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Saturday, March 26, 2011

What came first the bagel or the run?

For many years I began my weekends in the parking lot next to the Swim Center in Wilde Lake waiting for Joe or Nadia Wasserman to say, “It’s 7 am lets go.” The Bagel Run is the way the Howard County Striders started their Saturday morning run that went out Homewood Rd with runs of various distances. You could do 10 miles, 13 miles, 16 miles or for the really committed a 20-mile run. Some of you might even have seen this large group of runners milling around the parking lot early on a Saturday morning.

Started by Warren Ohlrich in 1979 as a training run before he opened his Feet First store in the Wilde Lake Village Center it soon started attracting a wider group of runners from the Howard County Striders. Since that time there has never been a Saturday when there wasn’t at least a one runner doing this run at 7 am. The story is that Warren would come out on bad weather mornings just to make sure the streak didn’t get broken. This includes snowstorms, thunderstorms, summer heat, winter cold and any weather you can imagine. I remember doing one run in a rain so hard that we ran through water over our ankles coming down a hill going around Centennial Lake path. The worst the weather the better the stories we got to tell to non-runners just to prove how crazy we were!

At some point in the 1990’s the housing development taking place along Homewood Road and Folly Quarter made us recluctently stop running out Homewood. There were just too many cars and especially trucks and narrow shoulders. No more Shepard's Lane and especially the Mt. Albert Road hill. We changed our route to be mostly on the paths around Columbia. A few old timers didn’t give up the old routes and many times the running group would split into two groups at Elliots Oak. The old timers thought that the Columbia paths just didn’t have enough hills for real runners.

As any runner in a running group will tell you the conversations and friendship made during long runs are some of the best friendships you will ever make. You knew more about your fellow runners lives than most of their families. One of my favorite running companions was Allan Fields. Allan traveled around during the week in his job and he collected jokes and stories that could last the entire run. None of us could ever repeat a joke or story as well as Allan. Sometimes the punch line might come after 5 or 10 minutes. Allan is no longer able to run but he still keeps many of us supplied with jokes in weekly emails.

The best part of the Bagel Run was going to the Bagel Bin after the run to continue to socialize with fellow runners. We would push the tables together as runners would continue to come in during the morning. When Steve Girard opened the old Bagel Shoppe he didn’t realize that Saturday mornings would find his place swarming with sweaty runners hogging the tables. We even organized an annual Bagel to Bagel to Bagel run that started at the Bagel Bin in Enchanted Forest then to the store in Wilde Lake and finally finishing in the store in Kings Contrivance.

The tradition developed of having birthday runs for runners as they reached their decade birthdays. Joe Wasserman would make up t-shirts to honor the birthday runner and we soon collected a wide range of birthday shirts. The first Bagel Run I ever did was a bithday run for Ben Matthews and I remember it being 10 degrees and the champaigne that we were served at the 10-mile point by his wife was half frozen in the plastic cups.

Even though many of us no longer run the Bagel Run as we have slowed down, the tradition still continues with some old timers but mostly a new group of runners much younger and faster than us “old” runners. This isn’t to mean that any runner can’t find someone who runs your pace and maybe make a new friend. This truly is the best way to train for a marathon. So if you are thinking of increasing the distance of your long run or training for your first marathon there is no better way to do it then to line up with the Bagel runners any Saturday morning at 7 am in the parking lot in front of the Wilde Lake Swim Center. It will quickly become your favorite time of the week. For me now I just plod along in the dark (5 am!) on the paths in Columbia as a solitary Saturday morning runner with a lot of fond memories of younger days, a leaner body, faster running times and bagels.

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