Last month Craftsbury Running spread her wings and ventured out of the COC nest for the first annual Craftsbury Running Road Tour. We decided it was time to share the best kept secret in New England running: Craftsbury is running paradise! And so I took to the road and toured some of the Northeast’s top running hubs, with stops in Boston, Manchester, New York City, Annapolis,DC, and Philadelphia. In each city I visited running clubs and met up with Craftsbury camp alumni. I also attended a mix of running races along the way, from the weekly 5k in Mystic, MA to the New England High School XC Championships to the Philadelphia marathon. At every city and every event, the running energy and enthusiasm was palpable – I met so many people who wanted to share their running routine and community.
Pounding the pavement as I chased peak foliage down the east coast, the hours spent driving gave me time to reflect on how grateful I am to be part of the running world, both personally and professionally. There have been many moments when the reach and generosity of the running community has stopped me in my tracks, and this running road tour was no exception.
Being on the road for two weeks can be a bit of a grind: sleeping on another friend’s couch or old teammate’s futon by night and driving hundreds of miles by day. But each day brought a new group of runners to meet, and time and again their enthusiasm energized me and reminded me why I love this sport so much: the people you meet.
My visit to the Annapolis Striders running club provides a wonderful example of this. Over the summer, four women vacationing in Vermont showed up for our weekly Community Track Practice in Morrisville, VT. It was a humid, rainy day, and it poured rain for the majority of the workout. Despite the less than ideal conditions, these women charged through the workout, cheering each other on every lap. In true Vermont summer fashion, the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds, just in time to provide golden evening light for the group’s final laps. The women thanked me for the outing, and we shared contact information to keep in touch.
The next week, one of the women, Nina, came again to track practice, this time accompanied by her husband, Tom. Tom is the President of the Annapolis Striders running club, and we chatted about running events and programs as Nina tore through another track workout. At the end of the workout, they encouraged me to visit, saying they were always ready to host me.
And so, after only a collective three hours spent together, three months later I found myself in Annapolis, visiting the Striders’ weekly Tuesday evening workout and staying with Tom and Nina for the night. Sitting by their fireplace eating Nina’s delicious minestrone soup with some club members post-workout, the warmth and generosity of these new acquaintances blew me away. Without a second thought, these people introduced me to their running community and welcomed me into their world. It is a beautiful reminder of how special the ever-growing running network is, and exemplifies the communal, accessible nature of our sport.
The road tour ended with a triumphant final stop at the Philadelphia Marathon Expo. Thanks to the contagious zeal of the many runners stopping by our Craftsbury Running booth, the two days in the convention center flew by. Of course, I would be remiss to not also mention a true highlight of the expo: meeting running icon Bill Rodgers! He walked by our booth and did a double-take, at which point I waved eagerly at him. In characteristic light-hearted fashion, he floated over and chatted with us easily. He had heard of Craftsbury Running Camps from previous camp director and fellow running great Lynn Jennings. He was excited to learn about everything we do in Craftsbury, and even teased that he would like to visit someday. As a person who is greeted by fans regularly, it was striking how present and engaged he was with us – another generous running spirit!
I am very grateful for the running community and all the people I’ve met through our shared love of the sport. I came away from the road tour with a lot of new ideas for the Craftsbury Running program and a renewed sense of purpose in connecting runners, facilitating access to the sport, and helping more people experience the invigorating Craftsbury magic for themselves. I am heartened by the positive energy and generosity shown to me throughout my Northeast travels. Many thanks to all of my hosts and to the running clubs for never failing making me feel at home and welcome. Know that a little slice of running paradise is always here in Craftsbury, ready to be your home away from home.