Chris Morales

Chris “That Runnin Guy” Morales

My friend Chris Morales (aka “That Runnin’ Guy“) recently posted a link on the inter-web about a chap, Fred Turner, who had been running for 50 years and reckoned he had gone something in the range of 31,000 miles. Another one of these octogenarian types I might add. Well, the first thing that struck me was his age. I’m not quite there, but am in my eighth decade; so 80 something is no longer a distant horizon.

I read the article (almost as lengthy as some of my own). My competitive nature kicked in.  Hmmmmm. Running 50 years. Covered 31,000 miles (that’s right, miles). 50 goes into 31, convert to metric – aaaaah, about 1000km per year.  Wait a minute!!!! I seldom run a year when I don’t do 1000km. Big exception was when I had back surgery. That took a big bite out. But, prior to that, in my top days, I was running around 2500km per year. So, I guess things balance out a bit. In the last 16 years (because I have kept accurate logs) I have averaged 1300km/year and 2016 is looking very much like it will be very close to that. I’ve been running for about 32 years (well short of this fellow’s 50 years), but by my reckoning, I’ve run about 42,000km or pushing on toward 26,000 miles!  Well take that you old buzzard!!

Running the High Country Trails

Running the High Country Trails

And then something dawned on me. Not once did he say anything about racing. Not a thing. He waxed poetic about the places he had run and the things he had seen and the breaks he took for some treat or other before finishing up. I took another careful look and concluded that he wasn’t hiding his racing, he just didn’t do it. So, for 50 years he had run for no reason at all and covered some 31,000 miles while doing it. Ponder that a bit, my goal oriented, time/pace/finishing place obsessed friends. This guy just runs. And, I might add, in some pretty exotic places!

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

That got me thinking. While I love running, I am most active and productive when I have racing goals to be achieved. I keep records on Athlinks, but that otherwise fabulous facility is limited in that results need to be on-line in digital format. Some kinds of races are also really hard to get into the database (relays), so much of my early racing is not captured. Still, they say I’ve RACED something like 2300 miles. With all my old races unaccounted for by this facility, I estimate that I am around 3,000 miles raced. In latter years I have run a lot of full and half marathons and one 50K ultra. That really pushes up the “Miles Raced” statistic. In the early times there were a number of halfs and a couple or three 20K races and just ONE marathon. Most of the rest (and there were lots) were 5-10Ks. And of course, if you are going to race something, you must put way more time and distance into training. Well, if you want any kind of a result. I do. When I race I want to feel I have done the best I am capable of doing. Apparently, there is a direct correlation between training and results. Who knew?!

And that, dear reader, is what is behind what follows.

Revel Mt. Charleston Half Marathon (May 2016) - I do love me a podium finish -1st M70-74.  Photo by Revel

Revel Mt. Charleston Half Marathon (May 2016) – I do love me a podium finish -1st M70-74. Photo by Revel

Personally, I still have the competitive spirit, but of late it is seeming more and more that I don’t have a competitive body. Actually, I never really did, but it has more or less always been good enough to entertain me. I also seem to be losing the drive to train hard. In truth, maybe I still do have a body suitable to the purpose, I just don’t have the mental outlook necessary, and that may be partly related to other energy sapping things in my life at present. I want to ‘compete’, which is why I claim I still have a competitive spirit, but the discipline to do the work and push myself on the race course, is slipping. Not so fast that I can’t pull out a race now and then, like the one pictured to the right, the Revel Mount Charleston Half, run just this Spring. Who knows, maybe I’ve just raced too much this year and fatigue is what is behind all of this, or maybe it is the beginning of a different time for me.

Spring Running

Spring Running in Vancouver

I think that is what caught my imagination in this piece that Chris posted to Facebook. The subversive thought ran through my mind, “What if I drop the racing, and just run?” These days, almost all my runs have purpose within a training program. I also know that I have to keep the number of runs per week down to three, sometimes four, if I want to stay injury free. But, what if the kind of run and length didn’t matter?

Running the forest trails. Early morning. Friends. Just running.

