Karen Rogers has become the ultimate road racing townie
By Joe Wojtas
Publication: The Day
Published 06/03/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 06/03/2011 01:12 AM
One hundred and sixty-three down.
Three to go.
For the past 11 years, Karen Rogers of Clinton has been trying to run a race in all of Connecticut's 169 towns and cities.
Her first year, she knocked out 50 as she met her goal of running 50 races in the year she turned 50 years of age.
Since then she has crisscrossed the state, slowly chipping away at her goal. Along the way, several other people have joined her quest although she is the furthest along.
As she got down to the final 10 or so towns, she ran into a problem — they didn't have races.
So, in February she and several others in a group they have dubbed DEBTiCONN (Do Every Blessed Town in Connecticut) staged their own 5K races on three successive weekends in six communities, including Bozrah and Sterling.
That has left Eastford, Sherman and Ledyard, the later of which used to have a road race and a run-canoe-bike-swim relay event.
Rogers plans to run a new 5K event in Eastford on June 11 and it appears Sherman will be staging a triathlon this summer although the date is still up in the air.
That leaves Ledyard.
Rogers said she has had no luck finding someone to hold a race so she and her group may have to go to Ledyard, lay out a course and stage an informal event. She hopes to complete her goal this summer.
If there's anyone out there who might like to put together a race for Rogers, Ledyard may have the distinction of being the town where she completes her journey.
"A lot of people have said this is just such a neat goal. That's why we have grabbed a few people along the way to join us. They all want to color in their map," she said.
Rogers, who has now visited almost every community in Connecticut, said it's been a good way to see the state.
"It's a great state," she said.
So I asked her if she had a favorite town.
"All of them have been really special in their own way," said the retired physical education teacher, sounding almost like a politician.
Rogers said she has enjoyed going to the town and cities, looking at the surroundings and getting a feel for what people do there.
How will she celebrate that last race?
"I'm really excited about it. I've told a lot of my friends that I'd just like them to come out and cheer me on," she said.
RANDALL BEACH: These 'driven' runners are on a statewide, 169-town quest.
Published: Sunday, September 09, 2012
By Randall Beach, Register Staff
email@example.com / Twitter: @rbeachnhr
There’s a group of people for virtually every cause or endeavor, so why not a society of folks who want to run in a race in every town in Connecticut?
I met one of these people in Prospect seven years ago. Ric Villarreal had made it to about 125 of the state’s 169 towns at that point. And he ran them barefoot.
Recently, I heard about another guy pursing this quest, North Haven’s Steve Mele, and he told me there’s a whole pack of them working on this goal.
When I visited Mele at his condo to find out more, he was all suited up in his running shirt advertising “CT 169 Towns Society.” The front of the shirt said “Running is my happy hour.”
The society also calls itself DEBTiConn: Do Every Blessed Town in Connecticut.
Mele estimated there are 10-20 people in the society. “I’m right in the middle,” he said in terms of how many towns he has crossed off his list. “I’m at 114 right now.”
Mele announced there are two society members who have reached the magic 169 mark: Karen Rogers of Clinton and Bob Davis of Naugatuck, who teaches chemistry at Quinnipiac University.
“We’ve got a few in the 150 range,” Mele noted.
Here’s a basic problem with this quest: some towns in Connecticut don’t have road races. So how, you might ask, can you compete in a race in a town that doesn’t even have one?
“We’ve set up ‘virtual’ races,” he explained. “A few people will say, ‘We’re running here at this time’ and they organize their own race.”
Mele doesn’t need to set up any virtual races yet because “right now I’m picking off towns that do have races.”
Yesterday, he was to compete in a race in Suffield. “That will be number 115.”
He got going on this in 2008 when he met Villarreal at a race in Old Wethersfield. “He said, ‘I’m trying to run a race in every town.’ I thought that was a great idea.”
Mele told me, “I don’t like streaks.” When I remarked his goal seemed like a streak, he said, “I’m on a quest, not a streak. I’m not doing the same thing over and over again.”
“It’s always an adventure to run something new and interesting,” he said. “This has pulled me out of the New Haven area. There are races with beautiful courses, nice people.”
Mele also corrected me when I ventured that runners (I am one too) are prone to obsessions. “I don’t think it’s an obsession. I’d say driven.”
