Little did Lisa Adriani know what was ahead when she ran the New Year’s Day Chilly Chili 5K race in Orange in 2015.
Adriani got roped into appearing in a photo of Run 169 Towns Society members — a group of runners who strive to complete a timed race in all of Connecticut’s towns/cities.
Close to 40 towns and less than two years later, she’s almost a quarter of the way to the ultimate finish line.
“I figure, over time, I can chip away at it and have fun along the way,” said Adriani, who runs along with her friend Laura Tutoli, who works with her at the Shelton library.
Adriani, 40, ran cross country in college and stopped running upon graduating in 1998. She got back into running five years ago, but has really become more dedicated since joining the group.
“I’m doing a lot more now — a lot of different kinds of races,” said Adriani, adding that she’s been exposed to trail runs in addition to road races.
The running club takes participants all over the state, including to a race in Thompson, near the borders of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“That one’s memorable just because it was so far to get up there and I’d never been there before,” Adriani said.
Adriani has her favorites that she’s repeated several times, including the Commodore Hull 5K which goes from Shelton to Derby, and the Sunset Run for the Warriors, adding that she likes to support some of the causes.
“Seeing all the different towns, all the different parts of Connecticut, and the history, too,” are what Shelton’s Holly Smalley, 37, likes most about being in the club. “It keeps you motivated to keep running.”
Smalley has multiple sclerosis and said one of the most fulfilling runs she did was one that benefitted the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“I can’t wait to get back out there,” said Smalley, who is sidelined for now with a back injury but excited to pick up the running with 19 towns completed.
Smalley is the Shelton ambassador, having joined the group when it was first formed a small handful of years.
With doing a race in every town comes not only dedication but also willingness to lace up the running shoes at all times of the year for these diehards. Adriani has run in downpours, wind-whipping conditions, and even snow flurries.
“If it’s hot, I weather through it. If it’s cold, I just bundle up,” she said.
A race that was memorable because of the weather was a January run in Morris, during which cold rain fell, Adriani said. Smalley added that it rained the entire time during her first half marathon, in Waterbury.
Runners have to stay warm but with too many clothes can be weighted down when the clothes get soaked, Adriani notes.
“It’s tricky,” she said of dressing appropriately for chilly weather running. “You’ve got to find the balance that’s right for you.”
Some of the 169 Towns runners can be seen wearing tutus.
It’s a tradition within the club, which was established a small handful of years ago, for members to celebrate reaching the 100 towns mark by wearing a tutu in the race. And, often times, other members who already have 100 under their belts (or tutus) will put one on in honor of the newest member of the century mark club.
“They like to have fun and not take it too seriously. Guys do it, women do it — some people have their tutus decorated,” Adriani said.
Tom Fatone, a 10-year Shelton resident who moved to Orange in August, is one of the original members of the running club.
Fatone wrote a book The Signs of Connecticut, which covers all of the state’s towns, so he’s already gotten to explore the state, but says running in each of them has provided more opportunities to explore.
“It’s a great way to get out and experience the state. Every town has something to offer to everybody,” Fatone said.
What Fatone says he likes best about being in the running club is the level of camaraderie that exists, noting that about 100 Run 169 Towns Society members were on hand for a race in Bolton.
“It’s been such a positive experience for me,” Fatone said.
Fatone, 47, runs with his wife, Jennifer. He’s the vice president of the Milford Road Runners.
The runners will complete the 169 goal of fellow members who can’t finish. For example, Adriani notes, Mario Hasz passed away from cancer last year and the group members decided to collectively finish the 169 towns. Hasz was given a bear which he ran with until he died, and now the bear is carried by each runner in the remaining towns. Adriani volunteered to run Monroe in honor of Hasz.
For information on the Run 169 Towns Society, which has the slogan “Do Every Blessed Town in Connecticut,” visit www.debticonn.org.