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Finishing His Last Race: Longtime Director Departs Covered Bridges Half Marathon

  • Runners stream through Middle Covered Bridge in Woodstock, Vt., during the Covered Bridges Half Marathon on June 3, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Bill Blaiklock cheers on runners at the finish line of the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Quechee, Vt., on June 3, 2018. Blaiklock has been co-director and director of the event for sixteen years. He is steeping down this year. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mark Nelson, of Plainfield, N.H. on the bass drum keeps the beat going for runners at the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Woodstock, Vt., on June 3, 2018. Nelson is a member of the Lyme Town Band. The band has been playing at the event since the race started. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Monday, June 04, 2018

Quechee — Bill Blaiklock’s stewardship has been integral to the Covered Bridges Half Marathon for the past two decades.

The longtime race co-director retired from his post following Sunday’s 27th annual event. Blaiklock joined the CBHM volunteer corps in 1997, and his initial responsibilities involved looking after the starting area. He became race director in 2001 and was joined by Mike Silverman as co-director about six years later.

“You reach the point where it feels in a great place, it feels like the right time to move on to something else,” Blaiklock said near Sunday’s finish line at the Quechee Polo Grounds. “We’ve got great people running the organization. I feel like we’re at a point where it’s ready to transition and the other race directors have sort of the same idea and spirit.”

Nancy Nutile-McMenemy, a longtime race organizer, will step into Blaiklock’s role, working with Silverman to plan the event and coordinate its roughly 2,000 runners and 450 volunteers.

Logistical planning for the popular fundraiser has become old hat for Blaiklock, while Silverman specializes in marketing. Both started working early Sunday, overseeing final course set-up prior to the 8:15 a.m. race start.

“We’re basically dropping 2,000 people into the start area at Suicide Six,” Blaiklock said. “We’ve got 21 buses doing continual loops. There’s a whole lot to moving people around.”

Blaiklock said the CBHM has become more philanthropic over time. This year, the event raised roughly $200,000 for area charities and youth recreation programs.

Online registration in December sold out in less than 14 minutes, according to Silverman. About 250 bibs were pre-designated for five area nonprofits — David’s House, WISE, the Upper Valley Haven, Positive Tracks and The Family Place.

Per tradition, each participating nonprofit formed a team of runners willing to raise funds for their cause. With fundraising expectations set at $500 per participant, team registration spots take longer to fill than individual spots.

Blaiklock and Silverman both stressed the importance of community support for the half marathon and said they want a certain feel to come across, especially to those from outside the area.

“Most people have never been to a place like Woodstock or Hartford,” Blaiklock said. “They arrive in Woodstock, they’re like, ‘Oh my God.’ It’s a beautiful place. We want them to feel that sense of community from the volunteers, from everybody, so they feel like they’ve really come to Vermont and not some corporate race.”

Sunday marked Rob Hanson’s return to the CBHM after a long hiatus. Hanson, who lives in Woodstock and teaches in Pomfret, competed in 1999, 2000, and 2001. He hit the wall around the 10-mile mark of the latter race, but refused to give up.

“At the finish line, I didn’t collapse, but I was not in great shape, so they led me to the first aid room,” Hanson recalled. “And just about every person in that tent that was giving aid was a mother of one of the kids I had in school. (Everyone was saying), ‘It’s Mr. Hanson, look, it’s Mr. Hanson,’ and it was a little bit embarrassing. I had a couple of orange juices and made my way out of that.

“After that, I told myself, ‘That’s it.’ That’s like double what I’m comfortable with running. 10Ks are OK.”

The 61-year-old Woodstock resident seemed glad to be back in the race field.

“I was able to come through in a time actually better than two of my times when I was in my early 40s,” Hanson said, “so that feels good.”

Sunday’s men’s winner was Ben Szuhaj, of Hanover, with a time of 1:10:9. Maura Carroll of Arlington, Va., was the female champion, finishing in 1:26:13.