Running With Cat
There are friendships that have been forged by dedication and by pain by defeat and by
accomplishment, by mud and by sweat, by laughter and by tears. Friends who have seen each other when we look our worst and when we look our best, when we feel like we could collapse and when we’ve won our biggest victory. Friends who encourage us when we want to stop, but stick with us when we’re about to fall, and run beside us not just in races but everyday. These are the types of friendships that don’t fade with time and don’t dwindle with distance
These are Running Buddies
This will be the third time I have changed the name of my blog. The first one was at blogspot.com and then for many years I have used PlayHard-HaveFun.com. The story behind that name came from the fact I use to tell my kids to simply play hard have fun at the beginning of their various games. I always wanted them to win but at the same time I wanted to keep things in perspective by telling them to play hard and at the same time have fun and everything else will take care of itself.
I decided that I needed a website that was more functional and since I hired someone to develop it this would be a good time to change the name that I did not have to explain in great detail for someone to remember. Turns out that PlayHardHaveFun was already bought by someone that was not actually using it but was offering it for sale. so that is why I had to use the hyphen or dash between hard and have. For the life of me I can not remember where I heard that phrase before but can assure you that I did not think of it all by myself.
I have mentioned several times that unlike some couples Catherine and I always run together, both in training and in races and always finish hand in hand. It was not always like that since she is faster than me but over the years we have found it is more enjoyable to share those moments together. Now it has become more of a necessity due to her early onset Alzheimer’s but it is still a very enjoyable experience. I even wrote a earlier blog entry called, Running Together, which you can find here.
The first thought was to call the website runningwithcatherine.com however the name Catherine is more often spelled Katherine so once again I would have to explain the name thus the chance of someone forgetting. Catherine’s family call her Cathy however I have always referred to her as Cat. Some might think I am talking about running with Cats, the animal, but those folks probably would not be interested in what I have to say.
The plan now is for it to go live around May 1 and hopefully by then I will begin to take preorders on my book, Running all over the world, Our race against early onset Alzheimer’s. Not to worry, if you go to this site you will be automatically redirected to the new site.
Carmel Half Marathon
This race signified the official beginning of the spring race season since there were over 3000 participants in the 11th annual race in Carmel, Indiana. The start was a bit chilly and windy for my taste but we had on the proper layers of clothes so all was well. The feel like temperature was in the mid twenties at the start and we started and finished with a 15-18 MPH headwind.
We were able to drive up the day before the race to Lafayette, Indiana and have a home cooked meal at Mike and Kay’s house. It was nice to catch up with them and they are members of, “The Band”. as we called ourselves. We met on a running cruise ten years prior in the Caribbean. There are two other members, Kim who now lives in Loretto, Mexico and Debra from Chicago. It turns out we are doing another half in Schaumburg so hopefully we will meet Debra, Mike and Kay there. That race is using a lottery system so I will not know until the middle of May if we got in.
The Carmel Half Marathon race itself was not much to write home about but we got it done but was not very memorable. We did get to spend some time with Jim and Janet also from the runningcruise.com and that last time we saw them was back in 2018 on a Hawaii cruise.
Janet could see us as we turned final for the finish and was able to get this picture of Catherine and I once again hand and hand.
Charlottesville Half Marathon
Next stop after a touch and go in Atlanta for three days was Charlottesville Virginia. This will be state number 29 for our new goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states plus DC. This first sentence of the course description for this race is that it is very hilly. No flat and fast here. To keep it interesting they say half the race is on gravel. I bought some shoe gaiters to keep the rocks out so I will get to try them out during this race.
Keeping with the theme of seeing old friends, acquaintances and family as we bounce around from race to race, this time we will see my son Shawn and his family in nearby Harrisonburg, Virginia the day after the race. The race started and finished at the local favorite winery called, Knights’s Gambit Vineyards. Since I am now over a year AF, Alcohol Free, I am sure there will not be a temptation to partake. They had free beer at the finish of the last race and the thought of having some did not even enter my mind.
My last blog entry called, This Naked Mind was on the topic of me stopping drinking and once again if you missed it here is the link. Just to be sure an old friend of ours, Kayna, who is nearing her one year AF sent me the following link that contains a video of all the not so great things alcohol does to each part of your body. Here is the link for that video here.
