While the pandemic was keeping many people house-bound, especially during the winter, Orange resident Thomas Fatone was pounding the pavement. Between November 2020 and March, the 52-year-old ran all 336 of the town’s roads.
He came to experience the town up-close and personal, from the bucolic town center to far-flung streets beyond Route 34 on one side and Route 1 on the other. He was surprised to experience the expanse of it, stretching from West Haven to the Sikorski bridge. Orange comprises some 110 miles of town roads, but that number does not include the bigger state routes such as Route 34 and the Boston Post Road.
Fatone ran along every one of them, including the Boston Post Road. He chose a Sunday morning for that very busy artery. Maybe it was the day of the week, maybe it was the pandemic, or a combination of factors, but traffic was quiet and “everybody was going real slow,” when they passed him, he said. The only roadway in Orange he could not run on was the Wilbur Cross Parkway.
Fatone started running as a young man, although sports has always been a part of his life. The first competitive race he participated in was the 2005 New York City Marathon, and he has been hooked ever since. A few years later he joined the Milford Road Runners, a running club, and is running with fellow club members four or five times a week.
He even met his wife through the club, and running is very much a part of their life together.
It was an app on his phone, CityStrides, that alerted him to the fact that he had run on about half of Orange’s roads. That was back in November, when the pandemic had put a stop to all road races in the area. He decided at that point to make it his goal and finish the other half of the roads. The app helped him plan his routes and filled in as he went along. “I am always looking for a challenge,” he said. In March he finished the last leg, having saved Sunset Drive for last.
Fatone is a traffic manager in the state Department of Transportation. He researched and catalogued each of the plaques installed in the 1970s in every Connecticut town for the nation’s bicentennial, including the blue plaque in Orange at the intersection of Tyler City and Center roads, talking about the town’s history. He published a book on the signs, titled “The Signs of Connecticut,” and couldn’t believe that this reporter had never stopped to read the plaque. That, it seems, is the result of discovering a town on foot versus traveling by car.
He continues to run on a regular basis, waiting for road races to start up again. In the meantime, he has gained a level of notoriety in town, especially since Channel 12 ran a feature on him. Drivers will honk and wave when they drive by.
His goal is to run a 5K race in under 20 minutes, he said; and long term, his goal is to maintain good health and continue running. “I really love running.”
By Bettina Thiel – Orange Town News Correspondent