By Phyl Newbeck
Age is no barrier to running a marathon and several Williston runners will prove that at this Sunday’s KeyBank Vermont City Marathon in Burlington. There are eight local marathon runners who are over the age of 50 and still going strong.
For Ben Rose, 53, running the Vermont City Marathon has become an annual holiday.
“It’s a very joyous thing,” he said.
Rose has been running all his life, completing his first marathon at the age of 20. His best time for the Burlington race was 3:17 and he believes this will be his 20th time running the race. “It’s my hometown marathon,” he said. “It’s part of my annual cycle.”
One of the things he likes about marathons is that there are a lot of variables that can be controlled. “You can outsmart time,” Rose said. “You can get better as you get older with stretching, eating right, pacing yourself and having a better attitude. There are ways for age and treachery to beat youth.”
John LaCroix ran cross-country in high school and hated it, but as he got older he began compiling his bucket list. One goal was to run a marathon before the age of 40. LaCroix didn’t quite make his goal but he’s been running ever since, and at age 51 he plans to take part in his tenth Vermont City Marathon. What makes LaCroix different from some of his cohorts is he doesn’t think 26.2 miles is a long distance. LaCroix enjoys doing ultra-marathons of 50 and 100 miles and has better finishes doing those distances.
“A lot of people who can beat me any day of the week in shorter distances or even marathons can’t beat me at ultras,” he said.
LaCroix hopes to keep running for many years to come. “It’s a natural thing,” he said “and it becomes part of you.”
LaCroix trains outdoors year round and hasn’t been on a treadmill in years. He recalls one winter when he left his house at 3 a.m. to run to Shelburne Pond.
“It was a clear night,” he recalled “and there hadn’t been any cars to make tracks in the snow and the trees were covered with frost. You don’t get to see the world like that very often.”
LaCroix believes that to a certain degree, running keeps him young. “You’re given a choice when you get older,” he said. “The longer you sit in a chair, the harder it is to get back to where you were.”
The only woman in the group, Mary Clairmont, will be running her fourth Vermont City Marathon. Clairmont only started running at age 52, when a friend asked her if she wanted to do a half marathon.
“I feel excited that I can do this at 56 years old,” she said. “It has changed my life for the better. I can’t imagine not doing this.”
Clairmont said the key to running is to find a group to train with. She has been running every Sunday with the same group of people. “You can’t do this alone,” she said. For the last three marathons, Clairmont ran with a woman 10 years her senior but this year she’ll run with someone her own age. “It’s a young person’s sport,” she said “but the people who put together the races do a really good job of making everyone feel like they can do it.”
Rose doesn’t believe running a marathon keeps him young. “I’m aging at the same rate as everyone else,” he said “but this keeps me happy and healthy.”
Rose stops short of recommending that others should follow in his footsteps, recognizing that the sport isn’t for everyone. “If you’ve got a body that can run, it wants to be run,” he said. “If you can run, it’s a gift not to be squandered. Running puts me in a good place. ”
LaCroix believes the view from two feet is a much better one than what he would see from four tires. “Running is a vehicle for exploring,” he said. “It’s an adventure. As we get older it’s important to realize we can still have adventures. That keeps us young.”