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In it for long haul

When on course, runner Ellen springs eternal

Always moving, Ellen Spring has been familiar, decades-long face at road races
By Holly Vanorse Spicer | Jul 05, 2019
Source: File photo Ellen Spring.

Thomaston — When it comes to Midcoast road races, especially the multitude of year-long 5-kilometer events, there is no more familiar face than that of the seemingly-always smiling Ellen Spring.

In her 40 years of life on the move, it is definitely not uncommon to see the 66-year-old Thomaston resident with her running shoes laced, her bib number pinned to her shirt, ready to go, since, even as she gets older, she averages more than two dozen races a year.

Spring is a 1971 graduate of Rockland District High School. She did not partake in any sports during school, or in college, but, over the years, she has covered literally thousands of miles with her legs and feet.

Beginning college as a nursing major at University of Maine in Orono, Spring quickly realized nursing was not for her.

"I thought it was going to be my thing until we had to give shots into the grapefruit and oranges," she said.

She switched to English as her major, and then library scences. She finished her college career at the University of Rhode Island.

Spring is the librarian and media specialist for Oceanside High School in Rockland (after years at the middle school). She also coaches the Oceanside Middle School cross-country and track-and-field teams, positions she has held for nearly 20 years.

Spring started running in 1979. She said that it was because her then boyfriend, Don Sanborn, was running, and was always going to races.

“So I just thought I would start in,” she said.

She has done various distances, up to marathons, a distance of 26.2 miles.

“I’ve done a few trail races, I’ve done a couple triathlons, and I’ve been a part of a triathlon [with a group],” she said.

However, for Spring, it has been mostly road races, which includes a total of 27 Boston Marathons, with 24 of them in consecutive years.

Recalling her hundreds of races, she said that her best race, and most memorable, was the St. George Marathon in St. George, Utah, in 1995. Spring ran the race in a time of three hours and 30 minutes.

“That was as fast as I went in that time for that long of a distance,” she said.

The worst, however, Spring noted two of her runs with the Boston Marathon. The first was in 2018, the last one she participated in.

“It was so cold, and so rainy, and so icy. I was really, really slow anyway, because my knees are bad,” she said.

Spring also was on the course for the Boston Marathon in 2013, the year of the bombing.

“That was even more so,” she said of bad — really, sad — race memories.

“I was at the 20-mile mark then. They called us and told us what was happening, and took us off the course, and put us on a bus, and took us over to Boston College,” she said.

“I can’t imagine how anybody could do that,” she said of the brothers who bombed the area near the finish line.

Looking back on her four decades of running, Spring said it seems as though the runners of today are not as fast, overall, as they were when she began running.

“It actually seems like there were a lot more faster people then, back in the day,” she said.

“Now there are more people running, but they’re not quite as fast as the people who used to run back in the day," she said.

She added that there now are far more women running than before.

“It’s way more accessible. I used to drive to a lot of races. I’d go with a whole group of people,” she said.

Spring said that a group would travel together to Sugarloaf, New Hampshire, or wherever someone had heard that there were good races.

“Now, you don’t have to do really anything. Just stay around here and do them," she said, due to the number of events.

Her fastest 5K race time was 21:07, and she achieved that feat on a local course, the Mother’s Day run in Rockland, an event her late mother, Fern, walked in for years.

Spring said she has done strength training, but for her, training has been mostly running.

“Now, it’s only running a little bit, because my knees are bad,” she said.

Spring said heel spurs and getting older have slowed her pace; however, she will not let any of that hold her back, as she plans to keep running — keep moving — as long as she can.

“I’m just gonna take it until I can’t anymore,” she said.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Linda Hillgrove | Jul 05, 2019 14:46

Ellen IS correct..."Back in the day", 70's--80's--90's, Kenny Flanders, Larry Greer, Ralph Thomas & my husband (Bob) would go through 5km on their way to 10km @ SUB 5 minutes per mile, road & or track,-------an 18 minute 5k then would NOT have netted a top 25 @ the finish........Run on, Ellen....stay the course


Posted by: Mary Kate Moody | Jul 05, 2019 09:38

I haven't been involved with middle school sports on the midcoast for many years, but I can still say with confidence that Coach Spring is the epitome of what a coach should be; positive, supportive, and leading by example.  There needs to be many more like her to follow.

Chris Moody-Busline League President for a while way back!

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