Waterville’s Central Maine Striders, established in 1975, has been around longer than any of the state’s several dozen active running clubs, and a few of its more than 100 members trace their membership all the way back to the ’70s. The keys to the club’s longevity, members say, include an acceptance of beginners, weekly group runs (curtailed by the pandemic), and running a tight ship at races. We asked for some ancient Strider wisdom about running (and life).
Lesson #1: It’s Not a Competition
“Only one person wins a race and usually it’s not you,” club president Ryan Goebel says. For most runners, the competitive aspect of the sport involves trying to set new personal bests, not beat others — and no one’s ever hoping that you lose. Even when a runner is the last one to cross the finish line, there will be Striders there cheering them on. “Runners are a supportive crowd,” Goebel says. “If you know someone, you’re likely to cheer for them. No matter how someone does, you’re genuinely happy for them for finishing the race.”
Lesson #2: Be a Good Listener
Because the Striders accept runners of all abilities, group runs move at the pace of the slowest runner. The emphasis isn’t on speed so much as the conversations runners share as they trot along. “You can get encouragement and expertise from experienced runners in the group who know what they’re talking about,” Goebel says. “You can learn a lot by talking to other runners.”
Lesson #3: It’s All About Community
Pre-pandemic, the Striders ended weekly runs with a drink or a bite at Westbrook’s Proper Pig pub. The social aspect is a big part of the selling point of a running club — and it isn’t new. “After races, we’d have a bonfire, cook, and camp together,” remembers 75-year-old Gene Roy, who joined the Striders in 1978. “Members were really close and did a lot of things together that solitary runners don’t get to.” Roy’s proud to see the Striders still active, and so’s his buddy Ron Paquette, who joined the same year. “For the amount of energy we put into it when we were younger, it’s gratifying to see it succeed,” says the 81-year-old, who spent the winter planning his next marathon and ultra. After 47 years, he still volunteers at club events. “That’s what you do as a runner,” Paquette says. “Give back to the community of runners.”