The population of Craftsbury, Vermont is about 1,000 people, but on January 30th, that number will grow by hundreds as people arrive from all over New England.
Their destination: The historic Craftsbury Outdoor Center, a popular training ground for elite-level and recreational athletes and the site of the Craftsbury Marathon.
Now in its 35th year, the Craftsbury Marathon started back in 1981 as a one or two-lap race starting at the Craftsbury Common and traveled across frozen lakes and trails. In the early 2000’s, the race changed to a point-to-point format between Highland Lodge in Greensboro and the Outdoor Center. “The logistics were horrendous,” Craftbury’s John Brodhead recalls. “We had 15 road crossings, seven feed stations and 200 volunteers.”
When low snowfall years threatened the course, race organizers moved the race to a 12.5K loop at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center where the race is held today. The classic-style 25K or 50K race now attracts between 400 and 500 racers every year from around the region, including some retired Olympians including Bob Gray, Marc Gilbertson and others.
Of course, you don’t have to be an Andy Newell or an Ida Sargent to step onto the track. While the top racers will cross the finish line two to three hours after the start, more recreational-level athletes will finish much later in the day, as late as 4:30 in the afternoon, when the sun starts to set.
The Craftsbury Marathon puts a uniquely “Vermont” spin on long-distance racing. Instead of shiny medals on ribbons, top finishers receive hand-thrown bowls made by local potters. The awards ceremony includes a chili dinner open to everyone.
While you are there check out the elite training center’s impressive new gymnasium, waxing rom and cafeteria housed in a beautiful $1 million barn-style building. And plan to stay: you can spend the night with all meals (and the food is both local and delicious) $104 for a single or rent a rustic cabin that can sleep as many as 8 for $351 a night.
Visit www.craftsbury.com for more details.
See also: Six More Don’t-Miss Nordic Races