Beyond The Score

Central Vermont Sports Blog

A Distance Runners’ Mentality

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Today is National Running Day!

I’m not a runner. I watch runners. I listen to runners stories. I tried running a 10K once in the 1980’s but didn’t like it.  I’ll run to catch something. I’ll run if I’m being chased. I’ll run if it’s something short and quick and involves using a ball.  I have family and friends that train for long distance runs. They travel all over to participate in events. I don’t have a distance runner’s mentality but appreciate the effort and energy of runners.

Recently I went with Newton Baker in support of his latest running challenge. I’ve known Newton for a long time and have taken pictures of him in various Vermont running events like the Vermont City Marathon, 100 on 100 and others. I’ve listened to him coach and talk about his running strategies for races. His strategies change depending on his goals and training. The run might be a training event for an important upcoming Ultra or a target for a personal best. He started telling me about an event he’d signed up for and I couldn’t believe he was going to do this alone. I believed he would and could do it, but not alone. The event is called The New England Challenge; 5 marathons, 5 states, 5 days.


I didn’t ask him why because that’s not a running question. Runners know why. The rest of us can only wonder and guess and we’d be wrong most of the time. I wanted to go and support him and wanted to learn more about the mentality it takes to do something like this. I couldn’t see Newton finishing a race and then getting into his car to drive 100 miles, checkin to a hotel, getting meals, resting, and getting up at 4:30 am to do it again and again without help. I imagined him running, getting tired and driving in 6-lane traffic trying to find a hotel or restaurant. That part sounded insane but it’s not insane to people with a runners mentality. I learned that they know how to pace themselves not just in the race but in all other facets of endurance challenges.

I soon discovered that had I not gone with Newton that he would have been just fine and would not have been alone in this voyage. Many runners were doing The New England Challenge solo and they came from around the country. They had each other for support and managed to run the race, reach each location on time, complete the challenge and move on to the next challenge. Some of his Montpelier non-running friends doubted his motives and said things like they’d pray for him like he was going to war or suffering from some unusual illness or disease. They definitely didn’t have a runners’ mentality.

All races started at 6 a.m. and runners keep track of the number of laps by collecting rubber bands at the aid station for each lap completed. You can imagine what their wrists looked like at the end of the race with rubber bands digging into the skin leaving impressions. This was just another endurance challenge that was part of the races.

Those are some of the minor details about the New England Challenge but what did I learn about a distance runners’ mentality? I learned that I don’t understand what goes through their minds during a race. Just when they have come to the end of their endurance they seem to be able to go just a little further. I heard runners  mumble to themselves things like, “I’m almost there. I don’t have much left but I’ve gone this far so I might as well finish.”

I think it is a unique mindset that has a lot to do with a runners’ focus. It’s doesn’t seem to be something that just happens but is developed over a long period of time. The distance runners’ mind seems to be able to keep going when their body is telling them to stop. They seem to be able to focus through pain, muscular exhaustion and all kinds of weather. I watched Newton run in heat, cold, wind and rain. He ran on hard pavement, loose gravel, over roots sticking up in the trail and even battled the long gradual hills. He had a plan, a focus, and a desire to reach his goal. These are the results of the distance runners mentality but I’m still not sure what it is because I’m not a distance runner. I can only marvel at them and be glad that they endure.

Newton completed all the marathons in the New England Challenge during those 5 days. He recovered quickly from each event, rested as needed, and always searched for mashed potatoes. We headed home after the last rainy event and Newton was already preparing for his next marathon in two days, The Shires of Vermont in Bennington which, of course, he did and had the best performance of the week. He completed marathons in all six New England states seven days. Once that was done he was getting ready for the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington in 7 days. After resting for a week he ran his fastest of 8 marathons in two weeks in May.05_NB_Westfield_62

That’s a distance runners experience and Newton has a distance runners’ mentality. All us non-runners can shake our heads in wonder but will not understand until we start running! Until then appreciate and be glad for the accomplishments of distance runners everywhere. Happy National Running Day!


• • • By clicking on the name of the marathon you will find race results for that race. • • • 

• • • By clicking on the name of the venue you can learn about the various parks. • • • 

On Monday, May 12, Newton Baker ran the Pine Tree Marathon in Portland Maine. It was the first race in the New England Challenge. Each lap was 3.2 miles around Back Cove Bay. Much of the path was gravel and scenic. It was 78 degrees and sunny with occasional Atlantic coast breezes making running in the heat more bearable. Newton increased his pace the last 3 laps to avoid what the mid-day heat could do to him if he ran a slower pace.

Tuesday, May 13: Granite State Marathon in Mine Falls Park, Nashua, New Hampshire.  Five laps on a 5.08 trail with a variety of terrain; loose granular paths, pavement, hills. A short out and back at the beginning of .8 miles to make the required 26.2 distance for a marathon.

Wednesday, May 14: Red Island Marathon in Warwick City Park, Warwick, Rhode Island. This was a very scenic course. Nine laps of 2.7 miles plus a 1.9 mile out and back at the start. The course was on payment and mostly wooded. Much of the course overlooked Narragnsett Bay.

Thursday, May 15: Nutmeg State Marathon in Goodwin Park, Hartford Connecticut. Twelve laps of 2.08 miles plus a 1.24 mile out and back at the start the race. The course was mostly pavement with one long hill along the golf course.

Friday, May 16: Old Colony Marathon in Stanley Park, Westfield, Massachusetts. Twenty-two laps of 1.19 miles per lap. It rained most of the day and runners were soaked from head to toe.



  1. Fox44 & ABC22 News features Newton:
  2. The Barre Montpelier Times Argus mentions Newton:
  3. WVMT AM620 Talk Radio Show Interview:  Charlie, Ernie and Lisa Show
  4. WPTZ TV Stephen Watson sports

Crowley Photos Images • New England Challenge

Crowley Photos Short Videos • New England Challenge

  1. Portland Maine
  2. Nashua New Hampshire
  3. Warwick Rhode Island
  4. Hartford Connecticut
  5. Westfield Massachusetts



Written by Roger

June 4, 2014 at 8:58 PM

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