-to-Peak: Whenever we would run up to Cushion Peak on a Wednesday Night Run, someone would always mention how neat it would be to do a “peak-to-peak” run from there to Mount Penn. From the Cushion Peak lookout, you can just barely make out Mount Penn’s Fire Tower in the distance–and it’s so inviting! Finally I found a morning to actually do it.

Embarrassing side note: I spent a long time trying to figure out where to park near Cushion Peak. I was planning on asking Yuriko to drive me back out there after completing the run, so I could get my car. Why did it take me SO LONG to realize it was much easier to have her drop me off at Cushion Peak, and then I could just run home after summiting Mt. Penn?

I did this one on April 11th — the full run was just under 16 miles and just under 3 hours. Pretty clear day, so nice views from both mountains.

(3) Pacing Gabrielle: Gabrielle Minarik, a Pottstown runner, signed up for a “virtual 50k” after Hyner (and everything else) was canceled, and she wanted to do it at Blue Marsh. She was a little nervous about getting off course, so she asked for a guide and some company. I roped Steve Vida into joining us, and we three spent the morning (and early afternoon) looping around the lake (without the short cuts this time), trying to give each other support but also plenty of space. Gabrielle got her 50k PR (6:19)!

(4) Radsport Virtual Climb Challenge: The Radsport Festival has already been canceled for this year, but to raise some money for the Reading Recreation Commission’s food service program, the festival organizers decided to create a series of challenges for runners and cyclists on Mt. Penn. Since that particular mountain is my home, I figured I’d give it a shot. This week, I posted times for the Trail Running event, the Road Bike event, and the Road Running event. (I don’t have a mountain bike, so that’s the one event I’m not doing.) All routes are short, tough climbs, starting near City Park (intersection of Clymer and Duryea) that go up the mountain. All except for the road run end at the Fire Tower. (The road run ends at the Pagoda.) My times weren’t amazing (I’ve never been a particularly fast climber), but I still had a lot of fun with each challenge.

Looking forward to more new challenges to keep solo running interesting (until life gets back to normal). Rumor has it that Brandon Beane is cooking up something pretty sweet…

–Matt Brophy

Minutes from the Race Director Meeting (April 2020)

Race Director Meeting Minutes

Date: April 16, 2020

Time: 7 p.m.

Location: held via Zoom

Present: Steve McGuire, Polly Corvaia, Jane Setley, Caroline Hill, Sue Jackson, Lenny Burton, Mike Yoder, Laura Yoder, Dan Govern, Georgine McCool, Jon Durand, Karen Rule, Lisa Domeshek, Shaun Luther, Caroline Hill, John Thompson, Libby, Tiffany, and Ellie Alderfer

Treasury Report – Shaun Luther—we have enough money in the account due to reserving 3 years of baseline funds, so the club is stable for the foreseeable future with the races being on or off.


  • Charlie Horse Half Marathon—Shaun Luther—Charlie Horse and Dirty Pony are canceled this year. Registrations had essentially stopped due to uncertain conditions. There is a small amount of money available for Special Olympics. A small amount of expense has been spent on the non-refundable facility fee, and Shaun is trying to get a refund from the music licensing fee. The horse shoes are ready for painting for the 2021 race.
  • Run for the Ages—June 28, 2020, no input from the race director. Polly is questioning whether the pandemic will affect the airline tickets dates that are good for one year from the race in June 2020. Steve is not sure of the work being done at Nolde—he will reach out to Donna Hey for an update.
  • Grings Mill 5K and 10K, August 2, 2020—Caroline Hill—about 8 entries so far. Permits are paid. Caroline has not been in touch with the park about the date. The shirts will likely not have the year on them. The prizes will be a painting of the Red Bridge on slate. The logo creator and design will be changed. Not too much has been invested in the race, so far. Likely to decrease sponsorship requests for prize giveaways due to the financial status of businesses.
  • Blues Cruise 50K, October 4, 2020—Dan Govern—still in planning phase, has 51 people registered. Has the permit and pavilion reserved. Not really into his planning phase yet which starts in June. Swag will not be on the scale of last year.
  • Oley Valley Country Classic, November __, 2020—Lenny Burton—thinking of not having a race this year … with so much up in the air with the location determination and the conditions, Lenny may reconsider in June. He has not heard back from RMC about using their location. 
  • Kris Kringle 5-miler, December 27, 2020—Polly Corvaia—hold on ordering the hoodies. There is time to make decisions later in the year for the race.
  • Shiver by the River Series, December thru March 2021—Sue Jackson—Has already booked Temple fire company for the 2021 date, due to foresight of all the event cancellations that will need to be rescheduled.
  • Berks County Jr. High Cross Country—no update on this currently.

