Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mary Christian dropped a marathon in 2015 and moved up to third in the grand prix

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, January 31, 2016


Mary Christian of Flanders normally runs two marathons a year.  On that schedule she placed fourth overall in the New Balance Grand Prix in 2009, at age 46, and sixth in 2008.  Six years later she moved up to third overall in the 2015 version.

What changed?  She dropped the spring marathon and the marathon training and according to her she ran a ton of races.  By July 9th, she was in the lead with all nine races done.

In the fall she had the option of running in more races in the hopes of improving on her times and her points in the grand prix series.  A win at the Shades of Death half marathon in October allowed her to drop the 669 that she had for the Miles for Music 20K for that sweet 700.   

Roberta Groner, of Randolph pushed her out of first place in November and Misa Tamura of Ridgewood pushed her to third, not a bad spot for a 52 year old woman.

Christian is planning to run Boston this spring so her training and racing schedule may have to adapt.  She will again run the Miles for Music 20K as she feels it is a good conditioning race but it does not have the large field that is needed for high points in the grand prix.

The irony of the points system played out for Christian when she ran in the Super Hero Half Marathon in Morristown in May.  Super Hero has a large field; 1,457 finishers in 2015.

“It was a terrible race for me,” said Christian, who finished 17th out of 872 women.  “It was hot and humid.  I don’t do well in that weather.  I was ten minutes slower than I had been in my previous half marathon but I still got 496 points.”

Later in the season she clicked off 1:33:55 at the Liberty Half Marathon in September.  Her winning Shades of Death time was 1:34:03.  Her hot Hero was 1:41:03.  Go figure.

Her win at Shades wasn’t the only one.  Again, luck was on her side.   She ran in a small 5K in Hopatcong on a hilly course that put her minute and a half slower than her usual 5K time of right around 20 minutes.  But she won it and hit the 500 point jackpot.

Christian admits she plays the game as other savvy runners do in the grand prix.  She looked at the winning time at the 2014 Patriot’s 8K in Mendham in June.  Could be she could win it and grab those 500 points.  Alas, it was not to be.

“Everything was looking good before the race,” said Christian, “Then as I go to the starting line I see Jeanne Pare.  There goes my 500 points.’”

Pare, of Mendham won the grand prix in 2006.  She has eased up on racing more recently, but is a formidable racer.  Still 490 points for second place didn’t hurt.

Christian said that she has adopted the training method outlined in the book Run Less, Run Faster developed by Furman University.  She no longer runs every day and cross-trains on her off days.  On that schedule she said that she is only running around forty miles a week.

Christian’s weekends are busy, not just with running her own races, but watching her daughters Sara and Mariah race for their college teams, and her youngest Alexandra run for Mount Olive high school. 

In 2013 Alexandra, then a sophomore, and Mariah and Sara, seniors, were three of the five scoring members of the Mount Olive team that won the Group Three cross country championship.  The victory was the first for Mount Olive in more than twenty years.

“It was really great – kind of a dream come true for me to see them all together doing that,” said Christian. 

Mariah now runs for Marist College, Sara for Bucknell and Alexandra, now a senior, has a full scholarship in cross country and track at Holy Cross.  Although he doesn’t race, Christian’s husband John also runs, making this Flanders family a full team.


Race Results can often be found at or at 
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at or at for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Share the trail with fat tire bikes

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, January 24, 2016


You’re out for your weekend long run on the trail near you, and coming at you is what looks like a draft horse of a trail bike.  The rider grins as he passes you by and you are left to wonder, ‘what was that?’

Welcome to the new world of fat tire cycling.  Yes, it has fat tires but unlike our own fat winter midsection, these fat tires are light as well, air.  Eric Noonan of Morristown, the computer geek at the Randolph Marty’s Reliable Cycle, and PR guy for the latest thing to hit cycling since chains and gears, gave me the lowdown.  The fat tires are at 5 to 7 PSI which according to Noonan is very low pressure. 

“Because they are so fat you kind of bounce along and sort of absorb the bumps,” he said.  “They are quite fun to ride on mountain bike trails all year round.”

Although the bikes look like they are hard to pedal Noonan says no.

“If you actually pick one up you will see that there is less mass than you would think.”

“When we put people on them and they go for a ride,” said Noonan, “They pretty much, one hundred percent, they buy them.”

