Letter from the President (May 2021)

by Steve Maguire

I’ve chiseled out some time and will attempt to fill in the gap since my last posting in the Pacer Newsletter. For a Gemini Irishman, you’d think I’d have this gift of gab and long list of topics. Two minutes on the web turns into ten, and I’m now shattered having learned that, of all the Zodiac signs, Gemini are the most disliked. Really missed on picking that rabbit hole to follow. Ideas come easily, and they can swirl in the mind for days; getting them out and remembering the path can be the long intense struggle of writer’s block. I think that’s also why I’m a fan of group runs.

Speaking of groups, if there was a way to tap the collective brain power when we’re all off crunching thoughts whilst engaged in some activity, we could solve world problems. Might be a concept for a road race to see if someone could get to the bottom of how much wood can a woodchuck chuck. I can attest, having tripped enough over rocks and roots, these tough questions would be best handled on the road.  

Speaking of road races, I hope you’ve caught some of the positive work being done by Dale Wiest, Evan Falk, Mike Whalen, and others as Race Mates. This April, for the last Shiver, the club was able to help 5-year-old Brantlee Phillips experience the thrill of a 5k through a partnership with IM ABLE, a bit of technology, and Dale’s unwavering commitment to the idea. There is so much potential to this partnership, and we hope others in the club will assist in growing and continuing the opportunities for adaptive athletes. Look for more details through Mike, Dale, and the club.  Next event up for the Race Mates is May 2nd out in Birdsboro, where personally I’m looking forward to participating.

Speaking of Birdsboro, how about visiting the scenic Rustic Park when the Chobot Challenge 15k comes up this May 16th. If you are looking for something shorter, you can test the waters (pun intended) with the 5k run or hike options. If you’re female and 29+, it might be a good place to win some hardware. I understand this trail race is a bit short now, for Gwyn Chobot, who just completed her first 50k in April. (Congrats Gwyn!) For many reasons, in addition to supporting the Sound Studio in Michael Chobot’s name at Penn State, this race is definitely one to support. 

Speaking of support, we were told there were no pictures captured from the recent chain saw training class at Blue Marsh. Fortunately, there were pants under the chaps this year. The western side of the ski loop is the section of trail the Pacers are committed to keeping clear, and the use of a chainsaw requires safety training from the Army Corps. When you see those fallen limbs cut miles from the nearest road, thank Mike Whalen and Brandon Bean.  

Speaking of the lake, Dan Govern, one of the Blues Cruise RDs, is actively working with the Corps on how financially we can support their mission. This is where the phrase “follow the money” comes in. At the most recent Wednesday night run, we started from the upper lot at the Stilling Basin and covered the 2 new sections of trail developed with the Corps and BAMBA working together. The section from the dam to the levy is about 2.5 miles of switchbacks with moderate climbs and descents. Many of our members are also bikers and BAMBA members, so hats off to all those involved in replacing and duplicating what was a cherished part of the lake trail that was lost to the installation of a waterline in 2019.  

Speaking of trails, the Horse-Shoe Trail continues to evolve and Shaun Luther and Larry Sundberg have been the face of the Pacers at some of the maintenance and trail-making days. For the Charlie Horse Half-Marathon, Shaun and Libby have been working out the final details with a few practice group runs being done this spring. It is a great course, slightly technical and challenging, similar to the prior version. Keep your plans clear and sign up early for Saturday, May 29 (Memorial Day weekend), for this Pacer event that supports Special Olympics.  

Speaking of the Olympics, a group of Pacers were able to enjoy a showing of the classic movie Chariots of Fire arranged by Larry Sundberg at the Goggle Works Theater. One of the night’s ticket holders walked away with the collector’s edition Blu-ray. (I suggest you don’t research what anniversary addition it was.) Polly, who seeded the idea, unfortunately was not able to attend as our Reading Knights were celebrating a State Championship basketball game. Adult beverages, soft seats, good friends–I think it was probably a good event that should be repeated. The movie celebrated an ageless battle of training, fortitude, sportsmanship, all leading up to the 1924 Olympics.

