Andy Norton: Getting better with age

hokie half finishcrop
Andy Norton finished the 2019 Hokie Half Marathon in 1:20:35, earning 12th place overall.

Blacksburg’s Andy Norton just keeps getting faster with age.

At the 2020 Blacksburg Classic in February, Andy covered the 10-mile course in a blazing 1:01:02 (6:06 per mile) to finish fourth overall. Two years ago, in the same race, Andy ran 1:05:46.

Need more proof? How about a 4:35 Draper Mile performance last August, a five-second improvement over his 2018 time.

So, what’s his secret? “Aren’t we supposed to get better with age?” he says, in his humble nature, when asked.

Andy’s training and impressive race results earned him Top 5 finishes in both the 2018 and 2019 Runabout Race Series.

The coronavirus crisis has left this year’s race series in limbo – but Andy’s Blacksburg Classic finish and his third-place showing in the virtual Shamrock 4-miler have him back near the top of the leaderboard.

With Shawn Huston, Ignacio Moore, Scott Huxtable, Durelle Scott and Brad Paye sharing his 45-49 age group – Andy knows the competition is stiff.

But, that, he says, inspires him to keep pushing.

Andy Norton competes in the Knight’s Crossing 5K community race.

Andy Norton

Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia

Children: Two daughters, Eleanor (Ele), age 13, and Caroline, age 10

Occupation: Math Professor at Virginia Tech (faculty bio)

When and why did you start running? I ran a lot of 5k races in graduate school and even ran a couple of marathons before kids came along. I started running again a few years ago to deal with separation/divorce. I’ve learned that many of us began running to make our worries manifest and to trample them.

What’s the “Frog Run” you have posted about on Strava? Shout out to Brett Sherfy for posting the first frog run. There are 16 metallic frogs spread throughout Blacksburg, from Margaret Beeks Elementary School to the YMCA, and you’ve got to touch all of them. There are a few related Strava segments. One of them “shortest frog loop” has to be renamed every time someone finds a shorter circuit. Current record: 5.56 miles.

Most satisfying running accomplishment? Breaking 4:40 at the Draper Mile.

Proudest race moment? I had run 4:40 in the Draper Mile last year but knew I had gone out too fast. They call the splits every quarter mile, and last year the first split was 1:03. This year, I kept thinking “say 1:10, say 1:10.” I reached the quarter, at Airport Road, and they said “1:09, 1:10, 1:11.” It was all downhill (to a 4:35 finish) from there.

Most frustrating running experience? Last August, I felt I was at an all-time high. I had just run Draper, was having great workouts with the track Tuesday crew, and just wanted to run fast every day. Running up Horse Nettle at Pandapas Pond, I felt something in the back of my heel, didn’t know what it was, and later found out it was Achilles tendonitis. I started to feel the depression friends have described when they couldn’t run, but I also had friends to coach me through it. I was lucky for that and that it wasn’t something worse.

Who inspires and/or motivates you? So many people, including some of the people you’ve written about here on Jason and his story of the broken-foot 50k; Kevin McGuire at 53 – -maybe the toughest runner in Southwest Virginia; the entire 45-49 men’s age group; the track Tuesday crew; my ultra friends; and all of the fast women we run around with. Sometimes there will be an open race at a middle school cross country meet, so my girls are there. On those days, I run for them.

Favorite route to run? Running from my house to the Christiansburg Rec Center along the Huck (about 8 miles), then hopping on a social bike and riding to Benny’s or Sugar Magnolia.

Advice for new runners? Come out to Runabout’s Wednesday Night Pub Run! (Note: Pub Run is on pause during the Coronavirus crisis but will hopefully resume this summer.)

Favorite race? The Draper Mile on one end, and the Gateway 25K on the other.

Trails or roads? I’ve been mostly a road runner but am gravitating toward trails.

Any running superstitions or rituals? “I’m a little stitious but not superstitious.”

 What’s the secret to winning the doughnut run 5K from a math perspective, of course? First, the ground rules: For every donut you eat, 45 seconds is deducted from your finish time. You do not need to finish eating your last donut before you start running, but it must be finished before you cross the finish line. I used to say only eat one, because you can take it with you and eat it during your final two laps to earn the time bonus without stopping. In 2018, they used Walmart donuts, which are rubber and take time to chew. But this year they switched to Carol Lee donuts, and the winner ate six for a donut-adjusted time of 17:13. Back to the drawing board.

 Fact many people don’t know about you? I can juggle fire.

Running goals? Don’t wipe out coming down Snake Root.

Your might also like these stories:

Jordan Chang shares his passion for running and community.

Former top marathoner Michelle Lowry still running strong in Blacksburg

A thank you to James Demarco and Runabout Sports

Lessons learned from leading a college track and cross country program at age 24 

Jenn Fleming’s comeback story continues with win at Holiday Lake 50K

Blacksburg running legend Peter Dorrell helps build community




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