Noonan said that the fat tire bikes have been around for a few years but have only caught fire in the last year or so.  Marty’s have been promoting them for winter riding but they are great all year around.

“Riding on the roads (on road bikes) it is really cold,” he said.  “With a fat bike you’re going a little slower so there is not so much wind and you can actually ride them in the snow, if we actually get some snow.”   We talked on Thursday with the snow storm predicted but not yet a reality.

The irony of the fat tire bikes is that they don’t actually do well in deep snow, even while being promoted as a good snow bike.  Noonan explained that if the snow is not groomed or packed down it can be difficult.

He was hopeful that this area would get only six inches or so, the perfect depth for good fat tire biking.  A group ride was being planned for Saturday afternoon in the predicted falling snow. 

It’s those group rides that caught my attention.  My south and west facing windows overlook the West Morris Greenway Trail that morph’s into the Patriots Path trail going out to Chester from Roxbury’s Horseshoe Lake Park.  On at least two Sunday mornings I saw a large group of riders going out on the trail arousing my curiosity.

On Saturday, January 9th I couldn’t believe my eyes looking out the window as I dressed to go out for a run.  Riders were streaming by with traffic waiting for the two hundred plus riders.

Noonan explained that this was what they had been training for; the Fat Fifty ride.  Twenty-five miles of fat tire riding from Marty’s in Randolph all the way to High Bridge, using the available trails and in Chester some roads to get to the Columbia Trail that begins near West Morris High School and runs through Long Valley to its end in High Bridge.

At High Bridge a camper was waiting where a volunteer would hand out a chip to certify that a rider had gone all the way, then the long ride back to the Marty’s store in Randolph.  Not all riders made it to the turn-around. 

“We had a cut-off time,” said Noonan.  “We told people, ‘if you don’t make it to the turnaround in three hours, then just turnaround wherever you are, as there won’t be any support for you’.”

Back at the store, a fire pit in the parking lot awaited the hardy cyclists, hot soup, along with Sierra Nevada beer provided by Peerless Beverage, as well as a home brewed beer provided by one of the riders.

On the Columbia Trail, runners often have to share the trail with Clydesdales from a nearby farm.  Now they are sharing with a clydesdale of a different kind happily bouncing down the trail.  Don’t be upset and remember what Noonan said, people who test the bike out of curiosity buy them.  You could be adding a new cross trainer to your arsenal.  Happy Trails.


Race Results can often be found at or at 
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at or at for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Link to East Region T&F Championship on January 31st

Here's the link to the on-line entry system for the East Region Masters T&F meet (which is January 31 in Providence, RI):
Here's a link to the meet info (a pdf):

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Runners will see changes in 2016

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, January 17, 2016


The Long Distance running committee meeting this past Tuesday was well attended despite the dusting of snow that could have kept people away.    Although pushback was expected on some of the proposed changes to the team grand prix rules, none occurred.  The proposal by John Sabatino of Morris Plains to again allow each team to drop their lowest score in the team grand prix was passed almost unanimously. 

This change means that a team can miss a championship race and the missed race zero will be counted as the lowest score.  Sabatino sweetened the pot with a two point bonus for any team that has made it to all the championships and had scored in all of those races.

Weaker teams have been given a bonus too.  If their team does not finish high enough to garner points, 12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 they will automatically earn one point.  Does this happen often?  Yes, it does; for instance at the last open men’s championship in 2015, twenty-three men’s teams finished.  Only the top ten teams earned points.  If that were the case this year, those other 12 teams would have at least one point on their scorecard.   This will make weaker teams very happy.  It will give them credit for coming and competing and it will certainly make the scoring of the grand prix quite interesting this year.

Some proposed changes were tabled.  This will be the third year that the road mile championships will be in the team grand prix.  There was never full support for its inclusion and now there is talk of dropping the mile.  It would still be a team competition, but results would not go into the grand prix.  With the proposal tabled, the mile will stay in for 2016. 

This is the first year that the road mile has been divided.  The open men and women will compete in the College Avenue Mile in New Brunswick in June, and the masters men and women will compete in Montclair in the Midland Mile in August.

Also tabled was a proposal to include a relay in the grand prix.  The group that had asked that the proposal be submitted did not attend and therefore could not speak for it. 


