Thursday May 30, 2013

The Shires of Vermont Marathon, a sprawling, hilly race which starts in Bennington and snakes its way around Historic 7A to finish in Manchester, wrapped up another successful year on May 19. This was the third annual such marathon run in Bennington County.

All proceeds from the day-long event go to United Counseling Service, the "designated agency" for community mental health and developmental services in Bennington County. UCS uses the funds raised -- typically about $15,000 -- to help children and families in the area.

This year runners from the Boston Marathon who were unable to finish that race because of the April 15 bombings there were invited to participate in the Shires of Vermont Marathon free of charge. Organizers waived registration costs of $80 for those runners. About 40 Boston runners accepted that invitation, comprising just under 10 percent of the total 451 runners registered for the Shires of Vermont Marathon, according to Robert Pini, race co-director and community relations director of UCS.

"My heart went out to the families who were involved in the tragedy," Pini said an earlier interview with the Banner. "I hope this helps runners to finish the race, close the loop, and move on."

All in all, participants represented 35 states and five foreign countries.

It was a great turnout for a well-organized full 26.2-mile marathon held right here in our little corner of the world.

The Shires of Vermont Marathon course began at the Bennington Center for the Arts, crossed the Silk Road Bridge, continued across Bennington College’s campus and through North Bennington where it met Route 7A and headed over dirt roads in Shaftsbury and Arlington before ending at the meadows of Hildene in Manchester.

One of the best things about the marathon is you don’t have to be a runner to participate. It takes a lot of helping hands to put on a marathon, and the Shires race had hundreds of local volunteers doing everything from helping with registration; handing out water, food and vocal support; providing medical services; and directing the runners. Volunteers were all ages, from children helping to hand out water to runners to adults helping to cheer and guide runners along the course. All did so with smiles on their faces -- mostly because it was just fun to be part of the marathon. Most also cheered themselves hoarse through the course of the race, offering support to the runners. (I know this to be true as I was a course volunteer).

In a thank you letter to volunteers, Pini said, "In all, we had hundreds of happy runners and thousands of people cheering for each other. That’s a reason to be proud. But beyond the event, all the money raised helps United Counseling Service to provide life-changing opportunities to children and families in our community. That’s a big boost to community wellness!"

However, if you are a runner, the Shires marathon is known as one of the friendliest, best events in the region.

"Many experienced runners say the Shires Marathon ranks among the best," Pini said.

Sponsors for the popular race included Cigna, The Vermont Department of Tourism, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, Southwestern Vermont Health Care, The Vermont Country Store, and Carbone Auto Group. Contributing businesses include The Bennington Center for the Arts and Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home.

We commend UCS, Southwestern Vermont Health Care and all the other sponsors and businesses involved in this amazing race. The event helps to showcase the best of Bennington County -- quite literally: Runners and walkers get to see some of the area’s most beautiful scenery as they log their miles.

Learn more about the event or sign up to volunteer for the next one at www.ShiresofVermontMarathon.com or on the Shires of Vermont Marathon Facebook page.

Next race date is May 18, 2014.

~Michelle Karas