This was a fantastic race and really enjoyed the overcast, slightly foggy weather. In other words the temperatures were perfect. The rolling hills kept it interesting and the off road portion made me very happy to have our shoe gaiters on. It was not as rocky as I had expected but I am sure without them I would have had to stop to pull rocks out of my shoes. I only saw one other runner as smart as us with them on.
Since it was foggy the entire race we did not get any spectacular views of the nearby mountains but we will get plenty on our hour drive thru the Shenandoah Natural Park to and from Harrisonburg. They had a barbecue truck at the finish. Catherine and I scarfed down the perfectly prepared pulled chicken sandwiches and Catherine had her happy face on with the sweet potato fries. The only down side was that we had to park 1/2 mile from the start but that really was no big deal since we were very happy with our finishing time and full bellies for the walk back to the car.
Some people have asked what we do with ourselves for the other 2 or three days when we drop in these towns dotted across the US. First off we go to the nearby grocery store to get the essentials since most hotels now a days have limited offerings for breakfast and dinner. Depending on when we arrive we either do the shoe leather express tour of the city or simply unpack and head for bed.
The next day is either packet pickup, find the start line or visit someone we know in the area. We are not big into museums or monuments but we can’t pass up a botanical garden, arboretum or nearby park. They say the connection with nature is very therapeutic for folks with Alzheimer’s.
Then there is race day with laundry to follow with nothing much else besides dinner from somewhere that caught our eye during our walks or even during the race itself. We rarely leave the day after the race so that gives us a much needed down day or once again if someone we know who lives within an hour we try our best to make that connection. Well here we are in Newton Iowa to get state number 30 under our feet.
Run for her life
This time it was a charity run, called Run for her life put on by the Phoenix Phase Initiative which is an Iowa-based non-profit dedicated to helping women who have been sexually trafficked around the world. These women are rarely given a chance to escape and, when they do get the chance, they RUN for it! The Phoenix Phase Initiative is there so they have a place to run to where they can be accepted, receive counseling, and learn job skills so they can break the cycle and create new lives for themselves.
About 50 of us total for the 5k and half marathon lined up for the 9am start of the race around Newton. What a contrast from the last two weeks. Here we had one cop car block one street and most times during the half marathon you had to wonder if you were headed in the right direction. We got to see the entire town up close and even made our way back out to Agnes Patterson Memorial Park where we went for a walk out there the day before.
Prior to the park we did two loops around the high school very spongy track and while at the park we were able to once against visit the beautiful botanical gardens and past a soccer field where the we ones were chasing after the ball. That brought back memories of me getting my miles in while my kids warmed up for their many games or between games.
Catherine and I only had five people finish behind us. I know this for a fact since we were dead last at the start and we only passed 5 people the entire race. With that said I do know that we were first in our age groups simply because there was no one else as old as ourselves.
It was suggested that we visit Pella, Iowa after the race so off we went, after doing the usual laundry, to this very quaint dutch town about 30 miles away. Who knew? There we found tulips in various stages of bloom everywhere. Simply stated they were magnificent. The central park area adorned with its own tulips was adjacent to the tallest working grain windmill in the United States called, The Vermeer Windmill.
This town is also home to its annual Tulip Time festival that occurs each May featuring parades where the community dresses up in authentic Dutch costumes. This also includes where Pella Windows is based. This town is a must see and experience if ever in the area. I have often talked about the benefits for folks with Alzheimer’s and even though we had just run a half marathon, Catherine was all smiles the entire time we were there.
Once again we were able to reunite with some new best friends, Sue and David, from our last Windstar Cruise just prior to the Pandemic hitting in February in 2020. They live outside of Iowa city which was only an hour from our hotel. It was a lot of fun to get an up close tour of their 8000 acre farm of corn and grain. One of their newly purchased huge John Dear 8 tire tractor was even very intimating to me, a former airline pilot. It was great to catch up but the climate was far different from when we first met in the Caribbean. As a matter of fact their were snow flurries and 30 degree weather for our drive back to the airport the next day.
Where to now?
From Iowa we were back Atlanta for a few days then on to Bloomington and Louisville for the 147th Running of the Kentucky Derby. This was planned some 11 years ago when we figured out that this year’s Derby was going to be on Catherine’s 60th birthday. She says she was also there when she turned 21 but back then she did not see a single race. I wonder why.