He said he was somewhat obsessive when he was younger but now, at 58, he’s settling down a bit. “I’m low-intense now but very active. I’ll run in a race, then kayak in that town and go hiking.’
“I want a challenge that’s not a lifetime commitment,” he continued, “and that doesn’t hurt every day.”
Mele has finished 31 marathons and he has the ribbons to prove it, hanging in his living room. But he hasn’t run in a marathon for two years. He does run in the Stratton Faxon New Haven 20K (12.4 miles), his favorite race. “I see almost everybody I know there.”
Mele is a sociable sort and says he loves to talk, even with strangers. Thus he meets a lot of people at races and finds out things about them.
“At a race in Thompson I told a runner what I was doing and he showed me a book he’s published. He’s taken a picture of every blue historical sign of every Green in every town where he’s run.”
Mele pulled out the book: “The Signs of Connecticut” by Thomas Fatone, a Milford road runner.
“As you meet people,” Mele pointed out, “you find their quests are as obscure as yours.”
With Suffield done, Mele has his sights set on Salisbury, Bozrah and Pomfret. If you’re wondering, here are some of the Connecticut towns that don’t yet have road races: Union, Ashford, Canterbury, Andover, Bridgewater, Cornwall, Ledyard, Scotland and Sterling.
What do his non-runner friends think of his quest? “They think any running is crazy. Or they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’”
Mele began running in order to lose weight. “I immediately lost about 20 pounds. Sadly, I’ve gained it back.”
He gets up at 4:30 a.m. most days to meet other runners in the Spring Glen section of Hamden and run about five miles before work. He’s an accountant for a medical equipment company in Branford.
Mele stressed the society members are supportive of one another, not competitive.
As a single man, Mele can go where he wants when he wants. If it’s a Saturday morning and he wants to make the long drive to Salisbury to knock another town off his list, he’s off and running.
Contact Randall Beach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-789-5766.
Running A Race In Every Town
8:37 PM EDT, October 20, 2012
Runners are always looking for new challenges. So before Karen Rogers turned 50, she started thinking about trying to run 50 marathons in 50 states.
But the travel was expensive, the training extensive and Rogers, of Clinton, decided to stick a little closer to home with her goal: How about running a race in all 169 towns in Connecticut?
That was in 1998. She turned 50 in 1999. Her goal was to run 50 races that year and she did.
"That's when I thought, 'This is doable,'" she said. "Connecticut is probably the 'racing-est' state. There is a race almost every single weekend."
She found herself starting one race at 8 in the morning, say, in Durham, and ending up running another in Greenwich that afternoon, just because she "needed" both towns and the races happened to fall on the same day.
Rogers completed her 13-year quest in November of 2011 with a "virtual race" in Ledyard. Like some towns in the state, Ledyard doesn't have a road race. After about six months of checking with town officials and trying to figure out how to get an official race going (to no avail), Rogers and a group of fellow DEBTiConn (Do it in Every Blessed Town in Connecticut) runners descended upon Ledyard and had their own race, and Rogers became the first of the 18-member group to race in Every Blessed Town.
"It's a very difficult thing to accomplish," said Richard Zbrozek, 65, of Berlin, who has 12 towns left. "It's nothing you can do in one or two years."
I met Zbrozek and a fellow DEBTer, Ben Mattheis of Cheshire, before the Willington PTA 5K in May and they told me their story. They had never been to Willington and thought it was great.
"It's a great group of people," said Steve Mele, 58, of North Haven, who has completed 110 towns. "We're having fun. We go to different parts of the state you never see."
Another member, Adam Osmond, a soccer player turned runner from Farmington, just started running last year. He has raced in 21 towns so far but put his quest on hold to complete his first marathon in Hartford last Saturday. So far, Osmond has run races in Colchester, Bristol, West Haven and Roxbury, among others.
"I have been in Connecticut most of my life, but I had never heard of Roxbury," he said. "It's a great little town."
There is even a king and a queen of the group, and they get to wear crowns (although not when they're running because they tend to slip off). Rogers is the queen. Bob Davis of Naugatuck is the king.