Running the forest trails. Early morning. Friends. Just running.

What if I want to just run 5K along a beach? Maybe 4K in the woods, or like the man in the article, around the streets of Paris (I’ve done that, you know).

What if I feel like running long, but also feel like taking a break for something wet, even nourishing, and a sit in the sun for an hour before returning home? What about that? Would the running gods suddenly appear and rip the shoes right off my feet? I think not.

Getting ready for the Start - Reggae Marathon

Getting ready for the Start – Reggae Marathon

One of my favourite places to go to run/race, is Negril, JA and the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. Still, even though I do go to race, conditions for racing are such that the time is secondary to being part of it. However, every time I go, the most enjoyable actual running is along the road in the morning with Chris and other running friends who are there for the big event, or along the famous white sand beach. (I learned, with my tender feet, that beach runs can’t be barefoot until after the race – you can work up a nasty blister or three running on sand if you aren’t used to it.)

Sunrise over the Reggae Marathon

Sunrise over Negril, JA

I bring up the Reggae Marathon and Negril, not just because I am heading there exactly five weeks from the moment I am writing this, but because a couple of years ago and to a slightly lesser extent, last year, I had extra time to ‘just run’. I did. There was no purpose other than to get out in that glorious hour between dawn and full sun.

Early Morning Beach Scene - Negril, JA

Early Morning Beach Scene – Negril, JA

It is never cold there, so you break into a full body sweat pretty fast. After the race, almost all my runs are on the beach. Running on sand is quite taxing, actually. However, nothing says you can’t walk a bit, or stop and take a photo, or check out something on the beach.

Maybe you will chat with a local and explain why as tempting as it might be, you really don’t need any herb today (or pretty much ever). When Reggae Marathon comes, I know it is my last race for the calendar year. I guess whatever comes after the race (first Saturday of December – always) qualifies as ‘just running’. Even though I never run every day, in Negril, I pretty much do, especially after race day. Being on one of the world’s best beaches you don’t need anything but a pair of shorts, and that is often how I run. It is quite glorious.

Finish of Moustache (Half) Marathon

(Son) Cam and Dan Finish the Moustache Half Nov 6, 2011

Back home in the frozen north – OK, I live in Vancouver, but everything is relative –  you sure aren’t going out with nothing but a flimsy pair of shorts, even if you are on a beach! We seldom get snow in Vancouver, but when I did live places where it snowed, often the runs weren’t about training and a run in the fresh snow can be quite amazing. When I put my mind to it, I can think of a few times when the run has been without a particular purpose, but it is hard, because when you are in training on the higher level, but limited by your ability to run every day without risking injury, each run does count to some degree.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon - Racing CAN be fun!

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – Racing CAN be fun!

I ran a race this past Saturday and another last month, where my goal was a decent time. Both of them were far from satisfactory. I can explain both results with some logic, the first more than the second, but at the moment I’m feeling like the real reason is that I am not ready to dig in and do what is necessary. Some of the logical and technical things that could explain my performances may be true, but some of them I allowed to happen. One of my ‘problems’ is that I love leading a pace group with Forerunners, so I need to be able to go the distances and I do try to do the other prescribed workouts too. But, that puts me always in race training. With the kind of race calendar we have in Vancouver, the cycle is continuous. At the moment, I have some specific personal race intentions, so I expect to continue for some time yet, as long as they want me. I just made a post about being a pacer at the Fall Classic Half Marathon and then there is that half marathon in Negril. I will take the one very seriously because of the responsibility and the other out of respect for the conditions in which the race is run. There is one other race in the Spring that has my attention. That said, at the moment, I do have an idea in mind about getting out of the race specific training cycle after that, at least for a while, and see about this ‘just running’ thing. Who knows, done right it may bring me back to enthusiastic racing – or not. Today I am very calm about the idea that either is OK.

It really IS OK to stop for a refreshment!

It really IS OK to stop for a refreshment!

I muse about this stuff, not because I want everyone to know my personal thoughts, but rather because if I am thinking it, maybe a few others are as well. Maybe my comments will ring a bell for someone else who is pondering present circumstances and wondering what to do next.


