Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By JOHN ROLFE
Even by the high standards of the Maine Running Hall of Fame, into which he will be inducted in a ceremony in November, Ron Paquette’s numbers are pretty mind-boggling.
He’s been an all-50-states marathoner since 2005, and this fall he should complete the circuit for the second time while visiting grandchildren in California. (His wife and running partner, Donnajean Pohlman, notched her 50th in Colorado this summer.)
Paquette, 71, ran his first marathon in 1978 – the Paul Bunyan in Bangor – after taking up competitive running the previous year. He’s now up to 186 marathons, including “some ultras” – 50Ks, 50 milers and a couple of 100s. Also on his fall schedule are the Maine Marathon on Sept. 30 and the MDI Marathon on Oct. 14.
These days Paquette is unconcerned about finish times and just enjoys back-of-the-pack camaraderie, often with fellow multi-marathoners, including good friend Mike Brooks of Danville. “There are a couple of guys, Jim Simpson and Larry Macon, who are close to 1,000 marathons. They’ll be up at the Maine Marathon. I know another guy who did 113 last year.”
Paquette has run Boston, first qualifying when he turned 50, but finds “the smaller marathons much more fun to do. Like Mike, I like the adventure-type things.”
That’s a taste Paquette acquired early on. He fondly remembers running the Maine Woods Marathon, a race out of New Sweden that circled Madawaska Lake on logging roads in June 1980. The very few water stops had milk cans with ladles for drinking. Paquette and Gene Roy (Hallclass of 2004) somehow lacked transportation home, but made it as far as Bangor riding in the bed of a little pickup truck.
Home for Paquette has long been Albion. A native of Skowhegan, where he was a three-sport standout and is in the high school’s Hall of Fame, he went on to UMaine and retired from a 42-year teaching, coaching and administration career, the last 38 at Madison High.
Retired is misleading, of course. He’s been a soccer referee for 45 years, a basketball ref for 35, and after we spoke Friday, he headed out to referee two Nokomis-Belfast matches.
Injury? Pohlman remembers only her husband having outpatient surgery for a torn meniscus maybe a dozen years ago. Told to use a crutch, he instead toted it around under his arm. After three days, he started running again. “Typical Ron,” Pohlman said.
His race performances have been very respectable – PRs of 19:51 for 5K, 38:55 for 10K, and 3:14:39 for the marathon. His 10-mile best is a very fine 65:03.
And while I didn’t ask Paquette about this, I would venture that the number he’s proudest of would be the almost $100,000 he helped raise for Camp Sunshine, when in 2001 he and 10 others (including Matt Hoidal, now the camp’s executive director) ran the “Miracle Marathon,” from West Palm Beach, Fla., to the Casco retreat for seriously ill children and their families.
The same generous spirit has moved Paquette to direct and/or create various “little” races, such as the January Thaw 4.5-miler in Belgrade and the New Balance 5K in Skowhegan, benefiting causes such as cancer research, and hospice and foster care. A longtime Central Maine Striders stalwart, he’s served as the club’s president and on the board, and volunteered at innumerable events.
So on Nov. 11 at the Captain’s Galley in Old Orchard Beach, Paquette will go into the Maine Running Hall of Fame as “Maine’s Running Ambassador.” Not only because he’s promoted and embodied “the quality of Maine running,” as author Dick Goodie has put it, in Hawaii and Alaska and elsewhere, but also because of what he’s brought to Maine.
John Rolfe of Portland is a staff writer and a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at: