Borough's block party: Stonington fun run promotes a sense of community

Sixteen-year-old Luke Bartholet, left, of Stonington, joins other competitors Tuesday night for the Stonington Village Fun. Heather Bessette, who organizes the series along with her husband Stephen, has a strong tie to fun runs, beginning her career at a series in Florida on the way to qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the marathon.
Sixteen-year-old Luke Bartholet, left, of Stonington, joins other competitors Tuesday night for the Stonington Village Fun. Heather Bessette, who organizes the series along with her husband Stephen, has a strong tie to fun runs, beginning her career at a series in Florida on the way to qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the marathon.

Stonington - The Stonington Village Fun Run is more than an event promoting a healthy, active lifestyle.

It's about a community gathering on a warm summer evening.

It's about family and friends enjoying each other's company.

And, yes, it's about exercise, too.

"We're thrilled everybody is here," Heather Bessette announced to the crowd of about 200 runners prior to the start on Tuesday. "And we're thrilled it's about community."

Bessette, who runs the weekly summer event along with her husband, Stephen, first started running at a fun run in Florida and went on to qualify for the 1996 Olympic marathon trials.

Now the Bessettes are spreading the running joy. The fun run, which starts and ends in front of the Dog Watch Cafe near Dodson Boatyard in Stonington Borough, has grown steadily in its four years.

All abilities and ages turn out, from some of the top college runners to recreational joggers, from 5-year-old newcomers to 75-year-old veterans. They can complete either one 1.55-mile lap or two.

"It's beautiful," Stephen said. "Running through the village is such a good thing. It's so quaint. We can keep everybody in the borough and keep them safe."

Families are a big part of the fun run.

Take Craig and Barbara Barnes of North Stonington. Father and daughter have been regulars this summer.

"We enjoy it," Craig said. "It's good to find a common interest this age."

Barbara, 23, has a simple goal: to beat her father. She's closing the gap but has yet to pass him.

Jiri Aubrecht put his arm around his 14-year-old son Jacob after crossing the finish line. The Mystic residents have been participating in the free event since the very first Stonington Village Fun Run.

"It's an excellent community event," Jiri said. "Kudos to the organizers and Dog Watch. They bring the whole town together and people from other towns."

Pete Robinson of Pawcatuck brought along his sons Nicholas, 14, and Daniel, 10, and 5-year-old niece Erica Cunningham who, judging from her red face, got a good workout.

"It's fun," said Daniel, who sported new running shoes. "The first time it was hard, but now it's getting a bit easier."

Motivation to run comes in all forms. Some teenagers are training for upcoming high school cross country season. Others enjoy the reward at the finish line like 11-year-old Emma Sabbadini of Stonington who looks forward to the post-race slushie and, of course, running with her mom, Lisa.

Runners supported a special cause on Tuesday. Stonington Police collected donations for the family of 4-year-old Dorian Murray, the son of officer Chris Murray. Dorian is being treated for stage four cancer.

"This is a big night for us because we're helping a police officer with his child," Stephen said. "It's just another way to help the community."

The Stonington Police Department is sponsoring a benefit pasta dinner on Thursday, Aug. 30, at the Westerly Elks Lodge on Dixon Street. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. For more information, contact John Fiore or Theresa Hersh at the police department (860-599-4411).

g.keefe@theday.com

J.M. Woznicki of Waterford approaches the finish line pushing a stroller with his 13-month old daughter Ella during Tuesday night's Stonington Village Fun Run along Water Street in the Stonington Borough.
J.M. Woznicki of Waterford approaches the finish line pushing a stroller with his 13-month old daughter Ella during Tuesday night's Stonington Village Fun Run along Water Street in the Stonington Borough.

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