Finishing Fall Classic Half Marthon

Finishing Fall Classic Half Marthon

You would think that someone who has run more than 250 races, probably closer to 300 if you count individual relay legs as races in their own right; someone who has logged a minimum of 40,000km over the years and been involved in everything from fun runs to the New York City Marathon, would find it hard to claim too many things that are ‘new’.

OK, you got me. Of course, every new race I run is new. But, I’m talking about truly new or different running experiences. For instance, I realized a couple of years ago that I had never done an ultra. So, I found me a 50K and added ‘ultra’ to my running resume. I could go on, but you have the idea.

The other interesting thing is that for at least a dozen years I have been a leader for one sort of running clinic or another, most notably the Sun Run InTraining program and Forerunners Full and Half Marathon Clinics. Now you would think that someone with all that experience in leading pace groups would have, at some point in time, actually paced for a race. You would be wrong.

Half Marathon, 10K and 5K

So, when an opportunity arose to pace the 2:30 half marathon group at the Fall Classic Half Marathon, I decided it was high time to add that to the old running resume. Hey, it might be a whole new career! I am actually quite excited about this, and just a little humbled.  More on this later. I should mention right here, if this rang some kind of ‘bell’ for you, the reader, there are a number of opportunities still available for pacing in the 5K and 10K events. You can find the link right HERE.

I suppose I don’t have to explain why I find this an exciting prospect. I’ve mostly explained it already. The one thing I didn’t mention as yet, is that I will be assisting others to achieve a personal goal, and that is also what makes it humbling and just a little scary. The humbling part comes from knowing you have the dreams and goals of others in your hands, or perhaps more accurately, feet. I’m not worried about running the time. I’m not worried about the course since I’ve run this race before. At Forerunners I lead a group that has a goal time a bit faster than 2:30. What does worry me is holding a steady pace, AT the necessary Minutes per K. I can’t just kick onto auto-pilot and go. No, it will require running slower than my own normal race pace, but then that is what pacers are supposed to do. No race wants a pacer who is pushing to run the advertised pace. And, the runners who will be following me never said they want to go faster. THEY want to hit around 2:30.  MY job is to nail 2:30 plus or minus a small amount and let each individual do what they can on the day.

Some will have a great day and realize they can do something quicker than 2:30. Yay for them. My job is not to pace them to a faster time. If someone has ‘got it’ on the day, I’ll cheer them on and wish them well. At the same time, if someone is having a less than stellar day and can’t keep with me, my job is NOT to slow down and help them along (something you might do in a clinic – ‘no runner left behind’ and that sort of thing). No, my job is to run as close as I can to 2:30 and let the chips fall as they may, or in this particular case, perhaps the Fall leaves. It is the Fall Classic, doncha know.

Finish Set-Up CIM 2008

Finish Set-Up CIM 2008

At least I haven’t got the awesome responsibility of trying to pace runners to a BQ time. I have used pacers several times for that purpose, unsuccessfully I must admit. But, it was truly amazing to be able to rely on those individuals to help me through. I’m sure I still had better times than I would have without the pacers, even if the BQ was not to be mine. Just a shout out to what a really good pacer can do: at the California International Marathon my particular pacer had a policy of making sure everyone running with her would finish in front of her, but the first time her finish was 14 seconds under the goal time and the second, it was 4 seconds. That was a full marathon. THAT was pacing! Too bad I couldn’t keep up either time. Even still, each race was a recent PB for me.

Back to the challenge of actually holding a specific pace that is not natural. We all have some kind of natural pace that is just super comfortable. Of course, if you are racing, there is generally nothing comfortable about your pace. But, if you are just running,  you will generally just fall into whatever your own natural pace may be. If I do that on November 13, everyone is going to be hooped. I went out for a short-ish practice session a couple of days ago and even while concentrating on trying to hold the necessary pace for a 2:30 Half, I found myself sometimes quite a bit too quick and on average over the whole distance, something around 15 seconds per kilometre too fast. Fifteen seconds doesn’t sound like all that much, but multiply by 21.1 and whoa! it is over five (5) minutes. Where I live I must run on streets and have to stop sometimes at traffic lights, so it is a bit choppy and harder to get into a rhythm. For a first shot, I was happy enough and know I will have the pace internalized by November 13!

