There was a time when Tracy Guerrette wasn’t too fond of running.
When the St. Agatha native played basketball at the University of Maine, she dreaded a preseason workout through which coach Joanne P. McCallie and then Sharon Versyp put the Black Bears.
“We used to have to do a preseason workout of a mile and a half [run] and a five-mile run, and all of us would hate it,” Guerrette said. “We’d complain and say we’re not track athletes, we’re basketball players.”
More than a decade after her playing days at UMaine ended, Guerrette has discovered a passion for pounding the pavement. And she has been tearing up the local road racing scene this summer with wins at the Bangor Labor Day 5-mile race — at which she broke a 13-year-old course record — and the Walter Hunt Memorial 3K to her credit.
She also finished third among Maine women at the Beach to Beacon 10K last month after returning to her native Aroostook County in July to win the Potato Blossom 5-miler in Fort Fairfield.
Like a lot of athletes, the itch to remain competitive burned inside Guerrette after she hung up her basketball sneakers, so she subsequently took up endurance sports.
“As a Division I athlete, you’re so used to competing,” said Guerrette, who was part of UMaine’s NCAA tournament win over Stanford University in 1999 and had helped lead Wisdom High School of St. Agatha to a Class D state championship the previous year.
Guerrette took up triathlons, but admitted to not liking the swimming and cycling portion of the event, and decided to stick with running.
Guerrette, who now lives and works in Bangor, has run 14 marathons, including Boston twice, and has been busily preparing for the Maine Marathon set for Oct. 1 in Portland.
Under the tutelage of Rob Gomez, whom Guerrette said has helped her tremendously with leg speed with track workouts, the 36-year-old has focused on 5Ks and 10Ks while consistently building mileage.
“I was doing around 80-90 (miles per week) this summer and just bumped it up after the Beach to Beacon,” said Guerrette, who put in a 120-mile week leading up to the Labor Day 5-miler, which she completed in 29 minutes flat.
Guerrette’s last big workout before the Maine Marathon will come this weekend, when she will do a marathon-pace workout along the course before tapering and eating a lot of carbs, she said.
Her goal is to run fast enough to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials, for which she needs to run a 2:45:00 or faster.
“Not that I’m going to make the Olympics, but it’d be a unique experience just to be there,” said Guerrette, who had a brief head coaching stint with the women’s basketball program at the University of Maine at Presque Isle before serving as the director of women’s basketball operations at UMaine under coach Richard Barron.
In Monday’s Labor Day race, Guerrette had a mindset to rewrite the record books in one of Maine’s longstanding races, and she did so by 23 seconds.
“It’s just a great tradition and it’s been here for 55 years, and it makes me think of the people who came before me,” said Guerrette, referring to runners such as Robin Emery and Joan Benoit Samuelson who helped pave the way for women runners in Maine.
When she runs, Guerrette also thinks of the lessons McCallie and Versyp, now coaching at Duke and Purdue, respectively, imparted on her during her time at UMaine, especially as she started her career as a walk-on before earning a scholarship.
“I wanted to prove to [McCallie] that I could play at that level,” Guerrette said. “She just pulled that out of me and she helped me to be the competitor that I am today. She’s a great motivator and a wonderful coach.”
Guerrette also relies on her Catholic faith while out on the roads, and it’s one of many reasons why an athlete who came from a small St. John Valley town of 700 is finding extraordinary athletic success.
“It’s such a blessing to come out and run,” she said. “I feel very close to the Lord when I run. I’ve been very thankful.”