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Steve Schallenkamp: Olympics begin, but they won’t be the same

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The Tokyo Olympic Games opened on Wednesday, July 21. The Games were postponed a year from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers must have felt the pandemic would be over one year later. Billions of dollars have been spent, and billions more are at stake in sponsorship contracts and broadcast rights. Unfortunately, the pandemic is not in the past.

Recent polls in Japan show that 70% of the Japanese people are opposed to the Games going forward. In Japan, only 22% of the population is vaccinated. Over 85,000 athletes, team officials, journalists, and support people will be coming to Tokyo.

Many people in Japan fear this amount of people will make the Games a “superspreader” event. At first, the government would allow Olympic venues to operate at 50% capacity up to a limit of 10,000 fans. Two weeks ago, a state of emergency was announced for Tokyo, and the Games now will go on without spectators.

I was surprised to learn that the athletes from 206 countries are not required to be vaccinated. Other restrictions are planned. The Japanese government is planning on restricting athletes’ movement and limiting them to the Olympic Village.

I can’t imagine the Olympics without the fanfare, energy, and packed stadiums. I’m sure NBC will package the Games to be exciting and full of drama for the television viewers. Olympic “junkies” like myself will get our fix. However, I feel sad that these Olympics will be very strange for the athletes who, in many ways, will lose out on a normal Olympic experience.

For Japan, these Games are fraught with danger; if the fears of the Japanese people are realized and the government’s precautions do not limit COVID infections, trust in the government will be shaken, and resentment will linger.

As Americans, we know too well that it is not good for a nation when its people lose faith in their leaders. So the stakes in these Games are high, and it doesn’t have anything to do with winning medals.

On July 12, the Shawangunk Runners Club put on week No. 2 of its New Paltz Summer Series. The race was the traditional Patterson’s Pellet Run at the Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

It has been more than three years since races have been held at Minnewaska. In 2018 and 2019, the park was undergoing extensive renovations and improvements, and no races were allowed. In 2020 and the first half of 2021, the pandemic ended all races at the park.

After 3 1/2 years, the return to racing at “Minne” felt like a rejuvenation, almost a rebirth.

The race itself was threatened by a forecast of severe thunderstorms and was in doubt right up to the 6:45 p.m. start. The storms held off, but the park was enshrouded in a thick fog that limited visibility to a few feet. Some people described the fog as mystical others as eerie. One person said it was like running in the clouds. After the race, the chatter and buzz of the runners bordered on joy. I stood there and, in my mind, simply said, “We are back.”

The top three finishers for the 5K run were Gallo Vasquez (17:53), Trey Hotaling (18:11), and Jake Edginton in 18:28. The top three women were Catherine Herne (22:56), Megan Cook (24:29), and Rachel Wyman (26:00). Perhaps the best performance of the night was 53-year-old Jeff Conston’s fifth-place finish in 19:43.

On July 7, the Kingston XCountry Series had its first race at Williams Lake in Rosendale. The race served as the Onteora Runners Club Grand Prix race No. 5. The weather was brutal for running. The temperature was in the 90s with very high humidity, and the course was hilly. The 4.4-mile route was one where you figured you made a wrong turn if you were not running up or down. Jimmy Donovan and Kevin Roach did an excellent job marking the course, and everyone returned safely to the start-finish area.

The top three finishers were Ryan Kleitz (31:11), Travis Greaves (34:19), and Gavin Roca (34:35). The fastest women were 56-year-old Jacque Schiffer (36:58), Angela Longway (37:25), and Catherine Herne (38:35). In addition, 14-year-old Mason Eyler finished an impressive fifth overall in 35:13, and 12-year-old Abbey Brener finished 17th, clocking in at 38:40.

There is a brand new race that has received approval to go forward! Ulster County and the Onteora Runners Club have agreed to put on the first foot race on the new and beautiful Ashokan Rail Trail. The event will have two participation options. First, from Aug. 14 through Aug. 21, participants can go up to the trail and run the eight-mile course anytime they desire.

Then, on Sunday, Aug. 22, there will be an in-person run for all. The race will go off at 8 a.m. to try and beat the August heat. This eight-miler will serve as the ORC’s Grand Prix race No. 7. Registration will be online at zippyreg.com. Stay tuned for all the details.

There are numerous weekly options for people to do group runs and workouts in the area. On Mondays, a group organized by The Onteora Runners Club President Diana Karron meets at Dietz Memorial Stadium at 5:30 p.m. This group run, aptly named Moderate Mondays, is designed to be an easy run of 4-6 miles.

The group has a no-drop policy. The fastest runners double back to regroup, making sure to leave no one behind. With the New Paltz Summer Series happening on Mondays, this group run is on hiatus until Aug. 9. For more information on this run, contact Karron at dkarron@yahoo.com or look for the postings on the Onteora Runners Club Facebook page.

On Wednesdays, I organize a track interval workout also at Dietz Memorial Stadium. Runners arrive at 6 pm to warm up, and faster running begins at 6:25 p.m. For more info, contact me at ssrun54@aol.com. These workouts will begin again on Aug. 4.

On Thursdays, the Shawangunk Runners host a track interval workout at SUNY New Paltz. The warm-up begins at 6:15 p.m. and is organized by Mike Barnow. Barnow is a coach with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Coach Mike was the 1984 Somalian Olympic coach and has coached the Westchester Track Club since its inception. For more information, contact Mike at mbarnow@aol.com or check out the announcements on the Facebook page, Shawangunk

The Keegan Army has two popular runs on Sundays in Kingston. The runs take off from Keegan Ales on St. James Street. The first 5k run starts at 10:15 a.m., and the second one at 11 a.m. am. Run one or both and then enjoy the camaraderie of the “Army” at the brewery.

Recently, Keegan Army added a Mobile Forces Unit that has three weekly bike rides. These bike rides are kept modest and are suitable for anyone who can ride a bike. Since the rides combine both road and rail trails, using a hybrid or mountain bike is best. Show up at 11 a.m. Sundays for the ride and get all the information needed to be part of the Mobile Forces Unit.

The United States has endured and continues to endure one of the most challenging times in our history. The nation has experienced a devastating loss of life. In 2020, the average life expectancy of Americans dropped an unfathomable 1.5 years. It went from 78.8 years to 77.3.

COVID-19 took the lives of more than 600,000 people. This loss of life is more than all our foreign wars combined. Grief is a powerful emotion that can’t really be described, only felt.

A friend recently shared this Jewish poem, and I think it may provide solace for many of us who have experienced loss.

Epitaph 

By Merrit Malloy

When I die

Give
what’s left of me away

To children

And old men that wait to die.

And if you need to cry,

Cry for your brother

Walking the street beside you.

And when you need me,

Put your arms

Around anyone

And give them

What you need to give to me.

I want to leave you something,

Something better

Than words

Or sounds.

Look for me

In the people I’ve known

Or loved,

And if you cannot give me away,

At least let me live on in your eyes

And not your mind.

You can love me most

By letting

Hands touch hands,

By letting bodies touch bodies,

And by letting…

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