Speaking of ageless things, it was similar timing in 1926 when Hans Nolde, son of Jacob, started construction on the stone mansion and sawmill pond at Nolde State Forest. Nolde and Horst was a large hosiery company in Reading, which, coincidentally, made cushioned socks similar to our current running gear. The plant closed in the 50s, but you never know about the inventory. As Race Directors prepping for the Run for the Ages 10k held at Nolde on Sunday, June 27th, Donna Hey and Blair Hogg may have some surprises. Hopefully it’s a bigger gap this year over the younger runners and not old socks.  

Speaking of old socks, I’m happy it’s time to put the fleece lined pants away, and the wool socks that provided comfort working my corner at the Shiver Race Series. With each challenge, as the Pacers returned to in-person events, our Race Directors Sue Jackson, Georgine McCool, and Tiffany Pantoja adapted, communicated, and adjusted the Shiver Series. Their guidance focused on the safety of all involved, and the adapted series was a success. Thanks to all the volunteers who came out and helped this team shine.  

Speaking of … Well I’ve got one more thing and then I’m out of gab. We’re committed to having an in-person meeting May 13th. I’ve already purchased the beverages – more details to come. Thanks again to all of you who keep the wheels rolling on this ride and give so much back to the community.    

Got to go…time to run.


Letter from the President (November 2020)

Gobsmacked! For hours I’d been struggling with these ideas swirling about my head like autumn leaves. Must get them all on paper before they hit the ground. First, yes, “gobsmack” is a word. I learned tonight it is British slang for amazement. More importantly it pulled together this detail so missing from Pennsylvania folklore (at least from my education). 

I’d heard about the Lenni Lenape Indians from a high school classmate who had direct genealogy ties. She was a cheerleader; I probably thought…skip that…. I was in high school…..  Can’t say I remember anything in detail but I did some research and they were called something like “Delaware people” in the late 1600s about when William Penn arrived.  We know Penn’s work on the Delaware for his creation of Philadelphia, the utopian city of “brotherly love”.  The Lenape were here well before Penn and named many of the Pacer haunts.  Sinking Spring, Oley, Maxatawny, and Tulpehocken just to name a few. 

The month of November will be the 26th running of the Oley 10 miler, and thanks to a unique format of semi virtual runs, you can relish in the thought that the epic scenery of that valley has been shared for centuries. Check out Lenny and Barry’s link to the course and supporting details. 

Speaking of details, a special thanks goes out to Pretzel City Sports and their team that have been doing a great service to the Pacers communicating the adapted format for the Shiver by the River Series.  Four races, two distances, plus winter weather and Sue Jackson and her great team are prepared for another memorable year.  Don’t wait to register–these races are popular and have size limits. 

You see, slow and steady have a limit. Tulpehocken, or “land of the turtle,” is also the name of the creek that borders the old Kris Kringle course. If you were slow, you may have missed that this race hit its size limit. To compensate for outside constraints, Polly, John, and Lisa have adapted and moved the start to the adjoining property (the Reading Fairgrounds) which will allow the entire race to be under one land management. With this type of passion, no wonder this race has built such a popular following. 

This Kris Kringle location is the same site as the one where Tom and Gwyn Chobot organized the Jr High XC event held this October 24th. Where the club’s mission is to encourage healthy lifestyles, so many volunteers, coaches, and parents saw this as a gift of some normalcy to kids during these crazy times. Can’t thank Tom, Gwyn, all the Pacer volunteers, Pretzel City, and the parents for making this happen. To paraphrase Phil Lechner, “We needed to step up”.  

After the Jr High event, Polly was out on the Kringle course doing a wheel measure. The Lenape Indians, similar to the technology of the time, had a variety of linear measures, such as small units like the distance from one’s finger to elbow, or longer measures, such as the distance one could travel from sun-up to sun-down.