Several Morris area road runners became track athletes for a day at the USATFNJ track and field championship this past Sunday at the Bennett indoor sports facility in Toms River.  Turnout was light but still competitive.

The lone woman competing from this area, Susan Stirrat of Rockaway won her W60 division mile race in 7:16.22.  Husband Reno Stirrat won his M60 division in the 3,000 meter race just beating the 11 minute buzzer in 10:59.65.

Roger Price of Randolph won the M65 division mile in 6:17.10.  Price took second in the 3,000 meters beaten by a stride length by Runners World writer Marc Bloom.  Bloom was clocked in 12:04.30 and Price in 12:04.73.   Bloom runs for the Shore Athletic Club.

Also in the 3,000 meters, Angelo Harasts of Pine Brook finished in 11:32.98 for second place in the M45 division.  Placing third in the 1,500 meter run M55 division was Anthony Boyadis of Morristown who finished in 6:23.47.

Robert Skorupski of Rockaway leapt 1.38 meters to take second in the M40 division of the high jump.  Back on the track he finished third in his division in the 800 meters in 2:23.92.

Charles Castiglioni, M55, of Lake Hopatcong did an unusual double.  He placed fourth in the 200 meter dash in 33.02 and came back to run the 800 meters where he was timed in 2:50.62 for fifth place.

Next up is the East Region masters championship on January 31th in Providence RI, hosted by the New England Association.  Also on the schedule is the Hartshorne Masters Mile in Ithaca NY next Saturday, January 23rd.

Race Results can often be found at or at 
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at or at for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Championships have been posted

Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, January 10, 2016


Folks have been asking for it, and finally the list of championships for the 2016 season has been posted on the USATF New Jersey website.  It has some surprises with a favorite race of many missing.  Open men will be racing at the Fitzgerald Lager Run 5K in June, not the President’s Cup Night Race.   Masters men and women will be running their 5K in New Milford on June 18th.  Open women have the Little Silver race in October.  That is the race that was stormed out last year with the police closing roads.

The College Avenue Mile in June will host only the open men and women.  Masters men and women will have their own mile race in Montclair on August 21st.   Masters men will race at the Giralda Farms 10K in Madison in November.  Masters women have the Cherry Blossom 10K in April in Branch Brook Park in Newark.


In the column of December 20, 2015 some very good reasons for a New Jersey runner to join USATF were listed.  Another very important reason that was not mentioned is the Phidippides Award that is given to runners who have competed in a number of races.  Fast or slow – it doesn’t matter.  The award celebrates endurance not speed.  But you must be a member of USATF to qualify.  And they are very nice awards.  If you race a lot, get in on the fun and the bragging rights with family and friends.

There is a sliding scale to determine the number of points earned for running various distances.  A 5K earns 2 points, for instance and a half marathon earns four.  The most points earned in one race are six for any distance above the marathon.

Age is also part of the equation. Young masters age 40 to 59 need 30 points to win Gold; 60 to 79 need 24 for Gold and those 80 and over need only 12.  Yes, there are Silver and Bronze awards, but most runners do their best to get the Gold.

The deadline to submit the application for the 2015 season is January 31st, and I expect there will be a rush to get them in.  In 2014 about 124 New Jersey runners earned their Gold Phidippides award, six earned silver, and four earned Bronze.  Only 33 New Jerseans have submitted applications for 2015.  Time to get cracking.  Just three weeks yet to go for submitting applications.  The application is on the national website in the Masters section.

The LDR committee will be meeting this Tuesday in Rockaway and it should generate some heat.  This is when the rule changes that were proposed in September get voted in or defeated.  One proposed rule has been mulled around for a couple of years.  With so many teams competing in championship races, not all actually get credit for having competed.  A first place open men’s team earns 12 points, second 10, and third 8, and then 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and if there are teams below ten, all those teams will receive one point.  Weaker teams will now be on the board, which seems right to a lot of people.  Expect that one to pass.

Other proposals include one with teams being able to drop their lowest score in the series, a rule that had governed for many years.  Currently all scores count, including a zero for a missed race.   I expect a floor fight on that one, although a modification has also been proposed to award a two point bonus to any team that had scored in all nine of the championship races.

Information about the meeting location and the minutes of the September meeting, which contain the proposed changes are on the LDR page of the USATF New Jersey website.

Race Results can often be found at or at 
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at or at for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at