"The process of completing the towns has provided me with a unique opportunity to visit parts of the state which I would otherwise have had no reason to see," Davis wrote in an email, "and to befriend people who I otherwise would never have met."
He completed his last town — Ashford — in February with a virtual race.
"They used to have a 10K [in Ashford]," said Janit Romayko, 67, of Manchester, another DEBTer who started running in the 1970s. "I had done it way back. But they don't have a race anymore. I went along with [the group] for support [in February]."
Runners like to have goals, even silly ones, to stay motivated. One year, Romayko vowed to race in shorts every month. Once, she did a triathlon every month.
Then she stumbled upon the DEBTers and joined in. She has raced in more than 100 towns in the state, maybe more, but she started running before records were kept on computers, so she's not sure.
And what about these "virtual races?" How do they count?
"There are 17 towns which do not have races," Romayko said. "Two winters ago, we got together and ran a 5K of our own design so we could get a town done."
There must be three runners and the distance has to be at least five kilometers. And if the town adds a race in the future, the runner has to run the race.
"We had a virtual 5K in Hamburg Cove in Lyme," Romayko said. "That was breathtaking. That's been my best experience."
Mele needs Mansfield, Griswold and Burlington, all of which are hosting races next weekend. But he already has commitments to run with other people and in other events those days.
Mansfield and Burlington, he's not worried about. Griswold, however, has only one race. So he will have to wait until next year.
Bozrah had been an elusive town until this year when the volunteer fire department hosted a race Sept. 29.
"I think five or six of us ran that race," Rogers said. "We all needed Bozrah. I think we made up most of the race. The gentleman who put it on was thrilled. We told him, 'You keep having this race. We will keep sending you runners.'"
For more information about the club, go to http://www.debticonn.org.
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant
Hundreds come to Meriden for Tradition Run
Amanda L. Webster | Posted: Sunday, January 27, 2013 10:17 pm
MERIDEN — Despite the biting cold that has settled over the state during the past week, runners from all over Connecticut showed up for the Bernie Jurale Memorial Tradition Run Sunday morning.
About 275 people gathered at Hubbard Park for the event’s 44th year despite temperatures well below freezing.
“Some like it colder,” said Jane Earnest, administrative facility coordinator for Meriden Parks and Recreation.
Runners are generally a hardy group and weather isn’t an issue most years, but with temperatures not rising much above 20 most of the week, race officials were concerned, Earnest said. The good news was that temperatures were a little warmer Sunday.
“This is probably the coldest year that we’ve ever worked,” said Earnest.
Some participants saw the slight rise in temperature and clear skies as perfect conditions for a run.
First time participant Adam Osmond said he was extremely excited to make his way up the trail.
“I was driving down 691 and I saw the top of the hill and thought, ‘Holy cow! I’ve got to get up there!’ ” he said.
Osmond explained that he dealt with the cold by wearing plenty of layers and expected to do fine.
The trail up to Castle Craig is 3.1 miles long and many of the runners made the journey both up and down.
Vans awaited those at the top who preferred a ride back down.
People came to participate in the run for various reasons.
“This is more like a training run, get ready for half marathons,” said Darrell Netto, of Colchester. Netto said that he usually runs about 50 to 60 races a year and that the Tradition Run was a way to help condition him for an upcoming half marathon in his hometown.
Ken Vestergaard, of Cheshire, showed up with his entire family in tow to run in memory of Ken’s father, Erik Vestergaard, who passed away in December.
“My dad got me into this back in the early 80s,” said Vestergaard. “It was a dad-son challenge. My dad was always here but I wasn’t as faithful until the last 10 years. It’s turned into a family challenge.”
Vestergaard, his wife and four children, along with his brother, all came out to honor the man who made the TraditionRun a family tradition.
“This year it’s a little emptier,” Vestergaard said, remembering his father.
The race began at 10 a.m. for those who wanted to walk and at 10:30 a.m. for those who wanted to run. Runners started arriving at the top about 20 minutes after they started.
Race officials said they never confirmed the name of the man who finished first because he ran back down the hill and left the park before they could speak to him.
Whitney Watts of Cheshire was the second person to finish.
“The hill is killer,” said Watts as he stopped to catch his breath. “It was a little cold but not too bad once you get going. At least it wasn’t snowing.”