Other updates:

RRCA emails and guidance: Question—Have people been getting the monthly email from RRCA? Mostly no, we are not. RRCA recommended to cancel runs and races at least for the next 60 days—thru the end of May. Also recommended to avoid a virtual race, as to not have people congregate to popular places.

The club will consider when to get the runs back on, and, separately, when the post-run social dinners or gatherings will resume once the runs have started.

Steve McGuire recommended having “dateless” swag for this year, and move the swag to another year if not used in 2020.

Charity support issues: find out something creative that people are doing to continue charity support, and try to be creative with ideas if races must be canceled in the traditional sense.

Thanks to Mike Whalen for allowing the club to host this meeting via his personal Zoom account.

Laura Yoder’s Big Solo Miles

The stay-at-home orders and COVID-19 caused many of my races to be canceled, as it did for so many of us. But I have been honoring the new popular saying: “Running is not canceled!”

It all began so innocently with a course being marked on local trails by fellow Pacer member Brandon Beane. His creative course design and dedication to getting it marked motivated me to run my first “race replacement.” I followed his carefully marked trail to complete a 50k solo run, as a replacement for the HAT 50k, which had been scheduled for March 21. (Well, most of that run was solo. My husband Mike ran the first 15 miles with me.) 

Next up was a way to replace a 12-hour run that was also canceled. I was not sure where or how to run a solo run that long and practice social distancing since local trails were becoming very busy all of sudden. I decided on an epic treadmill day! Just how long and how far could I go on my treadmill? That is where Mike came in again, as my all time favorite crew person, always there to support my crazy adventures. He kept me fueled and hydrated for my run. Well, 10 hours later, I had completed 50 miles! Yes, 50 miles on my treadmill. He even made me a finisher medal for my run! 

Then the challenges really started appearing online. I was hooked. Next up was the Personal Peak Quarantine Backyard Ultra on April 4th. Run 4.167 miles every hour on the hour for as many hours as you can. Over 2,000 people from all around the world competed in this virtual challenge where we checked in on a Zoom meeting to know when the bell would ring to begin the next lap. Mike made me my official race bib, and off I went. I lasted 15 hours, completing a total of 62 miles. Again, 50 of those miles on my treadmill, and the remaining 12 I ventured out on the roads near our house. Michael Wardien, from Virginia, the winner of that event, made my run look like a warm up, since he completed 63 hours worth of 4.167 mile laps in his neighborhood giving him just over 262 miles. 

I was still eager for more, and since I am a member of the  Berks County Solo Runner group on Facebook, organized by our local running store Fleet Feet, I saw a new challenge within the next week. It was the “Solo Break-the-Tape Finish Line Photo Challenge.” Well, this just happened to coincide with the original date for the Boston Marathon, which had to be postponed to September. I decided I wanted to run a solo marathon in honor of those having to wait a little bit longer for their chance to run. I had the extreme honor of completing the Boston Marathon in 2017. I have to say it is truly an indescribable, once-in-a-lifetime experience for a runner. I also wanted to honor all of the healthcare workers and front line people keeping our country safe and healthy. So I left for my solo marathon run and returned home to an incredible surprise. Mike created the best finish line ever. I was beyond surprised and excited to Break The Tape! 

I have other challenges lined up and am very thankful for my health to be able to complete them. I am also very lucky to have such an amazing and supportive husband!  What is most important is that we all are doing what we can to keep each other and ourselves safe and healthy. We need to be there for each other however possible. I am, as we all are, eager to be back running with my friends and racing again.  I only hope my crazy running somehow motivates others to get out there and keep moving forward. Running is not cancelled!

–Laura Yoder

Andy Styer’s Triple Peak 50k

A little background: this year’s racing schedule was going to be Phunt 50k in January, HAT 50k in March, Coopers Rock 50k in April, and Worlds End 100k in May. With that agenda, lots of training miles and vertical gain would need to be sandwiched in there.

I first bagged Phunt and went to Mexico instead–no complaints there! I ran a 50k at Blue Marsh in February as my replacement run. 

HAT 50k was canceled, so I ran a 50k that day anyway on the Horse-Shoe Trail.

Coopers Rock was postponed, so on April 25th, I put together a route which involved a 3 mountain tour (Mt. Penn, Neversink, and Guldin’s Hill aka Copperhear Hill). Having grown up in St Lawrence, I was up on Neversink and Guldin’s all the time, so these places are like home to me. There are several road connectors, so it’s about 85% trail, 15% road. This course boasts over 5000′ of vertical gain and more turns than can be explained. As I told my friend Kyle Benjamin, who ran the majority with me, the course map is up here in my 47-year-old brain, which is scary in itself.

 So, with Worlds End 100k being postponed, you can guess what I’ll be doing that day anyway  🙂

–Andy Styer