William Penn was considered a friend by the Lenape and brokered land upon his arrival in the Delaware Valley in 1682 that was granted to his family by King George II. The measure of the land was the walking distance of a day and a half. Roughly about 40 miles was the assumed distance. 

About 19 years after William’s death, his sons, Thomas and John, along with an official, James Logan, may have organized Pennsylvania’s first documented Ultra. It’s one of those dirty details of American history where our forefathers pulled a fast one.  

Chief Lappawinsoe signed the Walking Purchase agreement (1737) to sell part of his tribe’s land in the east using the 1 ½ day metric. Mr. Logan then arranged and hired 3 fast runners and added 65 additional miles to the earlier William Penn agreement. 

 Chief Lappawinsoe is said to have described the walk as not “fairly performed” and “no sit down to smoke, no shoot a squirrel, but lun, lun, lun all day long!” 

If I interpret the information correctly, Edward Marshall, one of the hired runners and the only known finisher did a 105 miles in 36 hours. Roughly Philadelphia to Hershey at a 20:34 pace.  Not too bad, but I think we have some club members who could have gotten Mr. Logan a few more miles.

If you’re in the Wernersville area, look for the old man at the Gristmill on Wooltown Rd. He just might have roots to more of this story.

Time to stop, got to lun, lun, lun.


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.   


Letter from the President (June 2020)

by Steve Maguire

I’m not much of a complainer, but it is time for a gripe. This morning I turn on the PC and the pages are blank. What’s that about? Yes, there were a few beers last night, stories with friends, and the World problems had all been solved. I figured by now the newsletter would be done. Where’s the content, the poignant ramblings of our time? All I got is simply writer’s block.     

Yeah, yeah, happens to us all. You’re confused, doesn’t seem like much content, underwhelmed, can’t find it? So what’s the gripe? Well, recently I learned a little factoid that was shared on Berks County Open Mic. (FB Page well recommended). Seems a few years back, on a May night, a young 22-year-old found the record button and captured the riff of one of the great rock songs of the era. Some of you have probably slept with or at least dreamt about new running gear, so having a cassette recorder on your night stand and a guitar in your bed probably doesn’t appear that odd. Personally I know I’ve woken with the running shoes on, but that was miles into a race with thoughts of “this is a bad dream.” 

Just a few chords and a mumble was all that was captured on that tape. A moment of time frozen by tiny particles of iron suspended on plastic with the hope this alignment of effort held value in the future. Today we have software in the clouds capturing our movement such as Strava and Garmin to look back and memorialize those efforts. Similarly people have drawn with their routes, and participated in virtual challenges to share and support various goals. Big shout out to Brock Kline and Laura Yoder for some epic mileage challenges. Hope they added content to the newsletter. 

The club to date has avoided creating this new rage of “Virtual Races,” as we respect the guidelines of the RRCA to not add competing events to existing dates or where the activity level on routes would be increased. We, however, have stepped into the realm of virtual meetings first with the Race Directors, and then on May 14th with the entire club as a General Meeting. Thanks again to Karen Rule and Mike Whalen for their assistance. No segue, but I just opened a new package of coffee and will pause to enjoy the smell. Thanks, Jane. 

Around the time you’ll be reading this, our area will be moving into the “Yellow” phase. So what does that mean? Basically, my take is we’re all in a trial to see what sharing respect and not germs could look like. Wash your hands, pay attention to your circle, and if you’re sick–communicate and contain. Let’s get to the other side. If, as a society, we prove that adapted personal habits can influence the spread of the virus, we will move forward. 

As far as club races go, we’re holding out hope for Blues Cruise which we think, for various reasons, may be one of the best formats to work around the constraints prior events to date have fallen victim to. Race Directors Dan Govern and Mike Yoder have been working with the Army Corps and are proceeding cautiously with preparation for the Pacers’ next potential race.

