The Maine Running Hall of Fame announced its 2010 inductees – three people, one team:

Jim Wescott of Belfast, a coaching legend with many Colby titles on his resume; the 1957-58 Waterville High cross country team, captained by Bert Hawkins; and Joel Croteau and Bob Booker, on whom details follow. (Rather than try to cram everybody into one column, I will continue with a follow-up when I’m back from vacation.)

*Joel Croteau, of Biddeford, remembers the first race he ran, the Boys Club 5-miler in 1979. The event was especially memorable because he was careful to wear a sweat shirt and was pleased to see everybody else lining up was wearing one, too. Except everybody else knew to toss the sweat shirt before the race began.

Following that inauspicious start, Croteau, now 66 and retired from teaching at Biddeford High, won seven races, racked up 162 age-group victories and this year extended his lifetime mileage past 80,000. He ran PRs of 34:13 for 10K (Maine Fitness Day, Sanford, 1982) and 2:45 for the marathon (Casco Bay) and has made huge contributions to the sport and area charities; he’s a big part of the hugely successful Mary’s Walk in Saco, and Croteau and Don Wilson teamed to put on the St. Mary’s 3-miler for 16 years.

“Thrilled and humbled” to be going into the Hall, Croteau talks down any victories (“you never know who’s going to show up”), uses “fun” more often than any other word in discussing his running and racing career, and constantly credits the core of running friends who were there at the beginning: Bob Lanigra, Dick Reny, Wilson and Dick Roberge.

“And he’s still going strong,” Lanigra said of Croteau, who was set to run the Peaks Island 5-miler on Saturday. “It’s incredible. Mind over matter was always his approach. He would figure out what he wanted to do and then do it.”

*Bob Booker, out of Brewer and UMaine and presently head of security at the Brandywine River Museum (known for its Wyeth collection) in Chadds Ford, Pa., shares with Croteau that quintessential Maine quality of self-effacing humor.

“It’s wonderful, you know,” he said of his Hall election. “I’m glad I didn’t go in among the top 50 or I’d have been really embarrassed. Instead, I’m just slightly embarrassed.”

“It’s all relative,” Booker, 62, said of his 2:53 marathon PR in the storied Paul Bunyan event in 1980. Or maybe 1981. “When it started in Bangor and finished in Orono,” anyway. His 10K PR of 35 flat came at Kingfield that same year (whichever it was). “I went out in 17:30, and came back in 17:30.”

After which, “I got married to a woman who could cook The times represent a perfect bell curve.”

Countless Maine runners have benefited from Booker’s efforts, which include directing the Bangor Labor Day 5-miler and the Walter Hunt 3K; founding and conducting the Maine Running Camp that his friend (and fellow Hall member), the late Andy Palmer, would take over; and publishing Maine Running Magazine.

“For me, the guys in the middle of the pack were what it was all about,” he said. His running career “pretty much ended” by heart troubles when he was in his mid-40s, he’d like to lose “a couple of pounds” before the induction ceremony. “I could always say, ‘oh jeez, guys like Larry Allen and Gary Allen should go in before me.’ But it’s better to do this while I’m upright.”

It’s also that the Hall is honoring races now. Cool, not so much because I feel passionately that the Mile 5 hill at Tour du Lac should be celebrated more than it already is, but because the move expands the Hall’s embrace by including deserving race directors who have contributed mightily to Maine running but are unlikely to qualify as great athletes.

So, the two races this year are the Bridgton 4 on the Fourth, which Phoebe and Jerry Levine launched in 1977 and was then steered for many years by Jay and Loraine Spenciner, surely the two biggest reasons Bridgton was long the state’s biggest road race.

Dave Fadden, then Fletcher Carr succeeded the Spenciners, and Jim Cossey took over in 2006. Shorter tenures than the Spenciners’, but doing a job most of us couldn’t handle for 10 minutes.

And, the Bucksport Tour du Lac 10-miler, founded in 1976 by the late Anne Norton and her husband, Steve, followed in directorship by late Hall-of-Famer Fred Merriam and his wife, Joan. A little-known state law dictates that only Bucksport residents may direct this race, and the line of succession is almost poetic: Chris Jones is now a most worthy RD with his wife Margaret (Clapper), whose Hall of Fame parents Charlie and Leona cheer on runners at the homestead at Mile 1.

Hall inductions are Nov. 15 at Killarney’s at the Holiday Inn in Waterville, starting with a social hour at noon. Open to all; reservations are requested. Tickets are $25. Contact is Skip Howard at 947-4836, or [email protected] 

John Rolfe of Portland is a staff writer and a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at: [email protected]