May 26, 2011By Steven Frank Observer staff
This Sunday, approximately 3,600 registered individuals, 1,400 relay teams, and 1,700 volunteers will descend upon Burlington for the 23rd annual KeyBank Vermont City Marathon.
Eighteen of the individual and relay runners reside in Williston. The marathon features a range of athletic abilities, personalities, and backgrounds that are reflected in those Willistonians. This week, the Observer caught up with three of them: Thomas Spencer, Robyn Matheson, and Chris Long.
Thomas Spencer, 41, is about to run his second Vermont City Marathon after a four-year hiatus. His decision to return was first triggered by turning 40 and became official when his daughter, Emily, said she was going to volunteer. Emily, a sophomore at Champlain Valley Union High School, will turn 16 on race day.
“My goal is to finish, have fun, and be in good enough shape after to spend the rest of the day with my daughter,” said Spencer, who recalled spending the remainder of the day couch-ridden after his run in 2007.
Spencer, who doesn’t intend on topping his time from four years ago, began training just seven weeks ago and runs four times a week. He likes to train along South Road in Williston and noted that the town has several great areas for running, but Mother Nature hasn’t been cooperative.
“I have a treadmill that has gotten more use in the last seven weeks than it has in the last seven years,” Spencer said.
Spencer hasn’t done any other full-length marathons but has completed some half-marathons and 10k competitions. He prefers the City Marathon because of its route, particularly the bike path along the waterfront, and the support from spectators and volunteers.
“It’s such a beautiful run – perfect for guys like me,” Spencer said.
Robyn Matheson only began preparing for this year’s marathon five months ago, but that tardiness has nothing to do with procrastination or this spring’s wet weather. Matheson gave birth to her first child, a son, seven months ago.
“I don’t know how well I’m going to do,” said Matheson, who couldn’t run during the first two months after childbirth. “I wish I had one more month.”
Matheson, who recently turned 30, started slowly and increased her training earlier this year. At her peak, she ran between 45-50 miles a week and trains five days a week.
This isn’t Matheson’s first marathon – she completed the Boston Marathon several years ago and ran the City Marathon four other times – but it could be her toughest. In addition to the short amount of training time, she’s had to work her training schedule around her son’s. Matheson has also been nursing, which she said uses up a lot of her energy.
“First, and foremost, I have to be a mother,” Matheson said.
Matheson, who likes to train along Old Stage Road and the bike path near Williston Central School, isn’t using motherhood as an excuse. In fact, she is using it to motivate herself and others.
“You often hear people go, ‘I just had a baby. I can’t do it,’” said Matheson, “but that’s an excuse. You can do it.”
Those who don’t wish to volunteer or have the stamina to run 26.2 miles can still get their City Marathon fix. Chris Long will run with four others, including his daughter, Sarah, as part of the Windrunnerz relay team.
“When you go to the start line at 7:30 a.m., you really get into the atmosphere,” Long said. “It’s so exciting.”
Long, 52 and an engineer at IBM, has two colleagues on his team. He said his team is just going out there to have fun and are “not out to set any records.” His daughter, who plays lacrosse at CVU, has the shortest leg (approximately three miles). Long has the last leg – 5 ½ miles that will take him through the waterfront bike path to a roaring crowd at the finish line.
“It’s the glory leg,” said Long, who has never run the marathon as an individual but has done several other relays. “I’ve already done it once … it’s the luck of the draw I guess.”
Long’s training began indoors on his treadmill and rowing machine. He began training outside recently, sometimes in the rain, and uses a four-mile loop near his home in Heritage Meadows.
“This carries me into completing my goal of staying in shape for the summer,” Long said.
The KeyBank Vermont City Marathon starts at 8 a.m. near Battery Park on Park St. and finishes at Waterfront Park. For more information, go to www.vermontcitymarathon.org.