Camper Profiles

Bette Clark

10.Nov.2010

Camper Bette Clark

Bette, 55, lives in Yonkers, NY near Van Cortland Park. She is a psychologist who works with children and is married with two children of her own.

Bette discovered running late in life but has fully embraced the sport, becoming President of the Van Cortlandt Track Club following several years of membership. After learning about Craftsbury from fellow Van Cortlandt members, she has attended camp each of the past four years.

How and why did you become a runner?

I first ran when I was in graduate school in my late 20's to try to get into shape. I shared a house with other students at Stanford who were runners and they took me out to the hills around campus and I thought I would pass out after less than a quarter of a mile. I realized what kind of terrible shape I was in and decided to try running - some time. It wasn't until I was in my mid 40's that I ran with any regularity. I loved the feeling of working hard, of running in the woods and on the trails, of building endurance. Soon it became my way of coping with stress, time away from everything else, time to regroup. I also realized that I loved racing, so it became a way of setting goals and working toward them.

What are you currently training for?

Right now I am training for the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA. I have followed the Craftsbury Intermediate 12-week marathon training program twice before, and it has lead me to marathon PR's both times: Mount Desert Island Marathon (October, 2009) and Boston (April, 2009). I will have just joined a new age group when I run Steamtown in October, and it would be a great birthday present to myself to set a new PR and break 3:45. My real goal in this race is to run smart and to keep improving--not just by time, but through improved race strategy, so that I can finish strong. I would like to have more of a kick at the end, and who better to learn that from than Lynn Jennings!

[Editor's note - Bette set a personal record at Steamtown by 6 minutes and placed 2nd in her age group, missing the win by 30 seconds. You can find more details in this news item.]

How many miles a week do you run?

Anywhere from 25-50, depending on my training goals. I generally run 5 days a week. I learned (from Craftsbury and experience) that 2 rest days (or light cross-training) helps my running on so many levels.

Favorite place to run and why?

My favorite place to run locally is the Rockefeller Preserve in Pocantico Hills, NY. There are miles of carriage paths (dirt trails) along streams and rivers and hills with breathtaking views of the Hudson River. Autumn is my favorite time to run there. I also love running on crunchy snow in the winter, especially at dusk, when deer will run alongside through the trees. Closer to home, I run in Van Cortlandt Park.

I work in Manhattan a few days a week, and my office is just a few blocks from Central Park. On those days I can just run out my door and do a loop of the park or a quick run around the reservoir. I feel incredibly lucky to have such great places to run in an urban environment. They all offer me escapes from the hustle and bustle and stress of a busy life. Even in the middle of NYC, I can find respite running on trails amidst natural beauty.

Favorite terrain and why?

I love to run on trails and dirt paths - not only because I feel I avoid injury by staying away from harder surfaces - but also because I enjoy the challenge of varying my pace and stride to match the changing terrain underfoot. When alone on a trail I find my thoughts take me so many places and I imagine being an explorer charting new worlds.

Camper Bette Clark
Masters week runners Bette Clark and Jill Staats

Why do you run? What does running give you?

Short answer: I run because it makes me feel alive.

Longer answer: Let me count the ways! It is my solace and respite. It keeps me sane. It gives me a time out from everything else. I love the feeling of physically working hard at something - the sweat pouring down, the elevated heart rate, the adrenaline surge - and reaping the benefits both in my body and my spirit. It is also one place where it is possible to set realistic goals and meet them. Running keeps me honest - race times don't lie. I get out of it what I put in, but I can't control everything. I can train well but have a bad race; it keeps me humble but still fuels my competitive spirit. It gives me a metaphor for life.

When your mojo is lacking what do you tell yourself to get out the door?

I know that I will (almost) always feel better after I've run, no matter how much I am dragging before. Even if I am tempted to nap rather than run, I can convince myself to start running because I know I will be energized when I finish. Also, if I am training for a particular race goal, I tell myself I need to get out there and do the work!!

How do you fit running into your busy life?

I make running a part of my routine; in fact, it often dictates my schedule. Generally, during the week, I run first thing in the morning. In the evening, once a week, I sometimes take part in my club's track workouts. I do a longish midweek run with a friend, and we both make it a priority, even if it means leaving work before everything is done. On Saturdays I join my club for a group run, and Sundays, I race or do a long run.

Why do you come to Craftsbury?

A week at camp gives me the opportunity to do what I love in the company of other runners. Through Craftsbury, I have the opportunity to learn from remarkable coaches both didactically and practically. It is like returning to the best aspects of childhood: playing with friends (with lots of laughs), having a sense of freedom, yet feeling guided and looked after (three bountiful, delicious meals a day prepared by someone else!), a schedule that gives structure to the day yet with plenty of time for hanging out by the lake, reading a book, talking to friends. All this - and more - in beautiful Vermont: what could be better?

