Theo Henderson ’20 Wins 15th Annual TAM Trek

By NICOLE POLLACK

BENJY RENTON/THE MIDDLEBURY CAMPUS
TAM Trek runners set out on the trail.

MIDDLEBURY — Early Sunday morning, about 150 runners from Middlebury College, the town of Middlebury, and surrounding counties gathered in Wright Park for the 15th annual TAM Trek. The race was put on by the Middlebury Area Land Trust (MALT), a nonprofit dedicated to maintaining the Trail Around Middlebury (TAM), and offered three loops: a 19.2-mile run around the entire TAM, a 10K and a two-mile Family Fun Run. The staggered start times allowed participants in every event to finish together.

Both the 19 and 6-mile races were professionally timed. Theo Henderson ’20 crossed the finish line first, completing the full loop in a new course record of 2:07:24. Morgan Perlman ’19 finished closely behind in 2:08:22, also beating the previous course record. Middlebury resident Jessie Donavan, 42, was the first female finisher in 2:40:09, while Katie Beebe ’20 and Alexis Clay ’21 placed second and third, with times of 2:52:24 and 2:53:04, respectively.

All three events began in a clearing at the end of Sycamore Street Ext, where orange cones marked the starting line. An eclectic but energizing mix of 2010-era pop songs played over the speakers while MALT staff and volunteers manned the surrounding tents. Participants received their numbered bibs, entered their complementary raffle ticket toward a prize and fueled up on apple cider, chocolate milk, fresh apples, homemade baked goods, freeze-dried chicken and rice and maple syrup energy shots.

It was still cool and misty at 8 a.m. when Jamie Montague, the MALT executive director, stepped into the flag-lined finishing chute. She wore pink-and-turquoise running shoes and a red “MAKE EARTH COOL AGAIN” hat.

“Okay, TAM Trekkers,” Montague said into a microphone. “It’s time to line up.” The nearly 70 runners attempting the entire TAM laced up their running shoes, adjusted their CamelBak packs, jogged their last warm-ups and gathered at the starting line. After a quick review of course markings and logistics, Montague blew an air horn, and the first race began.

By 9 a.m., the cloud cover had parted and the day was getting warmer. Everyone else, including families with small children, middle- and high-school cross-country runners and the Middlebury College Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams, stepped to the line for the 10K and Fun Run. Montague returned to the finishing chute, repeated her directions and blew the air horn for a second time. She also thanked the race’s sponsors, IPJ Real Estate, Brennan Punderson & Donahue PLLC, Co-Operative Insurance and WhistlePig. The sponsors are all local businesses, which matched new or increased business sponsors dollar for dollar, up to $2,000.

According to Mike Corbett, the MALT treasurer, while the Land Trust promotes the TAM Trek as a fundraiser, it generates more money through its general fundraising. The TAM Trek’s main purpose is increased exposure, both to sponsors and to the community. 

“One of the things we try to get people to understand is that the MALT is also the TAM, and those two things are synonymous,” Corbett said. “I think the biggest thing is just that to understand the amount of work and time and money that goes into [MALT]. It’s a great resource that we provide, and we don’t charge for it, but it’s unique and special in that way, and it’s special to the community.” 

He explained that the TAM is more expensive to maintain than many of its  users may realize. For example, when the Vermont Rail System discovered a railroad crossing that did not meet its standards a few years ago, it cost MALT and the College together $30,000 to remodel it.

Corbett added that MALT is composed almost exclusively of volunteers. Its staff is passionate about preserving the TAM and its other properties as community resources, particularly in the weeks leading up to the TAM Trek each year.

As the TAM Trek went on, the day continued to heat up, with the temperature eventually surpassing 80 degrees. Benjy Renton ’21 called out the bib numbers of participants ranging in age from two to 83 as they crossed the finish line, so that their names could be announced over the speakers. Once most people had finished, MALT staff began giving out the raffle prizes and medals for the top finishers.

“It was a lot of fun,” said first place finisher Henderson, “and really, really hot.”

Other finishers echoed his comment, calling the race a “freakin’ blast,” and encouraging other students to participate.

“It was really fun, very challenging, but it went faster than I thought it would,” said Clay.

“I think it’s one of my favorite things about Middlebury,” said Alec Fleischer ’20.5, who finished the race for the second time this year.

Corbett said he would like to increase Middlebury student involvement with the TAM and TAM Trek. He invited anyone interested to contact MALT at info@maltvt.org.

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Theo Henderson ’20 Wins 15th Annual TAM Trek