There was concern at one point as the large spring races postponed to the fall would negatively influence participation in some of the Pacer events. With the Berlin and now Boston Marathon cancelling their fall dates, you can expect more of these big events will topple. For Boston that’s $200 million lost to their economy, and for the associated charities, it is something like $35 million. There is no crystal ball to the economic impact of the quarantine; however, the club continues to maintain a frugal approach to weather these rainy days. We intend, once stability returns, that as a club, the necessary discussions can occur as to how to assist the businesses and charities that have supported the Pacers in the past. For now, as individuals, we can think local, support local, and spend local. For instance, on June 5th, it looks like Fleet Feet and hopefully Chester County Running Store will open for more than curbside pickup.

If you’ve been on the trails, around the lake, or as many have shared on the Pacer Discussion Group FB page, Mother Nature is in her glory. If you look closely around the Justa Road area, even the gnomes are sprouting. (A shout out to the creative women of the club that may have planted them.) On the page recently you may also have seen a few Pink Flamingos. Seems Polly Corvaia and Karen Rule have a great sense of humor and have started a game of tag.   Possibly migration patterns may have started on the lawns of Barb Raifsnider and Mary and Patrick Boggs. These gestures bring smiles and encouragement to athletes like a high five or ring of a bell. 

Speaking of cow bells, there hasn’t been a race since the Shiver to annoy the neighbors, but the big one came out for a car parade which was part of the Wilson High School graduation of Sebastian Weiss, son of the proud parents Stephan and Linda Weiss.  On his way to Temple, Sebastian is one of the recipients of the Pacer Scholarships. It was a moving event as the streets lined en masse, similar to many of the road races to support these kids. They’re far from the finish line, but I’m not. 

So with finding the good things going on, what’s the gripe? Well, you see, some 55 years ago in May, that 22-year-old who has outlived every life expectancy woke the next morning to find he’d recorded 2 minutes of acoustic guitar which birthed “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. And the rest is history. 

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

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

Letter from the President (April 2020)

Back a few years, just out of high school, friends and I would make the long trip to the Delaware beaches, as one of my friends had access to his parents’ trailer. This was years before MapQuest and Waze, so everyone had their own fastest route. For us it was the back roads through Chester County, and then south down routes 41 and 1. 

There’s a little town on this path called Avondale, and one night on the way back I was driving my mom’s powder blue Datsun 210. It was dark, and I remember I was driving without shoes on. Now these little towns on the route were notorious for speed traps, so you tried to pay attention. I may have peed my pants when not just one, but multiple police cars popped out with their lights emblazoned. As I scurried to put on shoes (because that must have been why they wanted me), an officer reached the driver’s side door. I’m ready with license and the best innocent look I can pull off as I roll down the window.  The officer’s gazillion watt flashlight nearly blinds me, and all I hear from the officer is, “Sorry, you can go.” I didn’t get the impression he was going to explain further, and I realized this wasn’t simply a speed trap. Something bigger was going on. 

Avondale is also home to a Catholic Church: Iglesia San Rocco. North America has about 2 dozen churches celebrating the works of Saint Rocco. He was born in Southern France around 1348 and died imprisoned by his own uncle before he turned 30. When his parents died, he gave away the family fortune and headed to Italy. News traveled slowly in those days, and Rocco arrived during an epidemic of plague.  It is there that his legend was born as he tended to the sick and saved the life of a Cardinal. 

Rocco himself eventually fell ill and was banished to the forest where, with help, he survived, carrying a scar on his leg the rest of his life.   

So, “Where’s this going?” you ask… Well, Rocco headed back home incognito after some time abroad, and his uncle imprisoned him for being a spy. Rocco, possibly to avoid fame or for whatever reason, never divulged his true identity and died in the prison.   

Hang on–we’re still going.

Fast-forward to 1918: while the world is in the grips of the Spanish Flu, the local bishop of Zamora defied the health authorities and ordered evening prayers on 9 consecutive days in honor of Saint Rocco. In the Catholic Church, this saint is honored as the protector against the plague and all contagious diseases, so it seemed reasonable to pray to him. The churchgoers lined up, kissing the saint’s relics, and Zamora goes on to record the highest flu-related death rate in Spain. To this day, on August 16, St. Rocco–the patron saint of dogs, invalids, the falsely accused, and bachelors–is still celebrated

So, there’s a little history, and it explains why in jest it was thrown around as a great name for a 50k to replace so many other races that were cancelled this month, including HAT 50K, which was canceled about 2 weeks before race day. Who would have thought the final race in the Shiver Series would be the last local race for our members and community?

