The temperature is 33 degrees at 8:00 a.m. on a cloudy Sunday morning, and 16 of us have gathered on a quiet dirt road in the town of West Windsor, Vermont. It’s one of those mornings that, without the peer pressure of the group, I might have opted for a pancake breakfast with the family. My wife and I often joke that this town is not normal. People do crazy things here, and I know firsthand that this trait is contagious. Our weekly running group consists of a farmer, an assistant principal, game warden, stay- at-home dad, jewelry maker, registered nurse, potter, carpenter and biotech manager to name a few. Ages range from 21 to 53, but occasionally we have been joined by kids as young as 13, and folks well into their late 60s. It’s a dynamic group, joined together by a common love of running.
West Windsor has a population of 1,050. My wife, Krista and I moved to town 12 years ago, both as non-runners. At the time, our sons were three and one, and it seemed like an ideal place to raise a family. Back then, I would have seriously questioned anyone’s sanity had they suggested we would be tackling distances up to 100 miles, pushing our bodies for over 29 hours at a time. That’s the funny thing about life. We make all of these plans based on who we are, and then something interesting happens. We change.
The residents of our small town might be considered outliers. It just so happens that we host one of the most important races on the ultrarunning calendar, the Vermont 100. Not only is this race part of the Grand Slam of ultrarunning, it’s also the only 100-mile ultra where runners and horses share the same trails on race day. Our house sits at mile marker 87 and the first year I ran in this event in 2011, I’ll never forget running past my house at 4:00 a.m. Who am I kidding? I was certainly not running. It was 24 hours into the race and at best, I was shuffling when I approached my driveway and had a decision to make. Option one: take a left and be in my comfortable bed, ending the misery and suffering. Or option two: continue the relentless forward progress for another three to four hours. Pretty easy choice as far as I was concerned, however, it turned out that I didn’t have a say. My pacer that night, who also happened to be my lovely wife, had the only vote. Needless to say, we kept on shuffling all the way to the finish line. I must have enjoyed it, because I’ve been back at the starting line every year since.
On this December morning, our group includes six members who have run in the Vermont 100. A few of the others have competed in obstacle course races, marathons, 50Ks and 5Ks, and some don’t race at all. Despite our many differences, we are all there to connect. We laugh, share stories, vent about work and life, or talk about what we’re watching on Netflix. Sometimes, we even talk about running.
Earlier this year, Krista and I were out on a run and came up with an idea. We’ve met so many people in the running community with incredible stories—stories that would make you laugh, cry or inspire you to think bigger. So, we started interviewing fellow runners and writing about them. We call it Blue Collar Runners. When I think about a blue collar runner, I think of someone who signs up for a race without having any idea if it’s achievable but is curious to see if it’s possible. Or someone that takes on the challenge of balancing all of life’s responsibilities, while still sneaking in miles during the week. Going forward, we’ll be featuring a new Blue Collar Runner each month. Every runner has a story. What’s yours?