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Loyalty: Faxon Law New Haven 20K Road Race Is Hard To Skip

Labor DayNew York City Marathon

In December of 2011, David Condit of Avon was diagnosed with brain cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy, Condit, a longtime runner, started running again and completed his 35th consecutive Faxon Law New Haven 20K road race on Labor Day 2012.

But the cancer returned, and after a subsequent surgery in April 2013, things were different.

"He was never really fully recovered from that," his wife, Barbara Kream, said. "It was challenging in the summer. He wanted to run New Haven but he had some complications. I said, 'Let's do it together.' I've run New Haven many times. I had been doing the 5K in recent years, so I could watch him finish the 20K."

Condit had run every New Haven Road Race since its inception in 1978. It was important to him to stay fit — and continue the streak. And so he and Kream completed Condit's 36th New Haven 20K last September.

"We had so much fun, despite going really slow," Kream said. "The crowd was fantastic. I'm so glad we got to do it. We never knew what would happen next. We finished in 2 hours, 26 minutes. His best [time] in New Haven was 1:14."

However, by Christmas, Condit couldn't run anymore. He died in June at the age of 66.

Kream will keep his streak alive at New Haven on Monday. She is running the 20K wearing her husband's bib, No. 52.

She's not the only one keeping memories alive. Craig Lampo of Durham ran last year with his father Bob's No. 60 and will run again Monday. Bob Lampo, who ran 34 consecutive New Haven 20Ks, died in March of 2013.

There are only 15 runners left who have completed every New Haven Road Race. Considering that the race is longish (12.4 miles) and it's usually hot (last year the humidity was unbearable), it's a testament to these people who continue to turn up on Labor Day, year after year.

"It's a little harder as you get older," said Rick Conte of Branford, who will run for the 37th time Monday. "I don't consider myself a runner. If I run once a week, that's a lot. The way I train for this is that my wife drops me off in Guilford and I run back. It's about 12 miles. I do a couple of those."

The race has given the "streakers" their original bib numbers and has celebrations for them during milestone years.

"Originally, I ran it as a start of training for the New York City Marathon," said No. 67, Steve Praskievicz of Bethany, who is 68 years old. "Then it was kind of a nice end to summer. I don't know why I continued to run it.

"After 10 years, they recognized us. Now they treat us like rock stars. But as you age, you acquire new aches and pains. It's more and more difficult."

Yes, Mark Martin of Guilford would agree with that. Last year, he sustained an Achilles injury in August and had to walk at points (for the first time) during the race. But he finished his 36th race. His training was going fine for his 37th until he pulled a hamstring earlier this month. He went to the doctor to get something for it, took prednisone and wound up in the hospital with gastritis.

"It's crazy," said Martin, 55. "If I didn't have the race coming up, I would have never done it. I'm off the prednisone now but I'm still having some stomach problems. My leg feels 100 percent recovered, though."

Bob Orgovan, the Amity High School boys cross country and track coach from Ansonia, ran every New Haven until last year. Then he had to have emergency eye surgery the week before the race and his streak was over. Orgovan, 68, decided not to race at New Haven this year.

"It's harder and harder," said Orgovan, whose best time was 1:17. "If I had not had the surgery last year, I would run it. But eventually I would get to a point that I wouldn't be able to run it.

"I liked the special number. I'm proud of what I did. Now that it's over, I don't see any reason to do it. It's supposed to be a race. For my age, I do well, but I'm not racing. It's more or less covering ground."

Kream said that her husband had started running a few years before New Haven started its Labor Day race in 1978 and once he started doing it, kept at it. He was rarely injured and they lived in the area, so he was able to do the race year after year.

"A friend of mine told me, 'I remember David saying he would run it till he died,'" Kream said. "And he did.

"For the most part, he was in very good shape. Trying to keep active was very important for him."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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