Runners Of Vermont is an ongoing series here at the VTRunCo where we get to meet and start to get to know some of the amazing people that call Vermont home and share our affinity for running. So, sit back and enjoy. The people profiled here are the main reason Vermont is such a great place to live and run. Also, if you know someone that lives and runs in Vermont who you think should be profiled here… Let us know. We’d love to be introduced and give them the opportunity to share their perspective on Vermont’s running scene.
This will be the first post in this series and we figure this is the perfect opportunity to introduce everyone to the person behind the curtain here at VTRunCo. So without further delay… Meet Greg Maino.
Name: Greg Maino
Occupation: Owner/Founder of the Vermont Running Company
Current Residence: Burlington, VT
Hometown/Birthplace: Grand Rapids, MI
How did you first get involved in running and what was it that kept you coming back? Did you develop your habit easily, or was it something you had to work at?
Honestly… I didn’t really like running in the beginning and it took a while (years) to learn to love it. Actually, I’m still learning.
I starting running semi-regularly in high school. I began because I was trying to lose weight. I was never the fat-fat kid, but I was always the chubby-fat kid in grade school and middle school. In HS I started doing more cycling, and a lot of my friends ran XC and they convinced me to give running a try. At this point I really didn’t like running, and it wasn’t until college that I ran consistently for a long enough period of time to reach the point where runs started to be somewhat enjoyable. But even then running was something I did very sporadically, and these bouts typically coincided with periods of laziness when I would notice my weight climbing up.
It wasn’t until my wife and I moved to the east coast that running started to become more of a constant companion. Initially we were living in the interior of Maine and I was commuting an hour to Portland each day for work. This made my typical goto activities (mountain biking, road biking, and kayaking) much harder to incorporate into my everyday life. So, I started running more because it was more convenient than anything else.
Then in December of 2011 my wife and I moved to Vermont. We quickly located ourselves near downtown Burlington, and because my job wasn’t too far away and we only owned one car, I would commute. I started off bike commuting, but in the winter things got sketchy and so I started run commuting. I found that I really enjoyed run commuting. It was an easy way to get a workout in, and because I was doing it so consistently it wasn’t long before I worked through all of the things that people typically hate about running.
That was 6+ years ago. Since then running has become my primary athletic pursuit. I most enjoy trail running, and using trail running/fastpacking as a way to explore the mountains here in the Northeast. I’m not fast, and I’m still a little race-averse, but running has become more than just a thing I do for fitness. I’ve used running to explore in the Swiss Alps and to fastpack the southern highlands in Iceland. In the future there are many more adventures I hope to tackle, and running is the key to making many of my objectives possible.
So, long story short… It hasn’t been easy, and it’s taken quite a long time for me to really embrace running. That said, it’s now very much a part of me and my everyday life, and hopefully my future.
Racing… Do you race? Did you start racing right from the beginning? What has been your favorite or best racing experience… Your worst… Why?
I’m not really much of a racer. My motivation to run has, up until very recently, been driven by a desire to cover more terrain and take in more views when spending time in the mountains. Moving from the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula, where it was very easy to get away from people or find a campsite, it was a bit of a shock the first time we tried to go camping here in the East. I quickly realized that if I wanted to do big days and cover a lot of terrain in the White Mountains and Adirondacks that it was much easier to do really big/long days as opposed to shorter days + overnights.
That said… I have recently started to participate more in the racing scene. I’m hoping to do my first 50K next summer and racing has provided some consistent motivation to train and continue pushing my goals. So far the most fun I’ve had at races has been as a volunteer. It’s so much fun to be out there helping out, supporting other runners, and watching them succeed. And afterwards I can’t help but be motivated to get out there and get after it myself!
As for bad racing experiences… I haven’t really had any that stand out. Though, as I push to complete longer and longer distances I imagine that there are plenty of bad experiences… no wait… Learning Opportunities on the road ahead.
Do you have a favorite distance…Why?
Right now 10mi to half marathon trail runs make me happy. I’m really liking this range because the experience doesn’t end too quickly. I’ll often run 5-7 miles during lunch where I’m currently working and the whole time I’ll think about work and all of the things I have to do at home. Stretch that distance out a bit more and you can start to move past all the work and family thoughts that weigh us down and just let your mind drift. This is the time when I have some of my best ideas, and it’s also a time when I’m more free to see and enjoy the places I’m running through.