Initially, with all the local runners training for spring events, it seemed reasonable someone could do something local respecting the guidelines of the CDC and still cover the distance. As the days passed, however, the news and threat became more ominous and any event seemed impractical.  

At some point in the future, there may be an organized group run replicating the 25 miles and twin peak series of trails that Brandon Bean banished himself to mark solo in the woods of Neversink and Mount Penn. Thankfully, unlike poor Rocco, his only scar was the temporary orange ribbon left for people to follow individually.

If you’re not aware, the Club has stopped holding the organized Wednesday Night Runs and the next Pacer Meeting for April 9th will also likely be canceled. The Charlie Horse Half Marathon and the Dirty Pony 5k for May 23rd are the first of the Pacer Club races that we’ve had to cancel.  Shaun Luther, as the Race Director, identified the likely impending situation and was able to minimize the financial loss that can occur when a race of that size is canceled. 

Our next race, Run for the Ages, is scheduled for June 28th, and we will need to adapt to the guidance of the CDC, the State, and the Nolde Forest Environmental Center as the date gets closer. 

When we are able to resume our general membership meetings, there we will need to discuss the real impact this virus will have on our local community, sponsors, and our charity partners, and how we can respond as a club.

Zach Barker, from Fleet Feet, set up a “Berks County Solo Runner” page on FB and I’ve seen many of our fellow runners posting runs (and, in some cases, PR accomplishments). Hats off to Zach and what he’s started. You see often in these FB posts runners admit they barely laced up the shoes and forced themselves to just minimal miles. Turns out, though, once going, they find an extra one or two or simply a pleasant moment that breaks up the emotional gray clouds. I hope our Club members remember our local shops and support them as they have supported us.

I don’t know when it will happen or how it will happen, but we’ll get out of this situation same as the world has done multiple times in the past. When that Officer said, “Sorry, you can go,” I understood there weren’t more questions for me to ask. I wasn’t priority–there was something bigger. And that’s where we’re at now, as we try to follow and respect those putting their life on the line.

Time to quit typing–got to go wash my hands ……. Steve

Letter from the President (March 2020)

by Steve Maguire

I don’t want it to be so, but I might have moved into the stage of cranky old man pining for yesterday. You see, my pickup (which is just past 10 years old) is starting to have issues, and the local garage said, “Maybe it’s time.”  When did a new vehicle with limited rust meet this type of fate so quickly? What will become of those 16-year-old kids looking for their time with the family clunker to fill with their own dents, dings and memories? This truck will not go down without a battle.

Speaking of battles, I hope you had the chance to participate in the Pacer Palooza weekend last week. There was Wallyball on Friday and Royals Hockey on Saturday. Both events are great social events organized for our club members, their families, and guests. No different than my attempt to repair the truck, these events were competitive–full of laughter, mumbled curse words, and memorable antics. While the hockey was left to the pros, our Wallyball had a much broader talent pool. (I use that term loosely.) 

I believe we had as many as 4 courts in play with various levels, from toss around fun, to bragging rights, to trash-talking bump-set-rumbles.  

Between pickup games, the Colonial Fitness Center’s stadium setup provided an excellent space to enjoying socializing with food and refreshments. Thanks Brad and Karen Sinnen, and Brandon Bean among others for the great fun. 

If you were looking to relax and see the ice, which we’ve yet to encounter outside this winter, the Saturday Hockey game filled the bill. Not quite the “Broad Street Bullies,” but the Royals supplied the Marvel Superheroes. There was even a Spider-Man Meet-and-Greet. 

