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'Run For Cover' Knows How To Run, How To Play

Oakdale band is made of runners, plays for runners and has a great time doing it.

The adrenaline rush, pounding heart, the sweat drenching through clothes, and lungs strained to the max... all of these are familiar sensations to anyone who ever powered in toward the finish line or crested a hill in a 10-mile race. Try being in a band.

Local group "Run For Cover" knows how to run and how to play for runners. They provide the music that gets you pumped at the start and brings you in toward the finish. They play for at least as many races as they do clubs and other events.

The similarities between running and being in a band are not lost on the group. Both pursuits require stamina, practice and dedication.

It was through the Mohegan Striders, a local running club, that many of the band members got to know each other and started playing gigs back in 1995.

Run For Cover puts out a selection of rock and pop hits spanning the ‘60s up through present day—though most of these emerged from the ‘80s.

Some standbys from their hundred-odd collection of songs they perform include “I Fought the Law,” to “Stacy’s Mom” and, appropriately, “Running Down a Dream.” Most recently, they are working out a version of Lady Gaga’s "Poker Face."

On a Tuesday night, the group convened for its weekly band practice at the home of vocalist Laurie Schaeffer in Oakdale. The set-up includes two electric guitars, drums, and a bass. All of them are runners who will compete in races if they aren’t already booked to play them.

“I think we have a lot more fun at the road races than then we do at the clubs,” said guitarist and vocalist Chris Hansen.

Playing for races works well because they are usually in the morning or afternoon. Hansen admits that typical band life, with its late night gigs, is not necessarily the best thing for runners. 

As a whole, band members agree, running has helped them stay energized for hours-long concerts. “It’s a mental thing,” said drummer Jason Apostoleris. “You need the same focus.”

Apostoleris didn’t always run, but succumbed to peer pressure after he joined the band. The new regimen helped him lose 30 pounds. In his opinion, it improved his drumming as well.

“He doesn’t go through four shirts in a show anymore,” said Stannard.

Running has also connected them to people who book races, people like Way Hedding of the SNERRO timing organization. Hedding recommended them to John Bysiewitcz, who put them in major races like the upcoming Niantic Bay Half Marathon, and the New Haven Road Race on Sept. 5, the second largest running event in Connecticut.

This year, the group will have the coveted spot on the New Haven Green, near the finish line. Guitarist Jim Carper remembers last year when they played to the stragglers going toward the line 

“If we can help them get there, that’s good,” he said.

Postscript

As most of you know, Johnny Kelley, local legend and marathon great, passed away this past Sunday. The loss of this great man comes as a blow to our area, and to runners everywhere.

He lives on in his famous marathons, including the famous victory at Boston in 1957, his five other second-place Boston finishes and his victory at the Pan American Games in 1959.

So many people have known and admired Kelley over the decades that it would be presumptuous of me to attempt to convey the essence of the man here. His roots run deep.

It’s hard not to see his mark in running traditions that define our region.

The John and Jessie Kelley Race in New London is one such event. Forty-nine years have gone by since Kelley won the first of the 11.6-mile competitions at Ocean Beach. This year saw a 500-plus field of runners enjoy the competition.

Of course there is the New Year’s Run, a revered tradition since the '70s, in which a crowd shuffles the five miles from Kelley’s house down to the beach at Groton Long Point and plunges into the icy water.

The community spirit, which lives on in these events, reflects one of the best virtues of running. Sure, the races celebrate the best athletes, but people also do it for the fun, to be among friends.

It was that kind of camaraderie that Kelley built among local runners. He opened his doors to runners who joined him on group runs from his home in Mystic. A generation of cross-country runners flourished under his coaching at Fitch Senior High School.

One of his running protégés was Amby Burfoot, who went in to take a Boston Marathon of his own in 1968 before becoming editor of Runners World. The two have remained close friends throughout the years.

Burfoot was spoke movingly of his mentor and friend at a memorial service for Kelley this Thursday, which was attended by hundreds.

The opposite of the distant athlete perched upon a pedestal, Kelley was always most interested in what you were doing, what races you were running, your life in general. He was the guy you saw at the shoe store Kelley’s Pace, quick to offer advice and encouragement. He would invite runners in to visit him in his home on Jan. 1 before they began their shuffle to the sea.

People with as big a heart as Kel’s are a rare find anywhere.

He will be sorely missed.

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