Clymer Teacher Finds ‘Crazy Way’ To End 34-Year Career
Pam Morton always pictured heading into retirement by waving to her second-graders as their bus left Clymer Central School on the final day.
The coronavirus pandemic took that opportunity away from her.
Instead, the 34-year veteran teacher came up with another idea. And it centered around her love of running.
The 55-year-old Wattsburg resident decided to run 34 miles Sunday morning around the streets of Clymer in celebration of her three-plus decades in the classroom.
“With the whole pandemic, I knew this wasn’t the way I wanted my teaching career to end,” Morton said Sunday afternoon as she relaxed at home following her grueling morning. “We started discussing it, and this is what we came up with. It was a crazy way, but the right way to end it. It was the closure that I needed.”
Through the power of Facebook and social media, friends, students, colleagues and other well wishers joined her on parts of her journey.
Morton, a graduate of North East (Pa.) High School and its long cross-country tradition, taught the first 14 years of her elementary career in Union City (Pa.). There, she also began her cross country coaching career.
Then, in 2000, she was hired at Clymer where she continued to coach cross country as well as track and field.
Many of those former athletes — and even some of their children — joined her on the track and in the streets of Clymer on Sunday morning.
Morton began the day around 6 a.m. with some members of her running group, the Thundering Herd, doing the first 16 miles with her. The group, which has been together for 20-plus years, meets twice a week and does longer runs on Saturdays. It includes fellow Clymer teacher Irv King as well as an engineer, a Pennsylvania state crime lab technician and a few small business owners hailing from places like Clymer, Wattsburg, Corry and Findley Lake.
“It’s really just a montage of people who just enjoy running,” Morton said.
Eventually community members, former student-athletes and friends joined the group.
“I had way more people show up than I thought would,” Morton said. “I ran for most of it. The walking part was tough. I knew I needed some walking breaks, but that was the hardest on my legs. I felt most comfortable when I was running.”
Former Southwestern coach Cristin Hockenberry, who now coaches at Jamestown, also stopped by for a part of the run.
“We coached against each other for quite a while,” Morton said.
Morton was even lucky enough to enjoy a video call with former student-athlete Grace VanEarden-Henderson, who was running at the same time at her home in South Carolina.
Now that she is retired, Morton feels like she may even have more time to run — even after her nearly seven-hour event Sunday.
“For some of (the Thundering Herd) it is competitive, but as we get older, it’s not quite as competitive,” she said. “I’ve run 13 marathons and my competitive juices are still flowing, but the pandemic has put a damper on that.”
The only thing that might change as she gets older are the distances she attempts to tackle.
“It will actually give me more time to train. If we could start having some races it would be really nice,” said Morton, who was supported all morning by her husband and fellow runner, Richard. “I did a marathon last October. I’m into the half-marathons right now, not the fast 5Ks any more.
“My longer runs are between 13 and 16 miles,” she added. “So I knew (34 miles) was possible.”