These Pacer events have been popular over the years, and the club provides discounts, food, and refreshments to encourage attendance. The work by the volunteers to make these events successful is so very important.

That brings up the latest Pacer Board meeting which was held in January.  We focused on some of the financials and approved increasing the spending on some of the club functions, member swag, and promotions. No different than spending on that old truck I’m still cursing in the driveway, we aim to continue to provide the benefits to the racing community and the active members that volunteer, participate, and encourage our athletes. To continue this club’s traditions and growth, we’re always seeking opportunities for improvement.

The recent news of races such as the Hershey Half and Bethlehem Rock-and-Roll Half being cancelled reminds us of an unfortunate trend which the Pacers have weathered as a club.  The Oley 10 miler and the Grings Mill run for example both pre-date pocket cell phones and GPS watches. Yes, we’ve seen the craze of color runs and theme races come and go, and although tempting, the club’s many races continue to stick with our core value of encouragement and participation in physical fitness and wellness. As a non-profit organization giving back to the community, it is you, the readers of this letter, who make the good stuff happen.

We are encouraged to see many new faces at the organized runs and the membership meetings. Word of mouth seems to be a great tool encouraging friends to join runs or meetings. With our last meeting in January, we were fortunate to add Dee Koutsourais-Ganster to our ‘membership team” and look forward to what will come from her enthusiasm and outreach to our community. We continue to look for members, new or old, to venture out and fill some roles, maybe dipping their toes in the water towards greater participation in the future. 

A great example of this is John Thompson and Lisa Domeshek, who have joined Race Director Polly Corvaia to support the Kris Kringle Race. Our monthly meetings are a great way to find out about other opportunities.

Similar to the arborist work Shaun Luther and Charlie Cromwell have been doing on the Horseshoe Trail in preparation for the aptly named Charlie Horse Half Marathon, we recently had a nice crew of Pacers at the Blue Marsh chainsaw safety training along with members of BAMBA. Between these 2 clubs we probably represent a good portion of the volunteer trail maintenance at the lake and the Corps is very appreciative. 

This appreciation was directly expressed by Brianna Treichler, the Volunteer Coordinator for the Army Corps who stopped by our February meeting to talk about some of the things going on at Blue Marsh and opportunities for the club’s involvement. I will have more follow-up details on that at our next Pacer meeting March 12th. Hope to see you there.

Time to quit typing, got to run……. Steve

Letter from the President (January 2020)

by Steve Maguire

It’s the end of a decade, the beginning of a new year. You’d think I’d have this wealth of content to write about.   I got squat.   The Pacer Christmas Party was a blast; Shiver Race was fast and warm; Tiger Woods turned 44 today; the Eagles squeaked a clinch of the NFC East; and Wawa opened in Wyomissing.  I tried Google and the best I get with highlights for 2019 is how to cover my grey with tints of brown and amber.  

We’re supposed to have this list of resolutions–call it a plan–a path to goals we tell friends that acknowledge we all want to be a bit better.  Really I’m just trying to walk through the kitchen without opening the cookie jar for the umpteenth time.  How am I to make this list? This is important. It’s going to be 2020–the year of the optometrist.  You know they’re like Santa; they can see things we can’t.  

(Fun fact: Herman Snellen developed the eye chart in 1862 with only 10 letters.  C, D, E, F, L, N, O, P, T, and Z.) I’m going to do better next time, now that I have the answers.

…. Excuse the pause–I had to get a cookie. I think I have something now. You see tonight I was with a few people who are teachers.  Various ages, various districts, but there was one common concern or frustration pushing many towards retirement or leaving the profession. As Aretha Franklin told it like no other, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”  I doubt this is something new, and I’m sure my classes tested the fortitude of the faculty.  Those times however were different and there were repercussions, some following the phrase “when Dad…..”

Our choices and what we support as a club have influence, and maybe there’s a resolution to write.  As a club, through various events, we support healthy lifestyles, which I believe the various 450+ members do with character, enthusiasm, and empathy.   

