Lange's pack runs wild every Tuesday
BRATTLEBORO — When an impressed spectator tried to find the words to describe how Tammy Richards was moving around the Brattleboro Union High School track on July 16, personal coach Hank Lange offered up a good comparison.
"Just like a gazelle," he said with a smile.
Richards bounded effortlessly along the inside lane, leading a pack of nine other runners on a five-mile journey. They only stopped for water — taking sips from their bottles as Lange let them know what their next mission was.
"This is my 35th year running these Tuesday morning workouts," Lange noted. "I started out working with serious runners, like people training for the Olympics. It's now a group of people in their 40s, 50s and 60s for the most part. The goal is now to help them feel good and keep fit."
The workouts start in March and continue into November each year, going from 6-7 a.m. every Tuesday.
"The thing I like best about doing this, is that at 7 o'clock everyone feels so alive," Lange stated before setting up orange cones to mark every 100 meters.
Richards, who lives in Williamsville, has to wake up at 4:45 a.m. in order to get to the Freeman Track in time. This is her 13th year with the group.
"It's easier to do tough workouts like this along with other people," said Richards, who was training for a 4.3-mile uphill race at the time.
She cruises around the oval once a week with people preparing for such things as 5k races, triathlons, half-marathons and marathons.
"It's really cool to watch people here with different goals," mentioned Granite Stater Elizabeth "E-Biz" Bianchi, who won her age group in the Greenfield Lightlife Triathlon on Aug. 4. "I always dread these workouts. The hardest thing for me is to get out the door in the morning. I know that I will feel better the whole day if I do it."
Nicole James, who resembles a giraffe because of her long legs and giant stride, is readying for the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13.
"Some people ask, how can you run in circles that long? But you really don't notice it because there is a goal that takes your mind off of the repetition. It is good motivation," James said of the weekly program.
Most runners show up early to do some warmup laps, before joining Lange for the group stretching around 6 a.m. The personal coach then mentions any accomplishments over the weekend by the runners present and explains the first drill, whether it's running backwards for 100 meters, an octave mile, or doing repeat 200s.
"That's another great thing, we never know what is coming next," said James, of Brattleboro.
Her face covered in sweat, she took a short break near the start/finish line after completing the first challenge. The runners eventually took off again and settled into their usual positions, with Richards setting the pace out front and Brattleboro's Matt Mann just a couple of steps behind her.
You can usually hear some chatter just behind them, whether it's Girls on the Run Executive Director Nancy Heydinger talking about the Red Sox game the night before, Caitlyn Parmelee telling a Fun Run story, or Hinsdale resident Leo Marshall speaking about a recent tubing trip on some river.
"We were doing aerobic running earlier in the year, but we are reaching higher speeds now. On the last Tuesday of every month, we do a test session to see how each of them are progressing," said Lange.
He's kind of like the Tarzan of this jungle, because of the way he communicates with the pack using his do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do code — to let the runners know when to go harder during a drill.
His resume speaks for itself.
The 65-year-old grew up in New York and moved to Brattleboro in the late 1970s. He has coached Nordic skiing at both Bates College and Keene State College, finished in the top 20 in the 1982 Hawaii Ironman, and was twice named the USA Triathlon Coach of the Year.
"Helping people is in my heart. It's in my DNA," commented Lange.
Everyone in his family is in great shape — wife Diana has run a sub 3:10 marathon, daughter Sarah won the Vermont high school cross-country title in 2007, and daughter Halie was a two-time Nordic skiing state champion while at BUHS.
Thirty-five years after he trained a runner for the first time, he is now working with newcomer Maribeth Fonda on occasion. The Zumba Instructor started participating in the Tuesday morning program this spring, looking to feel good and have better endurance.
"She's a wonderful person," Lange said of one of his pack's babies.
The workouts sometimes end with Donna Smyth's 20-minute yoga session. The Vernon resident is planning on doing a 60-mile road race for her 60th birthday in October, going from the West Dummerston Covered Bridge to the Guilford Covered Bridge.
"Running as a group is a powerful way to push yourself. It's fun for me," she stated.
That explains why Smyth has been participating in the Tuesday morning workouts since 1997, often looking like a hungry lioness stalking "the gazelle" around the BUHS oval.
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