July 29, 2012

Steve Solloway: Electing to travel to London Olympics

See you in London?

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Louie Luchini

Tim Greenway

Louie Luchini read the messages from friends and former teammates at Stanford University and the Oregon Track Club. Why not, he asked himself.

The Maine Legislature was out of session for the summer. He's running for re-election to the District 38 seat in the House of Representatives, but would two weeks away from the voters in Ellsworth, Otis and Trenton hurt his campaign?

The TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K race is next Saturday. He won the Maine men's division last August and was training to run again. Go to London for the Summer Olympics? He had a lot on his plate, but what else was new?

"I leave Monday," said Luchini, who will miss Saturday's race in Cape Elizabeth. "It all came together a couple of weeks ago. I'm excited. I've got friends running in the 800 and the marathon. It will be fun.

He's 31 and an 11-time NCAA All-American runner at Stanford. Twice, in 2004 and 2008, he was invited to the Olympic trials and didn't make the team. He didn't get the all-expenses-paid trip to Athens or Beijing.

"At the time it's devastating. I didn't watch one minute of the Olympics in 2004. You have to get over it. As an athlete you can't hang your hat on something that happens every four years. Your definition of success can't come down to the final race. With me it's always been the journey, not the destination."

That can describe his two years in Augusta. Luchini majored in human biology at Stanford, looking ahead to a career in medicine. Today he's a budding politician. Go figure.

"The people in Ellsworth and Maine have supported me as a runner. I always appreciated that. I wanted to give back and serving them is my way of doing that."

He's still unassuming. Still hopeful. Still a breath of fresh air. He was a novice and a Democrat when he first knocked on doors two years ago. He got elected, beating an older, more conservative opponent.

Luchini attended a reception at the Blaine House in his first year. In that setting he talked to Gov. Paul LePage. "He's a really personable man. He's funny; he asks good questions.

"I'm usually surprised by what he says to the media. Maybe he's trying to be a lightning rod but that's not a great way to get publicity for your views. You remember he's the one who took the (labor mural) down and told the president to go to hell. You don't remember (the positives)."

Luchini doesn't believe shock soundbites is leadership or governing. He does think Maine representatives on both sides of the political divide work together. "I read somewhere where we unanimously approve or kill 80 percent of bills we hear. We rarely have a divided fight. The climate in Augusta isn't like Washington."

He serves on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. He listens closely at public hearings. He doesn't hesitate to pepper the law library with questions or ask legislative aides to research an issue.

The hurry-up-and-wait aspect of the first months of a legislative year are frustrating. The very long days at the end of sessions can be exhausting, even for someone who always has trained to go the distance.

Luchini ran the 10-mile Tour du Lac in Bucksport in early July. He won for the third straight year. After the legislature adjourned he ramped up his training, hitting 70 to 80 and sometimes 90 miles in a week.

"I feel it. I don't recover as quickly as I used to."

He was anticipating Beach to Beacon. Luchini believes he can't pay his respects to the race founder enough. Joan Samuelson's hold on Maine's distance runners endures.

Then Luchini's friends got in touch. Coming to London?

Nick Symmonds, a teammate from the Oregon Track Club, is the country's best hope in the 800 meters. Ryan Hall, a Stanford teammate who once ran in the Maine Distance Running Festival at Bowdoin College, will run the marathon.

Luchini would love to get tickets for cycling and swimming. The two sports have much in common with distance running.

You won't find him watching weightlifting or water polo. Maybe table tennis. "I'm fascinated by how well they play."

Going to London? In his mind he's already there.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveSolloway

 

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