At the same time, one of my big advisories to my clinic people is that when racing you will have greatest success if you run to a constant effort, more than to a constant pace. In other words, if your goal pace feels a certain way on the flat, then you should try to hold that ‘feeling’ when you go up a hill. You will slow a little, but you conserve energy. Same deal going down. Try to hold that feeling of exertion. You will go faster, but not ‘that’ fast and you will score some recovery. Over the greater distance, it will kind of even out and you WILL have what looks like a constant pace. Of course, this depends on approximately equal amounts of ups and downs, but that will work for the Fall Classic as it amounts to two loops of the same route. All of this is to say I am not going to have a melt-down if my instantaneous times are a bit fast or slow relative to the bang on theoretical 2:30 pace. I guess I’m just going to have to try to be a running “Goldi-Locks” and make it ‘juuuuuuust right’.

Gratuitous photo of me with daughter, Janna after Fall Classic (2008)

Gratuitous photo of me with daughter, Janna after Fall Classic (2008)

The Fall Classic has been a Vancouver fixture for a lot of years. It bills itself as the last major race of the season. That seems to me to be a fair claim. The Half Marathon attracts about 700 or so, but when you add in the 10K and 5K events, the total swells to around 1800. I have to admit that I have not run either of the shorter races, but all routes follow much the same course. Naturally, since the event(s) start and finish in the heart of the Academic Campus, a lot of the 5K is run on the streets of the University of British Columbia. The 10K and the Half head out along Marine Drive and dip down along the Old Marine Drive for a couple of kilometres of forested wonder. The last time I ran the route, there was a bit of fog on the nearby sea and just enough filtering through the trees to make the run rather mystical! It actually sent a bit of a shiver down my spine. Well, or maybe that was because it was a bit cool and I may have under dressed. (Just a bit of running humour there.) Some of my most amazing races have involved such misty conditions – especially a couple of very early morning legs I’ve run at Hood to Coast. Whatever the conditions on the day, the Fall Classic will deliver a great running experience. There’s a bunch of great features and benefits provided by the SPONSORS, but that is on the web site. Go have a look for yourself.

I’m going to be running the Half Marathon, but if you are interested in running one of the other distances (5K or 10K), do note that the individual events start at different times.


Being inspired at Reggae Marathon!

Being inspired at Reggae Marathon!

It is that time of year when I REALLY start thinking about the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. As a matter of fact, it is just eight (8) weeks today until I board the flight that will take me again to Negril, JA for this event.

The title today is a not so funny pun or play on words. I cannot hold back on saying SOMETHING about the situation in my favourite island nation. A Category 4 hurricane is threatening Jamaica, at least the East end of Jamaica and probably parts of Haiti. “Matthew” is not going to be the first hurricane to whack Jamaica with big winds and water, no, not be a long shot.  That said, considering where it sits, Jamaica has done rather better than you might suppose it would. A lot of the big storms seem to slide by without a direct hit. Not all of them though, and apparently not Matthew.

Today, or at least this evening, is to be the day. As I write, the track for the eye of the storm seems to be through the open water to the East of Jamaica and to the West of Haiti. That doesn’t mean that either country is going to escape untouched. Only time will tell us for sure what happens. Jamaican communication services are warning people about winds, rain and storm surges along the coast. I check every hour or two.

Clearly, there is nothing one can do from here but hope and pray. I know quite a few who live in Jamaica as well as a whole lot more who are from Jamaica and have family there. All are being held in my thoughts today.

Negril 1969 - Judi and Dan

Negril 1969 – Judi and Dan

I actually have family history in the Eastern end of Jamaica, but since they left around 1844 or so, it only creates a point of interest. The first time my wife and I visited Jamaica in 1969 we lived for three weeks in St. Mary Parish (which is being predicted to experience significant impact from Matthew). Little did I know that the site of my Great-Great Grandparents’ habitation in Jamaica was almost within walking distance of where we were staying in a village called Highgate. After learning about the family history, we made an intentional visit to the area in 2010, the year I did my first Reggae Marathon (event). All this is just to say that I have a real perspective on the area.

