Caspian Challenge Rooted in History

photo by Jim Flint
Evan Thornton-Sherman (#154) leads the way at the start of the 2017 Caspian Lake Challenge in Greensboro. Thornton-Sherman blitzed the field that July day to win the 6.8-mile lake loop, in 42:56. Roger Prevot (#134) edged out Rob Cary (#158) for runner-up honors. Prevot has signed up to compete in this year’s race on Sunday, July 31.

GREENSBORO – Excitement is building for the 11th Annual Caspian Lake Challenge on Sunday, July 31. Sponsored by the Greensboro Association, the races start at 8:30 a.m. at the Tolman Corner ball field.

Pre-registration is encouraged at greensboroassociation.org. Race-day registration opens at 7:15 a.m. and closes promptly at 8:15 a.m. A 5k race and a 6.8-mile lake loop race will be held concurrently.

The proceeds from this year’s event support the Lake Protection Fund, which helps provide milfoil and other invasive species prevention, as well as lake quality monitoring.

The lake loop course goes through Greensboro Village and out the Craftsbury Road, along the eastern shore of Caspian Lake. After Highland Lodge, the route turns west on North Shore Road. At Campbell’s Corner, runners turn south and continue on Lake Shore Road to the finish line back at the ball field.

The 5k run/walk is an out-and-back course on Lake Shore Road. Both courses offer rolling hills and scenic views of Caspian Lake. The minimum age to participate in the 5k race is seven. Entry fees will be waived for children ages seven to 12. Children are encouraged to register with an adult participating in the same event. Strollers are permitted in the 5k run/walk. The registration fee for ages 13 and older is $15.

East Hardwick’s Roger Prevot will compete in the 6.8-mile lake loop. Prevot, 63, has run the race multiple times. In 2020, he self-timed the course in 47:02 to place second. His fastest time was 44:06, in 2017, when he also notched runner-up honors.

The Caspian Lake Challenge is the successor to the Caspian Lake Runaround, which began on August 27, 1978. The Runaround continued through at least 1992, based on archival records. The Caspian Lake Challenge began in 2012.

Wiz Dow of Hardwick came up with the idea for the race. Dow, her husband Dave Dow, and their friend Anne Batten ran around Caspian Lake every Sunday morning.

“I commented more than once that it was such a gorgeous run that someone should organize a race,” said Dow. “One day it occurred to me that I could organize that race. I had been to enough to know what a good race needed, and so I did.”

Dow switched the race date to Father’s Day in 1980 to encourage more family members to turn out. The event raised funds for the Northeast Kingdom Race Crisis Groups in Newport and St. Johnsbury. Dow coordinated the event through 1983.

photo by Jim Flint
Josh Gould (#166) and Emma Podolin, from Stannard, pushed a stroller with their daughters Scarlet (left) and Ruthie (right) at the 2017 Caspian Lake Challenge. Ruthie, Scarlet, Emma, and Josh are regular participants in the 2022 Tuesday Night Trails race series held at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

The 1981 race had 159 finishers. Among the throng was Chuck Arnold, who completed the lake loop in 42:54 that year. Arnold, who is now 75, will run in the 2022 Caspian Lake Challenge. During the recent iteration of the race, he won his age group several times. In 2020, he self-timed the hilly course in 65:05.

On June 21, 1981, Jim Miller set a course record of 35:44 for the lake loop. He was 22-years old. Miller is still setting records four decades later. On August 30, 2020, he completed a marathon in Burlington in two hours, 53 minutes, and 59 seconds. Miller became the fourth runner known to have finished a sub-three-hour marathon in each decade of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s.

A legendary writer, Jim Fixx, participated in the Caspian Lake Runaround. Fixx authored “The Complete Book of Running,” which debuted in 1977. The book is widely credited for catalyzing the running boom of the 1970s and 1980s.

Fixx and his family summered in a camp on Caspian Lake. On June 17, 1984, Fixx placed 60th of 112 finishers in the Caspian Lake Runaround. He was 52 years old.

Fixx died unexpectedly a few weeks later on July 20, 1984, while jogging on Route 15 in Hardwick. A granite monument in Hardwick’s Memorial Park was erected in 1988 by his admirers from Scotland.

“One of my dad’s favorite runs was around Caspian Lake,” remembered Paul Fixx of Hardwick. “I think he enjoyed Greensboro for the quiet and slower pace of life, being able to visit with folks in town and occasionally even helping a farmer with haying.”

Hot Times at Tuesday Trails

CRAFTSBURY – Ollie Burruss, Claire Egan, and Susan Dunklee earned victories in the July 12 and July 19 5k trail races at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

Burruss won both races to move into first place in the men’s division of the 12-week race series. With 397 points in four races, Burruss maintains a comfortable series lead over Adrian Owens, who has a four-race total of 339 points.

On July 12, Burruss edged out Thorin Markison, 23:11 to 24:33. The race was close on July 19, when Burruss (21:41) outdueled Maxfield English (22:30).

Dunklee, a Craftsbury Olympian who directs the Outdoor Center’s running program, leads the women’s division with 440 points, earned through five races. Hallie Grossman is in second place with 336 points in four races.

Dunkell won her fourth victory of the series on July 19. She placed third overall in 23:35. Hallie Grossman (24:53) and Emma Podolin (25:04) placed second and third in the women’s division.

In a contest between two Craftsbury Olympians, Clare Egan edged out Susan Dunklee to win the women’s division at the July 12 trail race. Their respective times were 25:14 and 25:39. Emma Podolin was the third female finisher, in 27:24.

Emmet Gordon (22:46) and Eve Gordon (22:50) placed first and second in the 3k trail race on July 12. James Reynolds and Harvest Barsalow placed first and second in the 3k race on July 19. Their respective times were 19:22 and 19:27.

The Trail Race Series continues each Tuesday evening through August 23. Mountain bikers and runners start at 5:45 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. respectively. For race locations, visit craftsbury.com.

(This story was edited from the original version.)