Marathoner fueled by raising money for culinary training program - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Marathoner fueled by raising money for culinary training program

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Louis Lista is running to raise money for an inmate culinary training program. (WFSB) Louis Lista is running to raise money for an inmate culinary training program. (WFSB)
Louis Lista trains around Elizabeth Park in Hartford. (WFSB) Louis Lista trains around Elizabeth Park in Hartford. (WFSB)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

A marathoner in Hartford continues to hit the pavement in the name of a culinary training program for inmates.

Louis Lista, owner of the Pond House Cafe in Elizabeth Park, said he started running just before his 50th birthday.

That was 11 years ago. He hasn't stopped since.

Last week, Lista said he ran his sixth marathon while raising money for the Community Partners in Action Culinary Training Program.

For the past 18 years, Lista has operated the cafe.

"I love what I do," he said. "When you're in the restaurant business, it's seven days a week."

He's usually there about 80 hours a week.

"I usually start at the market, so that's usually between 6 and 7 and then I try to get in here no later than 8 a.m.," Lista said.

After spending at least 12 hours in the cafe, his day isn't over. He laces up his running shoes and runs through the park.

"Depending on what the schedule is like here, I'll either run early in the morning or during the afternoon," he said.

Lista said he and a friend decided to run the Manchester Road Race. He said it was a race he'll never forget.

"It was a pretty horrible experience," Lista said. "It was raining, I didn't really train well for it [and] my feet were killing me at the end. I couldn't walk for a week, but I decided I wasn't going to end like that. So I decided the next year, I went back and ran the Manchester race and trained correctly for it. It was a much better experience and that's when I started to become a runner."

He trained with a group from Fleet Feet in West Hartford and signed up for the Hartford Half Marathon.

After that came a full marathon in Vermont, then another six months later.

"It helps me structure my physical activity," Lista said. "It gives me time to reflect and think and be by myself, which I like. When I run, I don't run with music so it gives me time to think and I find it relaxing. And I find it enjoyable and I find if I don't run for two days it throws me off and I probably get a little cranky. I just don't feel the same."

Now, five half marathons and five full marathons later, Lista made the Philadelphia Marathon his sixth.

This time, he said he's lacing up the shoes to raise money for the culinary training program.

"At our other restaurant, Zest 280, we work with Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Billings Forge Café," Lista said. "We are doing a culinary training program for people who are coming out of prison. They start with 10 weeks at Billings Forge and then they come over to Zest 280 and we do 10 to 12 weeks with them. The goal is once they get done with both programs they're able to find jobs in the culinary field."

Lista said he thought it would be a good tie-in and way to raise money for the program.

"And a way to motivate me to accomplish something I wanted to accomplish when I was 60," Lista said.

His "Run Louis Run" fundraiser goes through the end of the year.

For more information, visit pondhousecafe.com.

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