Pearl Harbor attack, Punahou, senior runners, World War II

Incredible Personal History

img_2174-1What do Siegfried Ramler and I have in common?  Well, not a whole lot, besides our both being Hawaii residents and having a passion for running.

Sig has retired from running while I’m still chugging along, doing 5Ks to half-marathons. But, hey, I’m 10 years his junior!  I’ll explain the T-shirts at the end.

Sig has an incredible personal story, dating back to World War II and its aftermath.

In March 1938, as a 14-year-old Austrian Jewish schoolboy, he watched Wehrmacht troops enter Vienna. Through drawn curtains, he observed the coming of the swastika and the jubilation of a multitude of Austrians.

His family was soon thrown out of their home.  Shortly after the infamous Kristallnacht, Sig was sent to London to live with his uncle in north London.

Toward the end of the war, in 1945, Sig signed up with the U.S. Air Force to work as a linguist in Germany.  When he learned of the trial of Nazi leaders, he went AWOL and hitched a ride to Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice.

There he was recruited to serve as an interpreter.  Within days he found himself sitting in a small room with defendant Hans Frank and a military interrogator.  Without any training, he interpreted the pre-trial interrogations of the man who came to be known as “the Butcher of Warsaw.”

Sig shoved to the background any hate for this man and determined to do a good, accurate job of simultaneous translation. “I was just 22.  I just concentrated on the job,” he told an interviewer for the Guardian.  “I was there to interpret, not to judge.”

Ten times he heard the presiding judge, speak the words “Death by Hanging.”

Marriage to a Hawaiian reporter on the Nuremberg trial staff led Sig to the Islands and a long career at Punahou School as a teacher and administrator and, later, as founding director of the Wo International Center at the East-West Center.

It was in Hawaii that he developed a love for running.  No surprise, he ran with determination and ran well.  I should know!  As 10 years his junior I did many races with him.

Which brings me back to the photo above.  The Over the Hill Gang is a group of octogenarian (or older!) runners and former runners.  The group meets for lunch once a month, in a lovely setting on Oahu’s windward side.

A new production of the T-shirts was distributed at our February meeting, and we immediately donned them, with pride.

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December 7, 1941, marathons, Pearl Harbor attack, running, senior runners, World War II

75 Years after the Start of World War II

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Here I stand, 82 years old.  It’s Dec. 7, 2016 — 75 years to the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and other sites on Oahu.  I’m smiling, just happy to be alive and strong enough to still be running.  (Note I’m wearing a finisher’s shirt for the 2014 Honolulu Marathon.)  And I’m standing at Kahala beach on the property where my family lived on that day.

I still have vivid memories of Dec. 7, 1941, when I was 7 years old. My older brother Dick and I were barred from running down to this beach to see what we could see.  I expect we would have seen nothing from this low-lying vantage point, with Diamond Head lying between us and Pearl Harbor.  Later in the day, I remember listening with my mother and Dick to the radio and catching, as best a seven-year-old can, the import and sober nature of the news.  The advice I remember most was to boil water for drinking.

My mom must have been very worried about my dad, but being a stiff-upper-lipped New Englander, born and reared in Connecticut, she didn’t betray it.  When my dad did arrive home — I’m not sure of the hour but it was before our bedtime — he was carrying a pistol that had been issued to him.  That impressed me!

I’m not sure how long we kept observing blackouts during the evening. We taped light-blocking paper over the two windows in an upstairs bedroom and that became our evening gathering place as a family.  I remember my dad reading the Christmas Story to me in that room one evening.  Christmas day, of course, fell just 18 says after Pearl Harbor.

Back to today.  My brother, sadly, died a little over a year ago.  As for technology, the picture above was taken using Margie’s iPhone 6+.  I expect the technologies that exist 75 years from now will include some not even dreamed of today.  May technologies focus on peaceful pursuits and not on weapons of war!

Oh, and about running.  I have promised Margie that I will limit my distances henceforth to half-marathons.  So I won’t get any finishers shirt for the 2016 Honolulu Marathon.   But I’m convinced that far from shortening life, running lengthens it.

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marathons, running, senior runners

My final Boston Marathon–Darnit!

Welcome to Hopkinton

“IT ALL STARTS HERE”

That’s a sign put up on April 18, Patriot’s Day, in semi-rural Hopkinson, Mass. — for the start of the annual running of the Boston Marathon. It’s perhaps the world’s most prestigious marathon. It was my ninth Boston Marathon — and almost surely my last.  And it was memorable, in good ways, and not so good ways. Read on. . .

before boarding bus

The first picture shows me at the Boston Common, a short walk from our hotel. I’d soon board a bus to Hopkinton, sitting next to a nice man from California. We had lively conversation, each of us a trifle nervous, he because he was about to do his first Boston, and I because — hey, I’m 81. There were only seven octogenarians in the entire field, including two women.

