“I thought it was an elite track team that trained together,” she said. “I was worried they’d be too fast and competitive. I was very intimidated, and I didn’t want to be humiliated.”
Brady considers herself one of the club’s slower runners, but feels that she’s been fully accepted by the club. “They’re just amazing and really nice people,” she said. “They include me in their outings and I never feel left out. I haven’t met a single person who wasn’t encouraging and nice.”
Founded in 1976, the Green Mountain Athletic Association is the largest running club in northern Vermont. The club has more than 500 members from Youth to Masters level. The average GMAA member is 41 years old, but there are minors who join with their parents and plenty in the AARP bracket. There are slightly more men than women, but age and gender are irrelevant to most club members; they just like being around other runners.
“People think we’re all fast runners,” said board member Leigh Chandler, “but there is a wide range of abilities.” The club puts on roughly two dozen races annually, but Chandler said the real goal is to promote both the act of running and friendship in running. “Although it’s competitive,” she said, “everyone loves the sport and the camaraderie.”
The GMAA’s biggest race is the Green Mountain Marathon held annually in October. For years, roughly 200 runners competed, but in 2010, the number rose to 500. Another popular event is the Clarence DeMar 5K race in South Hero, which is held on the Fourth of July. The racing season runs from March to November, culminating in the Turkey Trot, which raises money for the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. An August race raises money for scholarships for high school seniors. The group has weekly training sessions, including distance runs on Sundays, interval training on Wednesday nights, and track workouts on Thursday nights. Kasie Enman of Huntington coaches the Thursday night workouts, and provides individual training plans for GMAA members who are training for a particular event.
Recently, the GMAA has created a racing team that travels beyond the boundaries of Vermont to race. But Chandler points out, “You don’t have to be super fast to join.” The team is open to anyone who wants to participate, as long as they are registered with USA Track & Field, the national governing body for such races.
“We’ve done really well as a team,” Chandler said, “particularly our Masters and Senior men who have traveled across the country to compete.” Chandler hopes more runners will decide to join.
“It’s fun to race on a team,” she said. “It’s great when you place, but even if you don’t, it’s fun to do.”
Vice President Jessica Bolduc echoed that sentiment: “One of the reasons I really enjoy the club is the camaraderie,” she said, noting that the club charters vans to bring runners to some races and a bus for the New Bedford (Mass.) Marathon. “If you were on a team in high school or college,” she said, “this is a chance to relive that experience.”
Chandler said running has been a presence in her life for as long as she can remember. She joined the GMAA because, “it’s fun to find other people who share the same passion as you do. You’re with people who share the same challenge. GMAA creates a community of those people.”
Karen Clark of Jericho has been a member of GMAA more than 20 years. She joined because, at the time, the GMAA was the only organization putting on road races and fun runs. “As I got to know the people by going to the races,” she said “I realized it was a great group of people, and I wanted to support it. It’s still a wonderful group of people. It’s the premier running club in this part of Vermont.”
For those interested in becoming members, go to www.gmaa.net/members.php
Upcoming races in August and September:
Aug. 20: Round Church Women’s Run (5K or 10K), 8:30 a.m., Round Church, Richmond.
Aug. 28: Scholarship 5K Cross-Country Run, 9 a.m. Red Rocks Park, South Burlington (to benefit the GMAA scholarship).
Sept. 10: Archie Post 5 Miler, 8:30 a.m., Gutterson Field House, UVM.
Sept. 17: Common to Common 30K, 8:30 a.m., Memorial Hall, Essex Center.
Intervals: Wednesdays, mid-April through mid-October, 6 p.m., Fort Ethan Allen parade grounds.
Distance runs: Sundays, year-round, 8 a.m., Twin Oaks, Farrell St., South Burlington.
Central Vermont Runner runs: Tuesdays, April through October, 5:30 p.m., end of Green Mountain Drive, Montpelier.
Track workouts: Thursdays, May through July, 6 p.m., CVU/MMU schools.
Photos courtesy GMAA.