This year’s Craftsbury Marathon, held on February 2nd and 3rd, drew more than 500 unique competitors to the festivities. Many of the Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club’s own Masters participated in the two-day long Marathon Festival. This group of athletes ranges from their 30’s to their 80’s and often train under the tutelage of coach (and Marathon Director) Ollie Burruss as well as various guest helpers. This year, I wanted to see what the race was like from a Master’s perspective. I reached out to several of the CNSC Masters to see what they had to say about the race.
A little background on my interviewees: Lindy Sargent did the 50k classic race, has participated in the Marathon on and off since the 90s, and is mom to Olympian and GRP skier Ida. Peter Harris did the 33k classic and skate and has done the more than 20 Craftsbury Marathons! Gina Campoli did the 33k classic and has completed the Marathon “countless times over the years starting in the early 80s.” John Brodhead was the Marathon race director for 35 years and raced the Marathon once during his Director tenure when Allison Van Akkeren was his assistant, and has raced it two times since his retirement several years ago, for a total three races.
One of my first questions to the participants involved exploring their marathon history. Everyone astounded me by the broad range of other marathons which they had completed! Lindy’s first ski race ever was when she was in her mid 20’s and was a 60k from Blueberry Hill in Ripton to Brandon. The race was shortened the next year to 40k due to cold and since then she has become a “Craftsbury Marathon Only racer,” but, editor’s note: Lindy is an avid Tuesday Night Race competitor.
Peter has completed numerous marathons and is a Worldloppet Master, which means he has done ten marathons in ten different countries! Read more about his latest accomplishments over here.
Gina and John completed the Norwegian Birkebeiner as part of their honeymoon in 1984. One of Gina’s favorite international marathons is the Italian Marcialonga, which is in Val de Fiemme, Italy. Gina and John also did a long race many times in the 90’s and early 2000s in Quebec that went from Camp Mercier to Mt. St. Anne (which, according to my research, is about 65k)
Then I dove in to questions more specific to the Craftsbury Marathon, such as favorite parts of the course and the weekend as a whole. It seems that the Bohen’s/ Dante’s Loop area is a crowd favorite. Peter explained that he enjoys Dante’s Loop so much because it is “beautiful, skiable, and marks the top of the loop,” while Gina and John enjoy the descent from this spot down the bottom of Ruthie’s. It was far harder to nail down the least favorite part of the course; I got answers such as “liked it all,” “I have no least favorite part…it is all great,” and “no least favorites, love it all.” I’d say that’s a good sign! Lindy and Peter did both harken back to the “great point to point years.” Lindy explained that after the course changed from point to point to a lap race that she skipped it for a few years, but she “likes the course now.”
The atmosphere of the weekend is also sought after and relished. Peter admits that his “second favorite part is visiting with friends after the race about how their ski went, and [his] favorite part is relaxing and recovering afterwards.” John and Gina’s favorite part of the weekend is the skiing, while John added that his is “having someone else be in charge of the race!”
I wanted to get a sense of what different people did for Marathon training and if they felt most prepared for any particular part of the race. Everyone talked about the great skiing this year and being able to ski a lot. Peter talked about doing “longish” uphill intervals to get ready for the Sam’s Run ascent. Lindy’s definitely elicited a smile from me, when she said “ha, ha – I’m the wrong type of ‘racer’ to ask these questions, I guess!! I actually think I’m more of a hopeful ‘finisher’ than well prepared racer :)” (smiley face and all).
John also discussed the goal of finishing, saying that he was so familiar with the terrain that even without being able to do a lot of long distance training this year, he knew that if he didn’t start too fast, there was a good chance of completion. Gina explained that she has “heart arrhythmia challenges and this was a very long race for me, so I had to go very slow in the beginning and was very happy to just be able to ski a portion without problems.”
I concluded my questioning by asking about next year’s race and if anyone already has plans to participate. Lindy said “I can always promise to start as long as I don’t have to promise to finish,” while Peter said that “unless I am away, I will likely to continue to do the marathon as long as I am able.” Gina and John said that it depends on their schedule and training, though I can imagine it’s likely that we’ll see at least one of them toeing the line next year!
I think that Lindy summed up the weekend nicely by saying “thanks so much for excellent grooming, feed stations, camaraderie, timing, everything!!!” The Marathon Weekend truly is special and a focal point of so many people’s winter season. A big thank you to Lindy, Peter, Gina, and John for being willing to chat with me as I tried to “shine some light on the older generation who loves skiing,” according to Peter.
Thanks for John Lazenby for sharing some of his awesome photos with us!