Any pre-race rituals or superstitions?
Lube. Mostly for my feet, but it depends on the distance and weather. I’ve found that I sometimes develop blisters on certain parts of my feet, but not in any consistent kind of way. So, anytime I’m going out for a longer run I always take a minute to lubricate my feet and toes. It only takes a second and so far has been keeping my feet happy.
Non-racing experiences… Besides racing and training, what are some other ways you enjoy running, or running has improved your life? Your favorite non-racing experience… Your worst?
Again running for me has been about being able to see and experience more when spending time in the mountains. My most recent favorite running experience was this summer while traveling with my wife and son to Switzerland to celebrate a family members anniversary. Most of our time there was spent with everyone else, but one day I got to steal away and go for a run in the mountains.
I ran right from our hotel and followed a trail for ~3 miles along Lake Silvaplana. I then hopped on a gondola and headed up into the mountains. At the top I grabbed a croissant and some water, before heading off into the high alpine. Eventually I came across the top of another lift where I was able to grab a snack and refill my water bottles before starting the descent back to the village where our hotel was located. It was 10 miles in one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the privilege to experience and it came with built in full-service aid stations.
My worst non-racing running experiences all seem to involve some sort of unwelcome bowl movement. I don’t know that I need to say more, but one particular experience comes to mind where I got caught out in a torrential downpour during one of these unwelcome moments. I found myself squatting in the ferns, thinking about ticks, getting hammered by rain.
Running In Vermont… What do you love about it? What do you wish was different?
Both the people and the terrain here in Vermont are amazing. The terrain allows you to get up high and above the trees if you want to. There are some great technical routes where you really have to pay attention to move quickly and efficiently, and there are great cruiser routes where you can let your mind wander and tick off miles. On the people side I’m always amazed at how kind, generous, and easy going everyone seems to be… while at the same time being willing and able to crush you! Based on how nice people are you’d never guess at the sheer quantity of high quality athletes that share this great state with us.
That said… If I could change something, I would increase the amount terrain above tree line. I love me a big beautiful view and more of them wouldn’t be a terrible thing.
Do you have a favorite route/trail here in Vermont?
I always enjoy exploring someplace new. However, one of my favorite places to run is the area and trails around Mt. Mansfield. The views are amazing and there are enough options that you can put together some really fun and exciting routes. Now let me be clear. When I say run… I really mean “run”. Some of the trails here are extremely technical and there’s no shortage of vertical to keep your heart rate elevated. So, when I say run I might be overstating my abilities just a bit.
During a typical New England winter what do you do to stay in shape, keep motivated, and have fun? Do you continue to run? Do you engage in any other activities?
During the winters I continue to run. In Burlington it can get pretty cold, but typically there really isn’t that much snow. If you can figure out your layering system winter running can be quite enjoyable. As a commuter who both bikes and runs, I actually start running more in the winter because it get’s too sketchy sharing slick roads with vehicles.
In addition to running I also do a considerable amount of backcountry touring and uphill skiing at our area resorts. Skiing uphill is a great way to maintain or even improve your fitness, and it’s a ton of fun because you get to ski down. There are an increasing number of opportunities to get out there and try uphilling, many of which I have created or helped develop. So, if you’re looking for something that will give you a break from running, yet will allow you to continue building your fitness… You should try out backcountry skiing, resort uphilling, or even skimo racing.
Can you provide some advice for running during the cooler months then into and through winter?
Winter running is all about dialing in your layers. So, my advice is to get out there and experiment. Start with too many layers and then slowly whittle them away. In the winter all of the water around you is going to be frozen so stay away from waterproof anything. Breathability is important, but so is protection from the wind.
Also, know that it’s untrue a person loses heat more quickly from their head and hands. Your head and hands lose heat at roughly the same rate as the rest of your body. However, they are very temperature sensitive and they have a strong effect on your relative comfort. Basically, if your hands and head are warm… you’ll feel warm. If they’re cold… you’ll feel cold.
What does this mean? It means you should wear fewer layers on your legs and torso, and cover up your head and hands. This allows your body to dump heat more effectively while still being comfortable. Also, a wind proof vest is gold in the winter.