Maybe the word “model” or “mentor” should be added.  I’ll reference Lance Armstrong, his 7 Tour wins, and the reality that his publicity gained as the product of deceit still brought tremendous viewership to cycling. The same World Anti-Doping Agency that couldn’t or chose not to detect Lance for years this November voted to ban Russian athletes from the Olympics and World Cup competition. I think it’s important, but time will tell how ESPN, CBS, etc. treat the various sports if the WADA ban stands.  

At the local level, however, seen in the recent 600ish Kris Kringle runners, we have tremendous youth athletes and support at many levels from the County Coaches.   Polly Corvaia, Jason Manbeck, and a great turnout of volunteers put on a tremendous event where pride in the logo may be as warm as the fleece of the hoodie.  

In the October meeting we had a presentation from Girls on the Run. In November Dale Wiest presented a program for adaptive athletes he’s developing with IM ABLE.  I’m not sure what 2020 will bring, but maybe that resolution might include volunteering, support, and modeling those roles worthy of respect.

Wishing you all the best for 2020.

   Time to quit typing, got to run……. Steve

Letter from the President (December 2019)

by Steve Maguire

Word on social media was Target had deals on Christmas decorations where you’d get $50 back if you spent $100.   This started an exchange on lights etc and made me wonder the long term impact. You see my youth crossed the time between screw-in bulbs and those first plug-in.  I’m not sure if it was frugality, pride, or some generational thing, but strings of lights were not replaced without a fight.

Probably in each household, year after year there was a system to how they were put away, and when they didn’t light, you learned how electricity worked.  In those strands each bulb was connected in series like a chain. If one bulb failed, the entire strand goes dark and you’d spend the afternoon swapping bulbs to find the culprit.   Through this rite of passage, I may have learned much: unsafe techniques on a ladder, don’t hang lights on a holly bush, what it feels to get shocked, and a few curse words.

We try to get smarter with each passing year, and you learn to check things ahead of time.  You learn taking down is as much work as hanging up. You learn to prioritize with what’s available, and most of all, you try to remember why you do it. 

Hanging lights is probably the closest I’ll get to being a Race Director.  I’m humbled and appreciative that the club elected me for a second term as President.  I’m a realist, however, in knowing this organization functions because all the lights light.  No different than the single bulbs, each member–through volunteering, participating, and promoting–does a part and the Berks area benefits.

November 10th was the 25th running of the Oley Country Classic 10-Miler and 5k.  I believe over the history of the race, the Oley Youth League has benefitted something like $100,000.  This is done through the hard work of Barry Goodhart, Lenny Burton, and all the Pacer volunteers.  What is amazing is the entry fee is still close to the price in the 90s at only $25. As noted, I have been electrocuted, but I can’t recall even a 5k at that price where you get a competitive race, a shirt, and awards that are as impressive as the work of Maggie Gallen (Barnard).   If you haven’t been, the shop at Googleworks is a great opportunity to support local artists such as Maggie.

December brings two races we host with and without festive Christmas bells and lights.   The Shiver series starts Sunday, December 8th at 10 am.   Time to register your first of at least 3 finishes in the series.  Three weeks later, join the festivities for the Kris Kringle 5 miler Sunday, December 29th.   Both of these are well organized and opportunities to stay active through the cold on the course with a bib or as a volunteer.

We’ll skip the December meeting as David Feinauer (aka Swamp) and team promise to put us all on the Naughty List with a not to be missed Christmas Party on Friday, December 6th at the Grill Fire Company. If you haven’t gotten your fill of Christmas decorating, I’m sure the team would appreciate the help with raffle prizes and decorating. I don’t believe ladders are permissible.

 Last but not least, I’d like to thank Phil Lechner and Ken Seale for their time and involvement with both the Board and the Pacers’ club in general.   Ken and Phil both have changes and new opportunities in their lives, which opened the board positions in which Ellie Alderfer and Karen Rule were elected.

We’re working on a Royals game for January and Walleyball for February. If we don’t see you in December, have an amazing Holiday–enjoy the lights!

