Acknowledging my addiction to running

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(Host) Commentator John Morton admits that he’s addicted to running, and with good weather returning to the region, he’s already making plans.

(Morton) In the spring of 1989, my friend and running buddy, Dave Faucher, spotted the announcement for a new marathon in Burlington. That first Vermont City Marathon was a blast: excellent organization, supportive spectators and plenty of impressive vistas across the lake. As a bonus, Faucher won the 40 to 49 age group, and I was second. In the following two years, Dave repeated as the Masters champion, while I slipped to fourth, and sixth in the age group. But I was hooked.

One aspect of the VCM that creates universal appeal is the relay, which gives everyone the opportunity to participate, regardless of their level of conditioning. My plan in ’92 was to run the first, three-mile leg for a relay team, then to complete the full marathon. But moments out of the start, my hamstring seized up and I limped painfully to the tag zone. Twenty-three more miles was out of the question.

May 30, 1993, fell during my 25th college reunion. After two days of celebrating and late night parties, I arose in Middlebury before dawn, determined be at Battery Park in plenty of time for the 8:00 am start.

Sometime during the mid-1990’s, the organizers issued blue numbers to the handful of fanatics who had entered every VCM since the beginning. Although it was an honor to wear the distinctive, colored number, few of the spectators understood its significance. For the past three years, the colored numbers have also carried the words, “Hall of Fame,” which seems to elicit reactions from awe to pity.

In the spring of 1998, I was offered work in Alaska’s Denali National Park. It had been a banner snow year in Alaska, so training for the marathon was minimal. My buddies, John Donovan and Dave Faucher, came to my rescue. We talked and joked our way through what would have been a painful 26 miles without their entertainment.

The following year, my daughter graduated from college. Luckily, her commencement ceremonies were held the day after the marathon. Julie was grateful that I arrived on time, even though she took a ribbing from classmates who commented, “Your dad walks funny.”

1999 was also the year that Frank Shorter spoke at the pre-race banquet. Early the next morning, I was stretching and admiring the view of the Adirondacks, when the Olympic marathon champion approached. We had a wonderful conversation about running, the Olympics, and a mutual concern regarding the proliferation of illegal doping. As he turned to go, I asked if he’d autograph my race bib. Now I have a VCM competition number that has significance beyond the designation, ‘Hall of Fame.’

I’ll see you on the streets of Burlington on May 25.

This is John Morton in Thetford.

John Morton designs trails and writes about sports.

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