This is not our first experience with the Derby. When we lived in the area we would go and experience the follies of the fillies from the infamous infield but for her birthday I spared no expense and we will be viewing the extravaganza from our seats near the Derby Museum.
I had the privilege to do my first podcast on the topic of Early Onset Alzheimers with three more lined up and working very hard on a fourth. The show is called Roger That and here is the link for the 30 minute interview. https://www.rodgerthat.show/upcoming-epis/ep-75-early-onset-dementia-keep-on-living-tony-copeland-parker
50 State Marathon Club Profiles, Cathy Popp & Tony Copeland-Parker, IN
Catherine began marathoning at age 36 and has been marathoning 23 years. She has 86 marathons complete plus one ultra. She completed her 50 states 10/25/20 at Narragansett, RI. Her marathon PR was at Louisville in 2002, a 3:30:15, and her PW was at Casper in 2019, a 6:12:22. Her ultra was the JFK 50 miler, completed in 11:41:55. Catherine started swimming at age 6 and was on her high school swim team. She used to ride a bike, and has completed numerous triathlons.
Tony has 68 marathons completed. He has put the plan to finish on hold while running with Catherine. Tony has also completed one ultra, the JFK with Catherine. Tony ran track in high school before he gained his full height. He did not do sports on a regular basis. Tony’s daughter completed two marathons with him when she was 17. Tony says he started running marathons because he “did not want to be one of those dads yelling from the sidelines who couldn’t run a mile themselves—so I trained anywhere my sons’ soccer games were.” He coached his daughter in soccer until she entered high school.
Numbers: Tony loves numbers, he did the JFK 50 Miler when he turned 50. When he turned 55, the two ran from their condo 27.5 miles out and then back the next day for a total of 55 miles. At age 60, Tony did his 60th marathon at the Medoc Marathon in France. He did 65 marathons prior to age 65 and now has a total of 68. He thinks about going back to make it 70 before he turns 70.
Tony and Cathy have run in 35 countries outside the U.S. Most of their international marathons were with Marathon Tours and Travel, but Tony selected many based on where they were in the world at the time (He traveled as a commercial pilot). Tony has been working to complete all 50 states but had a bad experience in 2018 in Wyoming with back problems and took over 6 hours to finish, in addition to various knee problems. He decided to focus on states Catherine needed.
The additional 8 states he needed, the two completed as half marathons. He says, “I decided to also let that be one more thing she has over me—her fastest marathon time is 8 minutes faster than mine, and she qualified for Boston in 2012 at the inaugural Louisville Marathon, whereas I went the charity route, sort of. She has 15 more marathons than me, but we have crossed the finish of 55 marathons hand in hand.” Tony added that all of their travels, races and tours give Catherine plenty of opportunity to socialize, which helps retard the progress of Alzheimer’s.
Running Stories: In 2010, they attended the 2500th running of the Athens Marathon. The race was a bit tough, with boring switchbacks. They finished just under 5 hours. Everyone dressed up for the race, with the high- light being the finish at the coliseum. Around mile 20, Tony had noticed that they would finish just short of 5 hours. He grabbed her by the hand and they sprinted.
The picture at the finish shows her completely airborne! “Catherine is a dog lover and they were everywhere. Many suppliers brought their dogs and left them there. The government had them fixed, and the society takes care of all the strays until their death. You would see people stopping and feeding them everywhere.”
Running Stories: One small problem that they have when running together is that someone will pass them on the course; if it is a woman, Catherine will often try to chase after that woman and drop Tony. Tony had open heart surgery in 2014 to replace a faulty aortic valve, and has been slowing down. Tony and Catherine’s new shared goal is to do a half marathon in all 50 states, with 30 states already completed.
He is planning the rest now, and they hope to complete in 2022. “Unlike many couples, we always train and race together, and no matter who is having a good day or a bad day, we stay together the entire time. We are side by side 24/7. I am the perfect person for Catherine during this ailment. I took care of my Mom in her last 8 years and she taught me how to take care of others.”
As stated earlier, Tony is retired after 37 years as a management pilot for UPS and Catherine was a scheduling officer with the TSA After their retirement, they sold their home, and since have been running all over the world.
Well that is about it for now. We are still going back and forth on the cover design for my book which we are shooting for being published the middle of June. They say you can tell a book by its cover so I am working really hard to get it just right.