The weather was grand. Clear blue skies and coolish temperatures. Arriving in Hopkinson, I walked immediately to the “Hawaii House,” so dubbed by runners from Hawaii. A nice resident of the town, with an affection for Hawaii,  each year welcomes Hawaii runners to his home/business office on Main Street, steps from where the marathon begins.

The race starts in three waves. Naturally I was in the last wave, populated by slower runners. (When you starts means little or nothing.  A chip affixed to your running number starts your personal “clock” when you cross the starting mat. High tech!)

The Boston Marathon is famed for, among other things, its very steep downhill in the first mile. Cautious runners, like me, put on the brakes in steep downhills. The infamous “Newton Hills” come in the second half of the race. Obviously, those hills provide a different kind of challenge!

In the first eight or so miles, I felt good, even confident, and managed to do the first half in 2:28. If I had doubled that, I would have had  a respectable time. But well before getting to the infamous Newton Hills, I found myself walking. Never, ever before have I walked in the first half of any marathon.

At the famous “Heartbreak” Hill, I looked for Margie along the left side of the road, waiting with friends.  There she was! She took one look at me and asked me —  begged me! — to drop out. I may have been tempted, but only for an instant. She gave me a fresh bottle of water, and a hug, and I continued on at a semi-fast walk.

Then, at about mile 22 I realized some people were passing me on the right. So I moved over to steady myself and take a brief break. But when I reached out to a temporary barrier put in place for the race, it collapsed — and so did I! A nice policeman came immediately to my aid. A wheelchair was summoned and I was wheeled to a nearby medical tent. They took my my temperature  and blood pressure and inserted an IV. That stop reinvigorated me!  But perhaps more important, I was inspired by the kind, caring aid of the medical crew. I asked if it was OK for me to get back on the course, to walk on to the finish. You’re good to go, they said. So walk I did, at as brisk a pace as I could manage.

Citco signWhen I spotted the CITGO sign in the distance — it’s familiar landmark — about 3 miles from the finish, I figured, hey, I’m going to make it! I stepped up my pace and soldiered on. But what really lifted my spirit was seeing the “1 mile to go” sign. Hey, one mile is nothing, right?  After a quick right turn I knew I would soon be turning left onto Boylston Street and the finish!

Part of my inspiration came from recalling that along Boylston, on my right, I would be passing the temporary bleachers where in 2013 two bombs went off, killing three people and injuring more than 200.  I said a quick silent prayer as I ran by those bleachers. (I was about a mile from the finish in 2013 when the bombs went off.)

488008_226773215_XLargeAt the finish, I was struck by how there were still cheerful volunteers to greet me and other stragglers, giving us each a thermal  blanket and goodie bag, including things to munch on.

After Margie found me in the family reunion area, we walked briskly back to the hotel and a shower, then on to dinner with our Heartbreak Hill friends.

Thank goodness I was allowed to finish!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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marathons, running, senior runners

“Can’t Hold a Good Man Down”

kit after fallThere’s an old sea chantey called “You Can’t Hold the Good Man Down.” Well I don’t claim to being a “good man,” but I think the words somehow apply to me.

At age 81, running remains a passion. I’ve done countless races from 5Ks (3.1 miles) to half-marathons to marathons (26.2 miles).

Last Oct. 4 I started out confidently doing a 25K race (15.5 miles) on the windward side of Oahu — part of the annual Marathon Readiness Series, preparing for the Honolulu Marathon

Seemingly out of the blue, approaching the half-way point, I took a terrible fall.  As I recall, it happened after I had shifted from the sidewalk to the roadway, to pass someone, and then decided to return to the sidewalk.

“Call an ambulance,” someone shouted as I lay there. And very soon an ambulance arrived, its siren sounding. I was gently helped on to a gurney and hoisted aboard, feeling both embarrassed and frustrated that I couldn’t finish.

The drive to Castle Hospital took just a few minutes. And there they took beautiful care of me, doing various tests including a CAT scan, to check for brain trauma. Margie arrived in about 20 minutes and drove me to my car parked a few miles away, then shepherded me home.

The picture to the left was taken the next day, showing knees and wrists covered — and me nursing a stitched-up cut lip. Also, around my right wrist the kind folks at the hospital had affixed a band reading “FALL RISK.”IMG_4896

I’ve been doing competitive races for 40+ years, including more than 56 marathons. And I’m not about to let a little fall discourage me. Hence the title above. I don’t know if I deserve to be called “a good man.” But certainly I’m persistent!

So, on Dec. 13, I did the Honolulu Marathon. My time was 5 hours 59 minutes — far from my best but good enough for 3rd among the 24 runners age 80-84. In the photo, I have one mile to go to the finish.

Will I be back do it again next year? You’re darn betcha, the good Lord willing.

 

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