“At night, there was no electricity, so I would light the candles and get my solar calculator out, doing my drop in elevations and my calculations on a sheet of paper.”
“You couldn’t see ten feet in front of you from the fog, and it was 3:00 a.m.” His runner, Carol, yelled back to him, “are you coming?” She was 95 miles into her race, and Terry Shearer was in major multi-task mode. He was trying to explain to Carol’s husband how to get to the finish line, and he had been pacing Carol for the last 25 miles, through the night. Now, they were down to their last five miles, and they were in good hands. Terry was a veteran pacer and could navigate these trails with his eyes closed.
Terry Shearer’s running goals in high school were very simple. “You didn’t want to be the last guy, that was all.” He grew up in the small town of Cherry Valley, New York, where the biggest industry was dairy farming. His parents were from New York City, and after Terry’s older brother was born, they headed for the peace and quiet of the countryside. His father was a mechanic, who commuted to Albany and worked long hours, and his mom was a housewife. His early interests were soccer and basketball. “It was a real small school, so you had to play the sports, in order to have a team.” He wasn’t overly competitive, and viewed sports more as a way to hang out with his friends.
After graduation, Terry headed to Vermont, and attended Norwich University. His work study program at a local print shop helped him pay for college, and had another crucial element. “I could walk to work, because I didn’t have a car.” During college, he studied Engineering Technology, with a focus on water, air and soil pollution. After earning his degree, he immediately put his knowledge to work in a positive way. He headed south, after joining the Peace Corps, and his next stop would be Honduras.
It was 1994, and Honduras was hot and dusty, with temperatures often hitting 106 degrees. Terry’s role was water sanitation. “You would hike up into the cloud forest, to get as forested, clean of a water source as you could find. Then pipe it, using gravity, all the way down.” This job required long multi-hour hikes up into the rainforest. It was a collaboration between him and the local people. He would explain to them, what was necessary to maintain gravity, and they worked alongside him, cutting a swath with their machetes. Over the next two years, Terry settled into his role. He traveled to many different communities, and was often put up and fed by a local family. “At night, there was no electricity, so I would light the candles and get my solar calculator out, doing my drop in elevations and my calculations on a sheet of paper.” He was making a huge impact in these communities, and in his own life. He met Deb, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, who would later become his wife. It was during this time that he also quit smoking and lost 40 pounds.
Honduras, was also the place where Terry first fell in love with running. His girlfriend Deb was heading home, and a few of his other friends had quit the Peace Corps, so he was living alone. “I’d get up at 5:00am, because it got so hot and go for a run. They didn’t have trails, it was just where people walked.” He kept up with his running routine for 6 months, and in April, 1996 came back home. Later that year, he relocated to South Woodstock, VT, after getting a job in the area. He was still running about 3 days a week, usually covering about 4 miles at a time. The following year, he married Deb and they bought a house. It was Deb who first came up with the idea of taking their running to a whole new level. Terry remembers her saying, “I think I’m going to run a marathon.” And so, they began training together, increasing their mileage. Unfortunately, Deb had to stop training due to knee issues. Terry continued on, and in 1999, completed his first marathon in Burlington, Vermont.
Over the next few years, Terry kept his marathon streak going in Burlington. It became an annual tradition. During this time, he and Deb also celebrated the arrival of a son and daughter into their family. They juggled schedules, with him working days and Deb often working at night. It was around this time, that he struck up a friendship with Bill Stillson and Lou Schmertz, who were both heavily involved with the Vermont 50. They had asked Terry for his help in taking down trail markers after the 2002 race, and his section would cover about 9 miles. It was his first introduction to the trails, and he was hooked. The following year, he ran his first ultra, the Vermont 50k.
He also got involved in the Vermont 100 race, as a trail marker. He recalled his earliest memories of this experience. They loaded into Bill Stillson’s old blue truck, and when they got to the trail, Terry jumped out with his markers. “I ran and every time Bill would want me to put a marker on a tree, he would beep the horn.”
He laughed when talking about one of his proudest running memories, which took place at the Vermont 50. It had rained all day before the race and the rain continued throughout the race. The trails were soup, and the elements were brutal. “It was the mud year, I think 2003 and I got third in my age division, because everyone quit.” Deb was also at that race, competing as a biker, and she had concerns beyond the awful trail conditions. “Her parents brought Molly (their daughter) to the aid stations, so she could breastfeed her.”
Lately, he’s been competing in the Winter Wild Series, a group of races that take place at mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire, usually covering a distance of 3 to 4 miles, with lots of vertical climbing. He plans on running the Vermont 50k as long as he can, “I’d like to be 70 and still doing the 50k.” His other goal is to run the Vermont 50 mile in the year he turns 50. He’s also a frequent pacer at the Vermont 100, which entails running the last 30 miles with a participant, helping them navigate their way to the finish.
Back to that foggy night, with Carol at mile 95 of the Vermont 100. It had been an eventful 25 miles that Terry had been with her. This included a three hour nap at one of the aid stations, when she announced to everyone that the ‘wheels have come completely off’. But, with Terry by her side, Carol did finish the race, and it was only later that Terry found out “she was a pediatric oncologist at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, and she’d been working night shifts for the past two weeks.”
When Terry’s not on the trails, he enjoys sugaring, cross country skiing and working around his house. His favorite trail buddy is his dog, Moe. “Just me and him, getting out there.” Their usual loop includes a great spot for him to swim, stretches of long grass and quiet trails. As for his long term running goals. “Just keep running until I can’t run.”