POULSBO — Larry Orando, music teacher at Vinland Elementary School, finds musical inspiration in Bach’s “The Art of Fugue” and “Brandenburg Concertos” and enjoys the arrangements by Neville Mariner of Academy of St. Martin’s in the Field.
But he puts his favorites on hold while he hits the pavement for his evening runs.
“I have a rhythm with my breathing and my feet,” he said. “I create my own music when I run — the running makes the music.”
Though Orando has been teaching music understanding and technique to North Kitsap School District students for almost 20 years, his most evident teaching lessons could arguably be his recent experience running the Boston Marathon.
In his first trip east of Iowa, the 63-year-old music teacher ran the 26- mile Boston Marathon for the first time on April 17.
As he ran the marathon — more than 3,000 miles away from Vinland Elementary, staff and students digitally tracked Orando’s progress and cheered him every step of the way. They even created signed congratulations posters for him for his return to school.
“I was inspired by Mr. Orando,” Vinland third- grader William Burgh said. “We ran a mile on our track just because he was running.”
In fact, the school reported many students found inspiration in Orando’s experience, running at recess and logging more “dolphin laps” in gym class.
Charles McCabe, Vinland Elementary principal, said Orando has been an inspiration.
“[The students] see you have to stick with something to reach your goal,” McCabe said. “It’s been inspiring to them. He was very clear about goal setting, perseverance and never giving up. These are all qualities needed to accomplish something big, and they know this was really an ambitious goal.”
It took multiple attempts for Orando to qualify for the Boston Marathon. As he reminisced on how he developed a love for the sport, he recalled running his first marathon just a few years prior — at 59.
“A friend of ours celebrated her 50th birthday by deciding to run a marathon,” Orando said. “Three weeks later, I found myself running to support her. Now I use running as a way to regroup and blow off steam. I’ve gotten to the point where I really find it pleasurable.”
Running the Boston Marathon in the 60 to 64 age bracket, Orando finished in 411th place with an official time of: 4:02:48. Though he said his time wasn’t perfect (Orando had hoped to break four hours), he plans to run Boston again.
“I was about 10 minutes off my pace,” he said of the demanding race. “I wanted to break four hours but Boston was tough course.”
Of the race, that attracted more than 26,000 qualifying participants, Orando said there were challenges.
“First the heat,” he said, also the downhills at the first quarter of the race had an impact on the last part of the race.
“You’re moving fast at the beginning,” he said. “But the muscle fatigue comes back to haunt you in the last five miles.”
Though Orando didn’t reach a point where he thought he could not finish, he remembers stopping at miles 22 and 24 to rub out hamstring and shoulder cramps.
“But I was determined to finish even if I had to walk or crawl,” he said.
He hopes his students will learn the life lessons of perseverance, hard work and goal setting from his accomplishments.
“They [my students] are not all going to be athletic, but I think the goals of perseverance, hard work and never giving up are a huge lesson in life. You can choose your path, but it’s more about how you do life than what you do in life,” Orando said.
For Vinland third-grader, Spencer Gillespie, he said watching his teacher in the Boston Marathon has inspired him by seeing how fast and competitive he is.
“I love running now,” Spencer said. “I hope that when I grow up I will make it to the Boston Marathon. Mr. Orando has shown me that it’s not about winning, it’s about having fun.”
Orando who shares his passion for running and music, finds parallel life skills.
“Becoming a good runner or a good musician is having a vision of what you want to do,” he said. “With running you have to do it every day — whether it’s dark or it’s raining or if you’re tired — and if you’re going to be a successful musician, you have to do the same thing. You have to put in the effort.
“As a teacher if I can provide that to my students, to teach them that life is not only about learning but also about the effort they put in, that is a great thing, too.”
As Orando greeted his class on his return to school, holding his medal from the Boston marathon, he touched on the importance of those life skills written on the motivational posters hanging outside his class — perserverence, goal setting and hard work.
“But speaking of hard work,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do in music class today… so let’s get started.”