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Backstory: Most Aerobic Interview


Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint

Seven Days reporters typically go the extra mile to profile people — we'll take as much access as we can get. That why I agreed to join Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint (D-Windham) for her daily 6 a.m. run through Montpelier's hilly Hubbard Park last winter. I wanted to observe her outside the Statehouse.

It was easy enough to agree to in the abstract — I love to run — but when my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., I seriously questioned the decision.

Since it was too late to back out at that point, I made a cup of coffee, got in my car and drove from Burlington to Montpelier.

The first red flag was Balint's outfit, which was really more like "gear." She wore a down North Face jacket, a hat, thick wool socks and Yaktrax.

I was dressed in a headband, a windbreaker and lightweight running tights that left my ankles exposed. My 4:30 a.m. brain had failed to account for the temperature — approximately zero degrees — and the fact that I would be running through snow.

Balint had told me a trail led right from her Montpelier digs into the park. (She stays in the home of her friend, Vermont Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Skoglund, during the legislative session.)

I'll take Balint's word that such a path does in fact exist. But on that particular day it was buried under at least a foot of fresh snow. The only other mammal that seemed to consider it a trail was a deer.

Balint seemed positively gleeful as she scampered up a hill. At one point she stopped running to marvel at a frozen caterpillar on the snow.

I couldn't summon much excitement for the ice-encased insect. But I could empathize with it as I tried to warm my extremities, furiously clenching and unclenching my toes, my hands balled into fists in my flimsy gloves.

The majority leader kept up a steady monologue, none of which I was in a position to write down.

We looped the park several times. Balint, perhaps aware that I was woefully underdressed, periodically asked if I wanted to turn back. I insisted we continue. I knew that if some reporter were to force me to cut my run short, I would have been pissed. But roughly four miles in, having failed to revive feeling in my fingers and toes, I caved and suggested we turn back.

Afterward, I jogged over to the Statehouse, changed clothes, and headed to the cafeteria to eat breakfast and wait for the lawmakers to arrive. I had no place to shower, but it didn't matter. I'd been too cold to break a sweat.

The run got only a brief mention in the story, but it illustrated Balint's energy and enthusiasm. In other words, I'd do it again — with better socks.