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

Letter from the President (September 2019)

by Steve Maguire

For any of our Pacer members about to embark on Blues Cruise, our signature 50k, here’s a fun fact to think about. Ketchup, or “koe-cheup” as it was referred to by the Chinese, was not originally tomato-based. It was made of fermented pastes, fish entrails, meat byproducts, and soybeans. Chicken or Egg dilemma, as this sounds like yesterday’s ketchup is today’s hot dog. (I’m not judging; I’m a big fan of both Berks at the ballpark and Hippy dogs.)

This food tidbit comes from a recent series on the History channel, “The Food That Built America.” There’s a time limit on Blues Cruise (a bit less than 200 years), but I’m sure the Aid Station Captains will take the runners on a similar food adventure.  The Club, Race Directors, and extended volunteers take pride in their themed aid stations providing fluids, food, merriment, and encouragement to the capacity 400 plus runners.  

As you read this, Dan Govern, Mike Yoder, and their teams are putting the final touches on this 50k event for October 6th and have asked Mother Nature to do her part.  Stop out to share a bit of your time or join the race.  All are welcome. 

Sunday, when the race is over, we’ll be loading up the trailer. Yes, a trailer. This asset, almost a year in the making, is 12 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 7 feet tall.  (We needed the height for Jon Durand.) At the moment it’s white and in need of a few Pacer members interested in helping design and execute the graphics portion.  Reach out via Facebook, or email if you’d like to be involved. 

Speaking of getting involved, the Pacer Board met in September covering a few details of which many were support and position related.  Entering into the November election period we will likely have a few vacancies to fill and members up for reelection. This will be formalized at the October 10th General Meeting–during which nominations will be accepted–and the vote will take place at the November meeting.  We’re also looking for some energetic new faces to join some of the committees or get their feet wet supporting a Race Director.  Entering the winter months, what better time to get involved, toss out ideas, and socialize with like minded members? I expect Walleyball, and a hockey game, to name some of the events that will be on the horizon. 

This is a social club, and with the passing of a local legend, Michael Ranck, we reflect on the times that we engage, tell stories, teach, and are taught.  Stealing a quote from Lord of the Rings: “It’s a gift to exist, and with existence comes suffering.” The fact that Mike finished each of the 45 Harrisburg Marathons is a testament to living life with gusto and celebration.  Given his history with teaching and the grandkids, I’m sure he would find joy in Tim Kirk’s proposal to Kelly Murdock at Labor Pains, and the recent marriage of Sam Dever and Alyssa Kennedy.

If you still have energy in those legs for a run or had a good time volunteering at Blues Cruise, you may get solicited by club members Ellie Sterling Alderfer and Beth Kohl for October 13th.   The Reading Hospital Road Run has a new half marathon course, which I anticipate may prove to be fast and well-spectated.   Expect to see many of our members out both racing and volunteering. The race benefits the Friends of Reading Hospital, which, as an organization, supports many similar interests as our club. For example, they’ve placed over 500 AEDs in Berks County. 

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

Letter from the President (August 2019)

Did anyone else realize it’s been a month since the Gring’s Mill race? I looked back at the August Pacer Newsletter with Matt’s cool new format and we were requesting volunteers and runners to attend for what was expected to be another great race. Well the race directors, volunteers, runners, and Mother Nature didn’t let us down. Post-race, the Discussion Group on Facebook was filled with a host of action shots and award photos capturing the day. 

Gring’s Mill race directors: Laura, Jane, Caroline

A special mention goes out to Lynne Reddington, who, with the craft of a carnival pitchman, brought focus to the raffle tables and sponsor donations at a level that would make ShamWow jealous. Also, over the last few weeks, Laura Yoder has personally distributed many thank-you cards to our race sponsors. We appreciate that our club members and community support many of these local companies that give back through their sponsorship. 

I have to say we probably missed a marketing opportunity as our own Barb Raifsnider felt running the Gring’s Mill race alone was not enough. Did you see Barb’s picture was featured in the Reading Eagle, running up to the Pagoda at the Radsport Festival just a couple hours after running Gring’s Mill?

Barb crushing the Radsport Pagoda run after Gring’s Mill

Another impressive feat that should be mentioned is April Zimmerman’s completion of Eastern States 100 miler. Hopefully she’ll be kind enough to let us share her race report.

Look for April’s report in next month’s newsletter.

How the time is flying and it’s not even Labor Day yet. Kris Kringle and the Shiver Series are already in the news. The recent Shiver Facebook post is a reminder to take advantage of the lower rates and register early. The Kringle post was a thank you. The Club donated $4,500 to the Berks County Cross Country Coaches Association from the Kringle proceeds. When the cross-country season starts, it’s a good time to get the coaches together with a large check before the rivalries kick in. We wish both the coaches and the athletes a great season. Polly and the coaches would also appreciate if you’ll mark your calendar again for Sunday December 29th for this year’s Kris Kringle race.

Before noting all the great things Dan Govern and Mike Yoder have going on with the Blues Cruise 50k, I’d like to acknowledge that one of our own, Christine Le, is doing The Rut 28k Race out in Big Sky Montana. Traversing epic views and terrain, I think even the great climbers in the club would be humbled by the course. She will start at 7,500 feet and climb to 10,000 in the first 6 miles. Then, typical of the ski resort, she’ll plummet over the next mile to 8,500 feet. This has to be the point I’d look for the chair lift or an exit because no sane person looks up to 11,140 feet and thinks “Where is a good direction to run?” for the next 2 ½ miles. The race is 10 miles up and 7 miles down. 

Back to the race Dan and Mike are organizing: They’ve designed some great shirts, hats, and a finisher medal, so if you’re on the fence this is definitely a year to run. Putting the numbers in perspective, Dan estimates 400 plus runners; each runner covers 31 miles. Total up those miles and you have a distance that’s halfway around the earth. Thankfully it’s not a relay! To support this great event it takes the help of many. There are 7 themed aid stations, each with a captain supporting the runners. Volunteering on race day or contributing to some of the prep work will make great memories. Bring the family–it’s a full-day event; however, many of the volunteers simply peek in and out as needed. Don’t forget to mark this event– October 6th–on your calendar today.

New Blues Cruise swag

I’ve probably gone long on this entry, and Matt Brophy (Editor-in-Chief) has reminded me I’m late so……got to run….

Steve