How has Craftsbury helped your running?

Coming to camp rejuvenates me each year. Not only do I learn new training elements from the coaches and training principles, but I also work on realistically setting new goals and strategies for meeting them. This keeps my running fresh and exciting. Each time I leave Craftsbury, I feel like a stronger, more confident runner.

I had only half-heartedly followed other training programs in the past, but the Craftsbury training principles make sense to me, and I actually followed the program and finally broke 4 hours (3:51 in the Mount Desert Island marathon, then 3:47 in Boston). Plus I meet new running friends in camp, which makes me look forward to planning runs and races so I can meet up with them throughout the year.

How long were you at camp before you realized this would be a good week for you?

Frankly, when I first arrived I was very unsure I was in the right place. I saw someone tearing up the hills, looking like a bionic woman, and I thought I had made a big mistake. This couldn't be master's week and if it was, I was definitely out of my league.

But then I learned this was one of the coaches, not a camper - in fact it was Lynn Jennings. This made me feel quite a bit better!! But probably it was in the first moments of meeting the other campers and the coaches, then going for an easy run around Craftsbury Common, followed by a delicious dinner, that I knew I was going to have a great time. I was even more convinced when I looked at the week's schedule and saw how varied and rich the curriculum was.

Favorite memory or story from camp?

So many great memories from camp, it's hard to choose. I have loved our night time runs (the moose run, the not-so-nude run), laughter in the lounge, and even getting lost with a fellow camper on our Endurathon Day hike.

Camper Bette Clark

Your route finding ability really falls into the "Needs Improvement" category. How do you find your way when you are running in a new place?

When running in a new place by myself I try to memorize a route, especially how I will get back to my starting point. Sometimes I clutch a map but usually it gets too sweaty to read. I also find that when I show a map to a local, most people cannot tell me where I am anyway, so this doesn't help at all. I sometimes get lost, and this leads to great adventures and adds extra miles to my training schedule.

When I ran in the hills around Sonoma, California, at dusk a few years ago, I became disoriented on my return, but was able to ask directions from a woman walking through a cemetery at the bottom of a trail. She did help me find my way back but cautioned me about mountain lions I might encounter en route (I had missed the warning signs). Despite her warnings, I still have never encountered anything more exciting than a rabbit on a trail.

Social runner or solitary runner and why?

Both. Sometimes I relish running by myself, and other times I like company. Having someone to run with whose pace matches mine and whose company I enjoy makes the miles fly by quickly. But I also find solitary runs the best time for contemplation and for making sure I am running the pace I want/need to do that day. So there is space for both kinds of running - and I feel lucky to have the opportunity (and choice) to be alone or to run with others.

You successfully underwent treatment for breast cancer. How did running help you?

There are so many ways that being a runner helped me through my treatment and recovery. I was diagnosed with breast cancer two months after I had run my first marathon. This gave me a focus and a mindset for my treatment: I remember asking doctors whether I would be able to run a marathon in the spring - I chose the ones that didn't look at me as if I was completely insane.

I underwent several surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation, and I thought of each stage as miles to get through in a challenging race. When I was half way through my chemotherapy treatment, I knew I could get through the rest, just the way I know when I have passed the half way mark of a long race that I'll be able to get to the finish line.

When lying under the radiation machine, I visualized my favorite runs. I had chosen one radiation center affiliated with my hospital because it was close to Rockefeller, my favorite place to run. So after my daily treatments (which went on for six weeks), I put on my running shoes and did an easy run on a trail alongside the Hudson River, with eagles overhead. This got me through my day.

My running community was also a tremendous support to me, making me get out for slow runs or walks when I could barely get out of bed. Running makes you tough, prepared for discomfort and set-backs, and you know that with enough determination, you can get through anything: a marathon or cancer treatment. Being a runner and physically strong also made a difference in my recovery from surgery and treatment, from being able to fight through the fatigue, to repairing the nerve damage in my feet associated with some of the chemotherapy drugs.

As I got stronger, my goals shifted from just getting through another marathon (which I did six months after completing my treatment) to running my best marathon (which I just did, three years after treatment). I hope to run many more.

Craftsbury has also played a role in my cancer journey. I had registered for Craftsbury two years before I was actually able to attend. The first year, my father passed away suddenly the week before I was supposed to start camp. So I deferred until the next year. Then the following year, I was scheduled for additional surgery and radiation (after completing chemotherapy) during Master's Week. So I deferred again. I was determined to get to Craftsbury, and I finally made it to Master's Week 2007, and have been returning every year. I hope one day to make it into the 10 year Hall of Fame....