All those islands have experience with the hurricane. The people know what they have to do. But, that doesn’t make it any less dangerous or devastating.

At the same time, the place I spend most of my time while in Jamaica, Negril, is likely to be totally spared. Oh, there may be some rain and wind, but the whole region knows the sudden tropical storm. It is part of life.

Rondel Restaurant - Copy

Rondel restaurant, right by the beach – breakfast, soon come!

This year I am taking a friend of over 50 years to experience what the Reggae Marathon is about and to learn more about Jamaica and at least a few of its people. The 10 days or so that we will spend on the ground in Jamaica isn’t enough for more than a ‘taste’, but hopefully he will come to understand my love of and fascination for Jamaica and her people. The country has its problems. Still, it has a pace and flow that calms me. I refer to it as my ‘happy place’. The cares of the year just past, fade rapidly in the sun, sea and sand.  Please, don’t get the idea that this is some kind of all inclusive vacation resort experience that you could have anywhere tropical. Far from it. For the last five years I have chosen to stay at a smaller local resort, Rondel Village. It does everything I need, so I haven’t really looked farther afield, but I know there are many similar places. Oh yes, there are the five star all inclusives if that is what you want, but it isn’t what I want or need. I know I’m playing a dangerous game in inviting my buddy to join me. No two people experience the same thing the same way. Still, I hope he will come to understand why I love it so much. I know he has a point of perspective, because he feels much the same about boats.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin' Guy second from the right.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin’ Guy second from the right.

I am looking forward to renewing our Four Amigo friendships. Again, Larry Savitch, Navin Sadarangani and the ‘magnet’ that brought us all together, Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy), will be running some event as part of the Reggae Marathon experience. For various reasons, I may be the only one of the four who is running more than the 10K. Chris loves the 10K and except for that time he actually ran the Marathon, that is his distance. Of course, Chris is the official blogger for the Reggae Marathon, so he has work to do. Work he couldn’t do if he was out running and running and running that marathon. The other two are working back from injury and training for other events so have decided the 10K will be good. I like half marathons and presently think I will run that distance, but even that is not quite nailed down. I may yet opt for the 10K. (I am concerned about letting the part get going without me!) Whatever, the accompanying photo will be updated for 2016. Except for Chris, we will all be showing six fingers for the number of Reggae Marathon races we’ve done. Chris will be holding up eight! In total, we account for 26 RM races from 10K to marathon. This (I think) will be the first time Navin has NOT done the full marathon. And, (I think) the first time Larry has not done the Half. Whatever, we will be doing our Challenge again. Naturally, we will invite anyone else in the extended group to join us in that. It is all for fun even if you couldn’t tell from the trash talking that should fire up almost anytime now.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

Dawn breaking over Negril and the Reggae Marathon course.

I’m already thinking of the early morning start, the brightening sky, dawn, birds awakening. Oh, yes, and the blasting reggae music all along the course, with locals and tourists (who will NOT be sleeping, even if they aren’t running) out there cheering us on. Even though I am not 100% decided, I will probably run the Half and therefore I am thinking of Bob’s Mile and the signs bearing “Bob’s wisdom” (mostly lyrics from his most moving songs). When you hit Bob’s Mile, you know you are almost done. I believe you can actually feel the mood shift as runners sense the nearness of the finish.


Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Sweet, Sweet Reggae Music

Post Race Party Reggae Marathon  2013

Post Race Party Reggae Marathon 2013

When the race is done, the finish is far more than just the FINISH. It is a celebration.  Even if the Four Amigos can count up 26 individual races among us, there are a lot of people there for the first time and a lot who have made this their first race or first half or even first marathon. Of course the music and general vibe is an immense part of the atmosphere, but it is a people thing. I don’t think I’ve ever been at any other race with quite the same feel. For sure, there are lots of races (especially marathons) where the sense of achievement is thick in the air at the finish, but not the same feeling of “I did it and I’m glad I’m here and I just don’t want to leave!”