Do you have a mantra or strategy to get you out the door when you don’t feel like running, through those tough moments in training, or during a long event?
No mantra for me. I’ve always been pretty good at letting my mind wander, and directing my attention elsewhere. When things get tough I just go somewhere else.
Favorite/best piece of running gear you own or wished you owned?
I picked up a pair or trail running shoes this year that have just been amazing. However, they’re still shoes and really only excel on the terrain they were designed for. They don’t come with my on every run.
For me the piece of gear that is indispensable, and accompanies me on every run is a good running hat. For the last couple of seasons I’ve been using a Patagonia Duckbill Cap, but recently I started running in one of the VTRunCo Technical Truckers. A hat keeps the sweat out of my eyes and the sun/rain off my face. In the winter I pair it with a buff and am good to go.
Favorite thing to eat during a long run/race?
So far I’ve been ok with trail mix, nut butters, and gu. My stomach doesn’t typically get too bent out of shape, and I have a high tolerance for boring, repetitive food options. My longest outings have been during fastpacks and my staples on these missions are beef jerky, nut butters, and homemade trail mix with no peanuts and generous amounts of raisins and PB M&M’s.
Favorite aid station food?
I’m not much of a soda drinker, but I’ve found a small cup of Coke to be really enjoyable. It really perks you up and gives you a little boost which can be quite welcome.
Favorite reward (do you do anything to treat yourself… food or other) after a long training cycle/race?
My wife and I are generally pretty careful about what we eat, especially since our son arrived. However, we’re in no way food nazis. We don’t eat out often, but when we do we let ourselves enjoy a slice of pizza, a burrito, or some fries. That said… When I’m getting ready for an important objective I am more purposeful about what I eat. Mostly, I carefully watch and minimize my sugar intake, and make sure I’m getting enough protein so that I’m recovering well.
So, I guess it’s not so much of a reward, but more of a return to our normal, less restrictive eating habits.
Next season what event or events are you are most looking forward to… Why?
I’m hoping to do my first 50K next summer, and I’m planning for it to be the Grand Island 50K organized by Great Lakes Endurance. Grand Island is part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and is incredibly beautiful. I spent 1/3 of my life living on Lake Superior and I’m really looking forward to getting back there and spending some quality time running on her shores.
What are 2-3 Vermont running events/races that people should check out?
I’ve been the race director for the Northeast Delta Dental Race To The Top Of Vermont for the last 5 years. So, I’m a little partial to that one. Also, I’ve been really impressed with the events organized by Will Robens of Catamount Ultra Events. I hear he may have a new 25K/50K at Smugglers Notch Resort in 2018 and from what I’ve heard it should be pretty awesome.
What’s the best piece of running or training advice you’ve ever received?
Run consistently and rest. No single run or workout is going to have a significant impact on your fitness. Improvement comes from training consistently over a long period of time, and taking adequate time to rest and recover.
Do you have any running/training tips or tricks you’d like to share?
Yeah… Smile and wave to every other runner you see while out training. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just run your own run whether you’re at a race or a just out for a spin on a Tuesday night. If seeing someone else out there getting after it doesn’t put a smile on your face no matter how they’re doing it… You’re doing it wrong.
Who is a Vermont runner that inspires you… Why?
I don’t know him very well, but Jack Pilla is a local Burlington area runner who impresses me on a variety of levels. He’s a very unassuming gentleman, but if you look at his list of accomplishments it’s pretty incredible. Also, I just see him everywhere. He’s constantly out participating in events, providing support, and being a constant source of encouragement for anyone and everyone.
Anyone out there you want to give a shout out to? Sponsors/Friends/Partners/
I can’t not mention my wife Mari, my son Anik, and my other son (kid #2) who won’t officially arrive until sometime this February. At it’s core running is a pretty selfish sport. You might share the experience with others, but you really do it for yourself. My wife is amazing and provides me with time (guilt free) to pursue my relatively trivial goals. It helps keep me sane, which probably keeps her sane as well. I love her for it and this seems like a great place to mention it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this far. Stay tuned for our next installment of Runners Of Vermont. Our goal is to post a new interview every week until we’ve profiled everyone that lives and runs in Vermont!
Train Smart. Run Well. Do Good.