Brunswick runner sets the pace at almost any distance

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BRUNSWICK — Richelle Sipiora has been running most of her life and, until 10 years ago, she ran longer distances.

But she needed a coach when she decided to transition to running shorter distances, and that’s when she met Brunswick Town Councilor and retired Brunswick High School track coach Dave Watson. 

The 57-year-old runner met Watson when she moved to Brunswick six years ago for a job as a physical therapist at Mid Coast Hospital. Watson was the starter at the college’s track and field meets when the two started talking about Sipiora’s transition from running marathons to competing in shorter races.

“I met David and told him about my goals and how I transitioned to running shorter distances like the 800-meter after running marathons,” she said. “We talked about him coaching me and he said, ‘Let’s do this.’”

Running isn’t just a hobby for Sipiora; she takes it seriously. When she isn’t training with Watson, she gets up to run around 6:30 a.m. before getting ready for her full-time job.

“I was not a fast runner so I had to learn how to be a faster runner instead of an endurance athlete,” Sipiora said.

That’s a humble thing for her to say, since she is the 2018 USA Track & Field East Region and New England Masters indoor/outdoor champion at 800 meters for women 55-59 years old. She ran 3:30.63 in January at the 2018 championships.

Sipiora didn’t have a coach and Watson was intrigued by her determination and commitment.

“Richelle doesn’t just compete in events, she is a student in every event she competes in,” he said.

“She educates herself on exactly what needs to be done within her event. She will research the last person who won the event and exactly what they did to win it, what their times were at certain intervals and, as an athlete, it is so important to do that.”

Because Sipiora volunteers at track and field events at Bowdoin College, she is able to train on the college track.

So, on her day off from work, Watson coaches and trains Sipiora in what he calls a grueling “two-hour training program crammed into an hour.”

The workout starts with an 800-meter run, followed by a 600-meter walk, a 900- meter run, an 800-meter walk, 25 meters of line hops, a 1000-meter run, an 800-meter walk, 25 meters of line hops, a 400-meter run, a 400-meter walk, and 25-meter line hops.

“I think this is more of a challenge to me, the shorter distances than the longer distances,” Sipiora said. “It takes up more time, surprisingly.”

Sipiora, who has been running since she was 16, was a distance runner even though her high school in suburban Chicago lacked a girls’ track team.

Sipiora said she was used to a training program that has a runner complete 13 800-meter runs to prepare for a marathon.

“I was doing 800s anyway to prepare for marathons, so I thought, ‘hey, why not,’” she said.

Not only does Sipiora run, but with arms almost as long as her legs, she started throwing the discus at the age of 40 and is a USATF All-American in the 55-59 age group among New England women.

“I have always liked challenges,” she said. “I always have to be working towards something.”

Sipiora only takes two weeks off after the outdoor season ends and then goes into indoor training.

“Outdoor becomes indoor,” she said, “and I just keep going.”

In addition to competing in track and field events, Sipiora has competed in 10 marathons in Maine, Vermont, Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, Boise and Nashville, among others.

“There will come a day when I can’t do it,” she said. “But it’s not today or hopefully tomorrow.”

Brunswick runner Richelle Sipiora, 57: “I have always liked challenges. I always have to be working towards something.”

Brunswick Town Councilor and retired Brunswick High School track and field coach Dave Watson, left, coaches Richelle Sipiora Nov. 14 at Bowdoin College.

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