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Avon’s Thomas Buckley ready for annual ride at the Hartford Marathon

Avon’s Tom Buckley, left, chats with race director Beth Shluger before heading out onto the course during a previous Hartford Marathon and Half-Marathon.

HARTFORD – Avon’s Thomas Buckley runs a different type of marathon than other participants in the Eversource Hartford Marathon and Half-Marathon.

Buckley, a Pharmacy professor in UConn’s School of Pharmacy in Storrs, will be in Hartford at Bushnell Park at 5:30 a.m. a few hours before the start of the 26.2 mile marathon through Hartford and East Hartford.

He will be on his bike for hours. He will ride at least 60 miles throughout the morning and the afternoon in Hartford. Buckley probably won’t climb off his bike until after 3 p.m.

Buckley is one of the hundreds of volunteers that will be in Hartford for the 25th annual Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon. Thousands of runners are expected for the anniversary races that also include a 5K mile race. All three races kickoff at 8 a.m. Runners will be finishing in Bushnell Park all morning and into the early afternoon.

Running has been part of Buckley’s life for years.

“My passion has always been running,” he said. “It has always been a stress reliever for me.”

Buckley has been in Hartford for 22 of the past 24 marathons. His volunteer position is downtown Hartford section leader, overseeing a group of 150 to 200 volunteers. His team is responsible for setting up the course throughout Hartford and around Bushnell Park.

Most of his day will be riding through the city, coordinating and helping volunteers along the course.

Year ago, he was recruited by the Hartford Marathon Foundation (HMF) team that hosts the marathon and races across Connecticut and Massachusetts to help in Hartford.

A member of the Hartford Track Club for 30 years, he had been the director of races in New Britain with the Race for the Cure and in West Hartford around the reservoir when the marathon approached him in 1996 looking for his assistance.

Buckley has been spending October afternoons in Hartford ever since. There have been 194,370 finishers in the race’s 24-year history. Buckley and his team are looking forward to helping another few thousand complete another marathon on Saturday, October 13.

“The most enjoyable facet is at two points in the race – when the entire field comes down Asylum Ave, in mass at the start; and when the marathon leader comes over the Founders Bridge into Hartford and I lead him into the finish,” Buckley said. “They’re both thrilling and I can be pretty confident we’ve pulled off a successful race, at least with regard to the race course in downtown Hartford.”

He’s not looking to get away from the race any time soon.

“I keep coming back because I love the camaraderie of the loyal volunteers and the main organizing group of HMF,” he said. “And, I love distance running and love the fact that we have one of the best organized (and most praised) marathons in the country.”

The marathon is also recognizing Buckley, who has been named to the Hartford Marathon Foundation’s 2018 Aiello Inspiration Team, a small group of participants with incredible reasons for stepping up to the starting line.

Buckley is dedicated to battling the prevalence of chronic disease, depression and PTSD in refugee populations.

With two colleagues from UConn — S. Megan Berthold, an associate professor in the School of Social Work and Julie Wagner, a UConn Health professor of oral health and diagnostic sciences, Buckley has been developing programs health care for refugees, including educating health care professionals caring for survivors, particularly within the Cambodian-American immigrant population.

Some refugees are still dealing with the effects of torture and abuse nearly 40 years later.

All three facility members have worked with Khmer Health Advocates (KHA) in West Hartford since 2006, helping to develop programs that improve health care for Cambodian refugees in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Avon’s Tom Buckley volunteers with Cambodian refugees

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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