Williston’s Brian Hoar, 42, gives a thumbs-up near the 40-mile marker of the 50-mile Rock the Ridge Endurance Challenge ultra marathon in New Paltz, N.Y. on May 3.
Last year, Williston’s Brian Hoar went into the Vermont City Marathon with a goal time.
This year, the eight-time American Canadian Tour stock car racing champion is leaving his timing devices at home, his goal to simply enjoy the 26th annual 26.2-mile run through the greater Burlington area.
“It’s in my back yard, it’s where I live, it’s where I play,” said Hoar, who is vice president of the Goss Dodge Chrysler car dealerships. “I know a ton of people involved in it, and quite frankly, it’s just a fun course.”
The fact his family can see him — and he can see them — multiple times along the way is also a highlight.
“I run by them four or five times before I get to the finish line,” he said. “They walk right down the hill to meet me.”
Sunday’s race marks Hoar’s fifth Vermont City Marathon and his third marathon-length race or longer this year.
The driver of the No. 37 Goss Dodge Charger Late Model, who also happens to be the winningest driver on the ACT Tour with 39 career wins, Hoar will have six races under his belt after Sunday — three on his feet and three in his car — in this young 2014 racing and running season.
With a tricky combination of a brand-new car and new Tour-required tires his team is still feeling out, Hoar finished outside the Top 10 in the season-opener New Hampshire Governor’s Cup at Lee USA, was 11th at the Merchants Bank 150 on April 27 and was 14th last Saturday in the Airborne 100 in Plattsburgh.
“The guys have made great changes, I have full confidence in them,” he said. “We were really, really good in practice, we felt like we had a top-10 or top-five car. If I could go back (to Airborne) tomorrow, I am 95 percent sure we’d have a top-five car. We were that close.”
Hoar, whose average finish last year was a staggering 3.0, is not running a full ACT or Thunder Road season this summer. And while his sheer number of running races may wind up outnumbering his driving races, he insists he’s not out to change the reason people know his name,
“I will never be known as Brian Hoar the Runner,” he said with a laugh. “I’m just the local kid in the back of the field, an average runner at best.”
He ran the 2013 VCM in 4 hours, 2 minutes, 30 seconds, just over his four-hour goal, with a 9:13 mile pace.
Two races in the early part of this year, including an ultra-marathon in New Paltz, N.Y., on May 3, have left his body at less than 100 percent for the Burlington race. He peaked his training for a March marathon in California and only recently recovered from the ultra.
“I’m not in tip-top shape this time,” he said. “I’ll be able to complete it, but I don’t know if it will allow me to do my best.”
When the Devil’s Bowl opener was rained out, Hoar decided he was racing anyway — just not a quarter-mile of asphalt at a time.
Hoar made the trip to New Paltz instead and ran in the 50-mile Rock the Ridge Endurance Challenge on the Mohonk Reservation in just over 11 hours (11:18:10), finishing 46th in a field of 95 finishers (nine did not complete the race). The winner finished in 5:58.29, the only finisher under 7 hours.
“It was just a matter of wanting to do a long, long run,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I went out on these nice, beautiful trails in this beautiful park on the Mohonk Reservation. It’s as much fun as you can have on your feet, pounding mile after mile. It was painful, I won’t lie.”
The worst, he said. was the last five miles.
“I just wanted to be done,” he said. “When I got to the 45-mile marker, with only five to go, it was the longest, most painful five miles. It was pure torture.”
Still, he enjoyed the relaxed pace where most participants walked the hills, and particularly savored the aid stations.
“It’s a lot different than a road marathon, where everyone has on their game face,” he said. “There was a lot of eating involved, to make up for all the calories you’re burning. There were big aid stations where they have real food, hot and cold.”
The 42-year-old Hoar said it’s partly that love of eating that drives him to run.
“If I didn’t run and stay active, I would gain weight quickly,” he said. “I like food, and that’s part of the reason. I jokingly say, ‘Eat, Run, Repeat.’ I didn’t come up with that saying, but I repeat it a lot.”
He became a runner later in his life and now starts every morning by lacing up his running shoes.
“When I go running, it’s purely release and relaxation, as much as running can be relaxing,” he said. “It’s relaxing for my mind. I’ve got one goal, to plod along and keep my feet moving.”
He started the racing season in the Catalina Island Conservancy Marathon in Avalon, California, in March — a race he entered because he was going to the picturesque island on business anyway.
He went out two days early and ran the marathon ahead of Monday’s first meeting. He finished the trail marathon in 4:37:07, good enough for 92nd place out of 482 runners and walkers, and 12th in his 40-44 age group. He was also the first of two Vermonters: Worcester’s John Kaeding finished in 5:16.25.
“I had read about (trail marathons) but have never done one,” Hoar said. “It’s a mountainous island, and they drop you off on one end and you run back. It wasn’t about getting my best time, it was just a lot of fun.”
He’s used to being dropped off in one location and running back to where he needs to be. The Lee USA race opens the ACT season, usually in early-to-mid April, which coincides with the longer runs of his marathon training schedule.
“We practice that Saturday, and three years in a row, (my crew) has dropped me off 10 miles from the hotel, and I run back,” he said.
The challenge lies in finding that balance between running, stock car racing, business and family (he and his wife Sandy have two daughters, Rachel, 13, and Taylor, 11).
“Family and business take first priority,” he said. “We’re part of the family that owns the business, so we’re in it all the time. Racing’s third. My running is my health, and that’s a priority, too. I’m competing in (stock car) racing, but I’m only (running) for fun. I’m not out there to win a marathon, I do it because I enjoy it.”
Fittingly, Hoar’s next ACT race will be the Devil’s Bowl Spring Green, rained out from May 3 to Fathers Day, June 15.
His next running race may be soon after that.
“I’m looking at a couple,” he said. “There’s another 50k trail marathon in Stowe at the end of June, and depending on how my body rebounds and the life schedule ... But it would probably not take priority again. I’ll train for it, and if I can do it, great.”
Hoar and his nearly 3,000 fellow Vermont City Marathon participants step off the starting line beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday morning at Battery Park, finishing at the Waterfront.
“It’s really fun coming back fown the bikepath, it’s slightly downhill, and closer to the end, you’re so exhausted, but hearing and seeing more and more people, it’s really fun,” Hoar said. “When you hear that, with people lining the streets, it’s just an awesome finish. There’s lots of camaraderie at the finish line — you’ve just been running with these people for hours, and now you’re all together.”
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