Runners’ Roundup

by Jim Flint

Fleet Footed Seniors Focus on Finish Line

photo by Manny Sainz | At Adamant Village, forty runners ran in the Sodom Pond Four Mile Race on September 22. Donna Smyers (#718) won the F60-69 age group. Dot Helling (#725, photo right) won the F70-79 age group. Tim Hogeboom (with mask, behind Helling) won the M70-79 age group.

ADAMANT – Warm and humid weather highlighted the 18th Annual Sodom Pond Race on September 22. The field of 40 runners, more than half over age 50, toed the starting line in Adamant Village at 6 p.m. Seven of the senior athletes hailed from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette.

Most of Sodom Pond lies within the town of East Montpelier. The pond’s northern edge borders Adamant Village, in the town of Calais. From the village’s founding in 1858 until 1905, the crossroads hamlet was called Sodom. Residents petitioned the legislature to change the name, which was linked to a legendary biblical city destroyed by fire and brimstone. Adamant was chosen to reflect the hardness of the granite which was quarried there.

Sodom Pond retained its original name and place in local folklore. The Sodom Pond Race began in 2003. Organized by Central Vermont Runners, the race follows a dirt roads course around the pond. The four-mile distance is unique, requiring runners to pace the race strategically.

Mack Gardener-Morse, 60, has raced at Sodom Pond 14 times, beginning in 2004. The Calais athlete appears to have found a veritable fountain of youth through running. Since 2004, his finish times at Sodom Pond have fallen within a narrow range.

Gardner-Morse completed this year’s race in 28 minutes and 33 seconds. Running at a pace of 7:08 per mile, he placed first in the M60-69 age group. In 2004, he ran the course in 6:39 per mile to finish in 26:36. Over a 17-year span, his running speed has slowed by less than two seconds per mile, per year.

Donna Smyers, 64, lives and works in Adamant. She finished this year’s race in 33:02 and won the F60-69 age group. Smyers started her Sodom Pond race log in 2003, finishing in 27:35. She has run the race 13 times. Her race pace has decreased by just 4-1/2 seconds per mile per year.  

Scientists who study aging have found that fit runners can expect a one percent decline in speed per year from age 40 to age 60. After age 60, the decline is often more pronounced. During the past two decades, Gardner-Morse and Smyers have consistently defied aging norms.

The Sodom Pond Race is an endurance test. Runners climb several short hills during the first mile of the race. The second mile is mostly downhill, with a sweeping vista of farm fields and distant peaks. Fatigue begins to set in during the ups and downs of mile three, which is the toughest part of the race. The final mile is mostly flat to gently downhill, following the pond’s shoreline back to Adamant Village.

Dot Helling, from Adamant, won the F70-79 age group. Helling, 71, completed the course in 37:20. This was her 12th Sodom Pond Race. She finished the inaugural 2003 race in 29:23.

Tim Hogeboom, 70, from Walden, won the M70-79 age group. Hogeboom had a close race with John Valentine, 71 of Roxbury. Their finish times were 34:28 and 34:53. Valentine has run at Sodom Pond 11 times. His first finish time in 2003 was 26:11.   

George Aitken and Richarda Ericson were the overall male and female winners at Sodom Pond. Their times were 25:03 and 28:11, respectively. Jake Lester, from Craftsbury, was the top finisher from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette. He finished in 27:15 to place fifth overall.

Mark Howard, from Marshfield, placed second in the M50-59 age group. His time was 32:46. Chris Andreson, from Adamant, finished in 31:34. He placed second in the M60-69 age group. Elizabeth McCarthy, 68, from Walden, rounded out the local finishers. Her time was 39:07.

Local Guidance Counselor Runs Half Marathon

ISLAND POND – Sally Guebara set a goal to run 13.1 miles at a 10-minute per mile pace. On September 18, the Craftsbury Academy guidance counselor went the distance at the inaugural Northeast Kingdom Half Marathon. Guebara, 43, placed 17th of 61 women in the race. Her finish time was two hours, twelve minutes, and four seconds.

“The race was well planned,” said Guebara. “I appreciated the fact that we had to show a negative COVID result within the last 72 hours. Volunteers were super helpful and friendly. Lots of great support and cheering along the course. It was hotter than I anticipated on the pavement. Toward the end, I was super tired. There were a couple of gnarly hills in the last two miles.”

Olympian Ida Sargent, 33, was the first female finisher. Her half marathon time was 1:30:44. Chase Weaver, 26, was the fastest male finisher, in 1:18:39. Amanda Michaud, 32, was the top finisher from towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette. The Marshfield runner crossed the finish line in 1:56:42. She was the seventh female finisher.

The concurrent NEK Marathon had 39 finishers. Sue Dodge, 61, from Williston won the women’s division. Her time for 26.2 miles was 3:50:24. Danville’s Eli Dolgin, 39, won the men’s division. His finish time was 3:10:47.

Leaf Peepers Half Marathon and 5k

WATERBURY – The 37th running of the Leaf Peepers Half Marathon and 5k is on tap for Sunday, October 3. The half marathon begins at 9 a.m. followed by the 5k race 15 minutes later. The 5k race begins on pavement, transitions to a dirt road, and ends with a section of grassy trail. The half marathon course has the same beginning and ending as the 5k race. The middle of the race includes a rolling out-and-back dirt road section along the Winooski River.

The half marathon course records of 1:09:28 for the men and 1:19:27 for the women will be hard to beat. The marks were set by Eric Morse in 1986 and Cindy New in 1995. Todd Boonstra (1990) and Laura Wilson (1992) hold the 5k course records of 15:18 (men) and 18:03 (women).The Leaf Peepers event is sponsored by Central Vermont Runners. Race proceeds help to fund mini-grants for youth running programs. Past mini-grant recipients have included the Craftsbury Girls on the Run program and the Craftsbury Academy cross country and track and field teams. Race registration details are available at cvrunners.org.