CORNWALL, Conn. — Karen Rogers has run a road race in every one of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns, an accomplishment that has given her the title “Queen of the Debticonns.”
Debticonn – short for Do Every Blessed Town in Connecticut – is a label used by members of the Run 169 Towns Society, a group of recreational runners of all skill levels who travel the state entering road races.
Rogers, 63, of Clinton, helped found the organization in 2012 with seven other runners.
“Lo and behold, there were like eight of us that were trying to do this, and we kept running into each other at different races,” she said. “So we just decided to form a society.”
The group has grown to 326 members, with 33 people joining in just the last month. Runners record races on the group’s website.
Races only count if they are official timed events. Members only get credit for the town in which a race starts. So those running the Hartford Marathon, for example, don’t get to add South Windsor or East Hartford to their list.
There are a handful of towns that have never hosted a race. Members can get credit for those towns by organizing their own run on an approved day, with at least three participants. But if an official race comes to that town, the Debticonns must run it, or they lose credit for that town.
Runners get a certificate for completing races in all eight Connecticut counties during a single calendar year and a plaque if they race in all 169 towns, no matter how long it takes.
So far just two people have done that: Rogers and co-founder Bob Davis of Naugatuck, the group’s “king.”
“It’s a fun way to make the sport even more fun,” said Adam Osmond (81 towns completed), who runs the group’s website and Facebook page and keeps track of all the races. “People make a day trip; they carpool together. It’s created friendships all over the state.”
Eighty-one Debticonns showed up in the “elusive” town of Cornwall on July 12 to run that town’s first-ever race, the “Run the Valley 5K.”
Janet Carlson helped organize that run to benefit her organization, PharmaCares, a nonprofit that helps provide health care to veterans and others in need. She said knowing the Debticonns likely would show up in force helped persuade her group to put on the fundraiser, which raised more than $5,000.
“We were planning on maybe 40 to 50 people, which is a very successful first-year race,” she said. “We had 150 people, and a good chunk of that was made up of the 169 club – a very enthusiastic chunk.”
There are just six towns left in Connecticut without official races. Two will get knocked off the list in October, when races are held in Hartland and Union, Osmond said.
“Once we breached that 300-member mark, promoters began paying attention to us,” said Richard Zbrozek, 67, of Berlin (164 towns). “And now when we approach them and suggest we need a race in this town, somebody will say, ‘I’m going to work on it.”’
Osmond says he’s been contacted by running groups in Rhode Island (39 towns) and North Carolina who sought help in starting similar clubs. The North Carolina’s group plan is to run all the state’s 100 counties, he said.
“We told them in Rhode Island: ‘Maybe you could require they do it all in one year,”’ Osmond said.