Time to quit typing, got to run……. Steve

Letter from the President (November 2019)

by Steve Maguire

Having recently spread grass seed, this biology tidbit from Jay Drasher is timely.  The songbirds we’re seeing (such as the sparrows gorging on my lawn) travel as flocks and will pack on up to about 50% of their normal weight before heading south.  Image the training plan which suggests you become morbidly obese, reduce your sleep, and then your marathon or ultra performance will improve.  

I don’t think mid-race weight gain is ever the goal; nevertheless, last month I noted quite a bit about the food options likely to be encountered at Blues Cruise. Well, Dan Govern, Mike Yoder, Stephan Weiss, Mike Whalen, plus all the aid station volunteers definitely stepped up their game to make this happen.   The traffic on social media brought great praise not only to the event itself, but at points it also appeared that we may also need to publish a recipe book. Thanks to all who volunteered.

Fortunately, on race day, Mother Nature did her part delivering a cool fall temp with a late shower.  Great conditions for running 30 plus miles and the well-marked course delivered. The near record runner turnout arrived at the mile-26 Blues Brothers station feast with accolades of the preceding Margarita burgers, sweet potato balls, quesadillas, homemade soup and Jell-O blocks.  Our French toast didn’t have a chance. One of the potential options for our aid station was pierogies, of which I was told Mike produced a stellar version for the finishers. 

Reading up on Maggie Guterl’s performance at Big’s Backyard Ultra, there was also mention of pierogies.   Maggie was a local runner who’d recently moved off to Colorado. She left many local friends who followed her epic performance at one of the most arduous of races.  This is Gary Cantrell’s running version of Groundhog Day. A 4 miles course with a repeating start time every hour. The last person to toe the line is the winner. Seems simple until you realize the person she had to beat showed up every time for 59 hours straight.   Can’t believe it took the guy 2 ½ days to realize the futility of altering the will of a strong woman before Maggie became the first woman to win this race. So, what does the overall winner of this event win you ask? Beyond the accolades, she’s earned the prize of an entry into the Barkley Marathons.   Not long-ago Jim Demsko and a few Hamburg runners helped her practice the orienteering and sleepless running conditions required for her prior attempt of the epic 100 miler. We wish her luck. If you want to learn more about the Barkley, it is well worth watching the YouTube video the “The Race that Eats its Young”.   

You may remember Gary Cantrell’s (aka Lazarus Lake) name from the Vol State 500K where our own Rhoda Smoker was the top female in 2018, traveling 314 miles in 4 ½ days. Check out Runner’s World’s coverage of Rhoda here.

A few years back, Tom Chobot completed a 200 miler, which is truly a remarkable feat.  The local parents however are probably more impressed and thankful for his and Gwyn’s organization and execution of the Middle School Cross Country Championship.   To all the Pacers that volunteer and support this event, it may be one of the best returns of time and money for the club. It was a memorable morning as captured by Lisa Luther in a photo of the stunning battalion in a charge of wills as they set off through the fog. 

We look forward to seeing some of these student runners and their coaches again at the Kris Kringle on Sunday, December 29, 2019. Mark your calendars for this festive 5-miler. 

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to add the Oley Valley Classic on November 10th and the first Shiver Race on December 8, 2019 to your calendar.  Pop in at the Oley 10-miler and you’ll see the Pacer Trailer now emblazoned with the Pacer logo. As always, volunteers and runners are greatly appreciated.

For any of you still reading, if you would like to follow the “songbird-pack-on-the-pounds training plan,” I would suggest that on Friday, Nov 1st, you check out the bonfire event at Mike and Laura Yoder’s.   Always a fun event where roasted marshmallows make for a good carb loading.   

Friday December 6th at the Pacer Christmas party would be a good follow-up if you still have room for treats. 

Last but not least, don’t forget the General Membership Meeting on Thursday, Nov 14th, where we will be looking to elect members to four slots on the Board of Directors and the Club President.

Time to quit typing, got to run……. Steve