October 23, 2014

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New England Runner Magazine names Rountree Male Runner of Year

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Saying that Williston resident Rick Rountree likes to run is a bit of an understatement. In an average week, Rountree covers 70 to 75 miles running the rolling hills around Williston and Richmond.

"Running is so simple," he said. "All you need is clothes and sneakers, really."

Tall, thin and lanky, Rountree is ideally suited for his favorite sport. It's more than a "hobby" or a nice exercise side project, he said; Rountree routinely enters and wins running events all over Vermont and New England.

Just this past Saturday, Feb. 2, Rountree won a 10-mile race in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, setting the course record at 52 minutes, 3 seconds. The week before, he was the top finisher in the Boston Prep 16-Miler in Derry, N.H. He ran a 1:33:36 race, almost a minute better than the second-place finisher.

"I'd say Rick Rountree is one of our top three runners," said Charlie Windisch, president of the Green Mountain Athletic Association, of which Rountree is a member. "He cleans up on most of our races."

His achievements have not gone unnoticed. New England Runner Magazine recently named Rountree the 2007 Vermont Male Runner of the Year for the second year in a row.

"It's always nice to get recognition for your hard work," he said.

Overcoming obstacles

Last year wasn't an easy one for Rountree, who had to overcome two injuries in the early part of 2007. He strained his adductor muscle in his leg and could hardly walk without significant pain. By favoring his leg, he injured his Achilles tendon when he tried running again, something he said he started too early.

"It wasn't until June that I could feel good enough to race," he said.

He was nervous before his first post-injury race in Rutland, but overcame his nerves to win the event. And while 2007 wasn't a typical running year for Rountree, he did compete in 10 races, winning five of them.

His injuries came after he competed in a short race while vacationing in Geneva. Rountree was the top American finisher, placing fourth overall, but he felt he could have placed higher if had been feeling better.

"I was really jet lagged, really out of it," he said.

Beginnings

Rountree began running during his freshman year of high school. He joined the cross country team, but he wasn't sure running was for him.

"I wanted to quit when I first started, but my parents kept pushing me to keep with it," he said.

He went on to have success in college while attending Bentley College in Massachusetts, one of the top running schools in New England. After college, Rountree moved to the Washington, D.C. area, competing in local races in the region, some of which had some decent monetary prizes.

"I won enough money to cover entry fees, running shoes, travel expenses," he said. "I wasn't running for the money, but it helped to break even."

Rountree moved to Vermont two years ago and continued racing in local half marathons and other shorter distance races. His favorites include the Leaf Peeper's Half Marathon, which takes place in the fall in Waterbury, and a mile sprint in downtown Montpelier.

"Typically, he goes out fast from the start," Windisch said. "He'll stay in the lead pack for the most part and then try to break away at the end. It seems to do the trick."

Looking forward

While Rountree is a fast runner who competes well in shorter, faster races, his trouble spot is marathons. He hasn't completed one of the 26-mile races since 2003, but hopes to change that this year. Rountree said that the training for a half-marathon and a full marathon are completely different.

"It's been hard," he said. "I feel like I've underperformed at the marathon level. I have a lot of room to grow. To be honest, I don't like to run that far. I hate that last 10 (kilometers)."

Despite his dislike of the longer distances, Rountree keeps pushing himself, and he hopes to compete in this year's Vermont City Marathon, taking place in Burlington in May. Until then, he'll keep running along the roads and paths around Williston, training to continue his winning ways.

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