Jim Flint's Runners Roundup, Sports

Silver Anniversary Mutt Strut

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photo by Jamie Shanley
Dogs on the run with their human companions make way through puddles at the start of Sunday’s Mutt Strut in Waterbury.

WATERBURY — Twenty-seven spirited runners and their canine companions faced soggy conditions Sunday at the twenty-fifth running of the Mutt Strut. As temperatures hovered in the mid-40s F, the main goal was to keep warm and moving. With owners in tow, the poochy pack slogged, strolled, splashed, and sprinted along the three-mile course at Little River State Park.

“While most dogs seemed happy to share the experience, some looked disgruntled,” said Cindy Gardner-Morse of Calais. “One Yellow Lab mix exuded a faint musky odor from a previous-week midnight encounter with a skunk.”

Jon Floyd, 50, and Leo, from Waterbury, notched a victory in the small dog (under 50 pounds) category. The duo was the first to cross the finish line, in 21:33. Next was Mack Gardner-Morse, 61, and Minnow (“Minn” for short). Mack and Minn won the large dog category in 24:14.

“With a steady rain, it’s the wettest Mutt Strut that we have attended and one of the coldest,” said Mack. “Cindy walked with Ginger. Minn pulled me the whole way. Our daughter-in-law, Kristi Gardner, also ran with her dog, Toby. Nice to have moral support.”

photo by Jamie Shanley
Mack Gardner-Morse and his yellow lab, Minnow, won the large dog category at the Mutt Strut. The three-mile race was held at Little River State Park.

Cindy Gardner-Morse, 65, won the F60-69 age group for large dog owners. Cindy and Ginger (a veteran Mutt Strutter) completed the course in 42:16.

“Most participants waited for their age group prizes,” said Cindy. “Then reluctantly, happily, or matter-of-factly, they loaded their muddy, dripping four-legged friends into steamy cars and headed home.” 

Coordinated by Central Vermont Runners (CVR), the Mutt Strut raised support for the VT-CAN! Spay and Neuter Clinic. Sponsors generously donated an assortment of dog-friendly prizes. The next CVR race is the Adamant Half Marathon and Relay on May 7. For details, visit cvrunners.org.

courtesy photo
Candace Smith-Brown, from Calais, and her daughter, Julia
Ljungvall, completed the Boston Marathon together on April 17. Candace and Julia ran in memory of Walter Brown.

Marathon Mom Returns to Beantown

BOSTON — Candace Smith-Brown, 62, is no stranger to the Boston Marathon. For 23 years, her late husband, Walter Brown, served as the official starter for the iconic race. Walter’s father and grandfather were the race starters before him, a family tradition going back to 1905. When Walter died in October 2014, Candace promised him that she would run the Boston Marathon.

Candace trained at Central Vermont Medical Center using a body supporting, anti-gravity, treadmill, called the Alter G. She lost 71 pounds and improved her endurance. Six months after Walter’s death, she completed her first Boston Marathon, with her daughters beside her. She went on to finish the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Boston Marathons in person, and the 2020 and 2021 marathons virtually in Vermont.

Challenges paved the road to Candace’s seventh Boston Marathon. A hip injury last summer kept her from running until February, when she returned to training on the Alter G treadmill. There were just two months to get ready for her 26.2-mile run.

“I put a lot of miles on the Alter G this year,” said Candace. “It’s great for rehab because of the weight support. I can start out with no pain, and as I get better, I can reduce the weight support.  To mentally prepare myself, I played YouTube videos of Boston races while running.” 

The transition from the treadmill to running outside came next. “Outdoor training this spring was as usual,” she said. “Ice, mud, or ice and mud, or frozen mud. That’s how we know it’s time!”

As Patriot’s Day, April 17, approached, Candace planned ahead to have the right gear for the six-plus-hour race. Although the forecast was cool and rainy, conditions were much better than the blustery Boston Marathon she endured in 2018.

A solemn ceremony was held on Boston Day, April 15, to mark the tenth anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. “It inspired a response of unity, purpose, and courage,” reflected Candace. “Together we are One. Together we are Strong.”

Marathon morning in Hopkinton was chilly, with temperatures in the 50s F. Candace and her daughter, Julia Ljungvall, waited patiently for the last wave of runners to start. Unlike 2018, they didn’t have to find plastic bags to keep the mud from getting in their shoes. They crossed the start line at 11:17 a.m. Crowds lined the rainy route, cheering them exuberantly.

Candace and Julia kept a steady pace of 13 to 16 minutes per mile all the way to Boylston Street. They used a run/walk approach to efficiently cover the distance.

“We pretty much chugged along, walking here and there,” said Candace. “When the sky felt like it was falling, we adjusted our pace until we got a rhythm back.”

“Every year we don’t really know we are on Heartbreak Hill until we go under the banner to say it’s over. “But when we get to the underpass we groan. It’s always in our head to finish. I have to stop and kiss all the doggies and high five all the little kids.”

“As always, I just loved being there,” said Candace. “I was feeling good, running well, and the cool weather was better for me. “The Brown team is a team; we run together and we finish together. We just get into the spirit of the race.”

photo by University of Maine Athletics
On April 14, University of Maine freshman Evan Thornton-Sherman, set a new outdoor mile record for the Black Bears. Thornton-Sherman grew up in Waterford, Vermont.

Thornton-Sherman Sets Maine Mile Mark

PROVIDENCE — Evan Thornton-Sherman, from Waterford, is off to a fast start with the University of Maine outdoor track and field team. On April 14, the freshman distance ace competed in the mile run at the Friar’s Invitational, hosted by Providence College. The meet featured 56 top collegiate milers from New England and New York.

Thornton-Sherman won the fourth heat of the mile in 4:05.63. He placed ninth overall. His time set a new University of Maine men’s outdoor mile record. Northeastern University’s Benjamin Godish was the fastest miler at the meet, finishing in 3:59.18.

Thornton-Sherman graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy in 2022. During his senior year, he won the D-I state championship in cross country. He also set the D-I and Vermont state outdoor track and field record of 3:51.51 for the boys 1500m run.

At the turn of the 21st century, Bruce Hyde of Harwood Union High School was also a state champion in cross country. During Hyde’s senior season, in 2001, he set the Vermont D-II 1500m state outdoor track and field record of 4:00.44.

Hyde went on to compete at Cornell University. As a senior, he came close to breaking the four-minute mile barrier. He had a personal best indoor mile time of 4:01.82 on March 4, 2005, at Notre Dame University. Hyde continued to compete unofficially as a graduate student at Cornell. In 2008, he recorded his personal best mile time of 3:55.76.

If history is a guide, Thornton-Sherman is on a trajectory to eclipse the four-minute mile barrier while an undergraduate. He has another mile mark to beat, the University of Maine indoor mile record of 3:58.17 set by Riley Masters in 2011. With three more seasons of collegiate eligibility, a sub-four-minute mile appears to be within Thornton-Sherman’s reach.

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