Of course, you do have to leave, but you can come back. That is precisely what I’ll be doing in just 56 days.

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

2014 Start Line. Just before it all got going!

While I know the events of today and the days to come will test the resolve and resilience of Jamaica and her citizens, I know they will be up to the test and that the Reggae runners will be welcomed once again.  Hey, there is going to be damage and they are going to need support. Tourism is a very big thing in Jamaica. Know what? There is still time to sign up and find your way to Negril and flow some of those tourist bucks into their economy. Think about it. You’ll be glad you did. I promise.



INTRODUCTION: What follows is from Brad Firth, aka Caribou Legs. At the moment he is on a cross country (Canada, that is) run to bring awareness to the issue of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women. It is not the first long distance run he has done to bring attention to an important issue, but it is without a doubt the LONGEST. Frankly, there is no explaining his ability to run the distances he does, day after day. It seems like some magical combination of genes and a fierce spirit where it comes to what he believes. The following was actually written a couple of years ago. I asked permission to reproduce it, unaltered, other than a few words of explanation, the photographs and update.

At this moment, Caribou Legs is in Quebec. After running thousands of kilometers, a rolled ankle caused him to need to take a break, but it seems healing has been rapid and that he will hit the road again very soon. If, after you read this, you want to keep track of his amazing story and mission, you can just follow along on Facebook, like I do:


I have known this amazing person since the earlier times when his transition began. I was associated in a modest way with the work of Benji Chu and Run for Change (as mentioned below). Brad’s heritage is Inuit. Much of his work and effort in recent years has been in the North, working with the youth of the region.

The title is meant to show that there is always hope and that if you believe in a deep, personal and spiritual way, it is possible to overcome the most difficult and horrible circumstances.


Caribou Legs (Brad Firth) as he will look if you see him on the road.

Caribou Legs (Brad Firth) as he will look if you see him on the road.

Some of you ask about my background and how I got to where I am today.

I spent 20 yrs in the violent back alleys and dark cold rainy streets of Vancouver, “running interference” as a hard core drug addict. As a result, I quickly ran amuck by lying cheating and stealing. I lived a reckless existence. There was no celebration of life whatsoever. Nothing but backstabbing, betrayal, spiteful, and scandalous behaviours. Each day on East Hastings I became more vulnerable, weak, frustrated, bitter, desperate, hostile, afraid, hopeless, and extremely paranoid, suspicious, tense, anxious, and nervous from rigorously abusing crack cocaine. Soon, I became a hardened ghost with no spirit, just like everyone else who experiments with hard drugs, the force of the honeymoon effect is just wayyy too strong and very captivating. I instantly became a slave to cravings and urges. I started conspiring ways and means to feed my appetite. I escaped from accountability and responsibility.

Existing on the street was like a slow death sentence. It’s a 24/7/365 day to day struggle. Your like a hyena in the desert, waiting for opportunity. It’s very embarrassing to see the sleezy tactics and desperate manipulations of addicted people, but I guess those behaviours are everywhere. Eventually, I found myself in provincial jail, desperate for a peaceful change of lifestyle; with no options/solutions of resurrecting my spirit, until an elder told me to start running . So that’s what I did, It was my breakthrough moment!

I started jogging every day and slowly broadened my horizons and stretched my legs into the North Shore mountains.
That’s where I reclaimed my spirit! I felt useful, powerful and worthy. Running became my medicine, teacher, and best friend. I ran everywhere in Vancouver and surrounding area.


On the road with Benji. Both wearing Run for Change T-shirts.

On the road with Benji. Both wearing Run for Change T-shirts.

I met an ultra runner named Benji Chu and together we ran 11hrs to Whistler on the Sea to Sky highway, We ran 13hrs to Chilliwack, and finally ran 23 hrs non- stop to Hope where I was a victim to a semi truck hit n’run which instantly shattered my left elbow into pieces, shattered my right hand and lacerated my right foot. I was devastated after surgery and thought my running days were over. I was told by Benji that the hit n run was payback for all my wrongful decisions on the streets and that I had also incurred many karmic debts over the years. My Creator had spared my running because I was to share my running in a good way with society. This is why I am very grateful for Benji’s insights and very grateful to be running today! After I was released from hospital I went to rehab therapy and began nursing myself back to running, it took 6 months to get back on the highway and face my semi truck fears, but I over came the fear of running on the highway with all those big wheel trucks!!

Today, I am an elite ultra runner, which means I run super long distances for 7+ hrs @ 10km/hr, averaging 65-75 km/day 6 days/week on the highways and trails. I can also run 100 miles under 24 hrs. I have come along way from the notorious HIV HEP C infested streets in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. At 44, I am super healthy and disease free. I will run for another 40 yrs tops!

I’ve trained many times with the powerhouse Vancouver Falcons Athletic Club, Canada’s strongest running club and fastest elite runners. Coached by the best running coach in the country, John Hill.

Running in the North, his true home.

Running in the North, his true home.

My 2014 list of ultra running accomplishments include a 750 km 10 day run from Ft Smith to Yellowknife, a 1200 km 25 day run from Inuvik to Whitehorse, and a 3200 km 78 day run from Vancouver to Whitehorse. Plus I’ve run many ice roads in the freezing Beaufort Delta and Yellowknife area as well.

2 of my racing accomplishments I am most proud of include qualifying for the Boston marathon and running a 1:22 half marathon, placing 46th out of 3500 men.

Today, I enjoy running to small NWT communities by ice road or all weather highways, speaking to youth of all grades on the importance of running, fitness and nutrition. In my school presentations, I describe the history of self transport, snowshoeing and how running was used by trappers to hunt, trap, and harvest water, food, and wood for survival.

Brad will talk to all who want to hear. His primary audience is Northern Youth

Brad will talk to all who want to hear. His primary audience is Northern Youth

This is to inform you why cultural running is an important vital activity and lends itself to therapeutic healing . Running each day validates many physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental defects within our culture. Running 5km each day helps people with ADHD and FASD. Running improves our behaviour and offers healthy fitness solutions. I enjoy passing on stories of past runners leading the way when villages followed the herds. It was the runners who followed the herds and allowed hunters to set traps for caribou and buffalo. Runners carried important inter-tribal messages for important gatherings. Runners were always allowed safe passage in enemy territory as well. Runners in the community are regarded highly amongst chiefs and elders.

It is important we cultivate running into our children for generations to come. It is important we live to run and run to live!

Thank you Creator .

Megwiich, Caribou Legs!


Terry Fox Run South Surrey

Terry Fox Run South Surrey

Today is Terry Fox Run day across Canada and in many other places. Once again we joined the many others making this special effort to remember what Terry Fox did all those years ago to raise awareness and funds to fight cancer. The stories, books, movies about his life and his dedication are many. So, as I ran my 10K this morning I got thinking that Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes contains a unique contribution from Doug Alward, the friend who drove Terry’s van during the Marathon of Hope. More than being Terry’s driver though, Doug was a boyhood friend and brings a perspective of who Terry Fox was before cancer and before his amazing project took life. I decided the only thing to do then was to put that contribution up on the blog today as just one more little thing I might do in honour of Terry.

So, here it is, just as Doug wrote it. There are virtually no photographs because that is how the original was published. I want to thank Doug for this powerful and personal story, one that likely could not be written by any other person alive.



Doug Alward


“Anything is possible if you try…..

Dreams are made when people try.”

                                          Terry Fox, 1980

Terry Fox and Doug Alward - Where the Marathon of Hope began.

Terry Fox and Doug Alward – Where the Marathon of Hope began.

The Marathon of Hope to raise funds for cancer research began on a cold and foggy day in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Snow covered the roadside as winter still gripped the landscape.

Terry Fox dipped his artificial foot into the icy Atlantic Ocean, then turned landward to begin one of the most historic and inspiring runs ever. It was a run that would take him over 3,339 miles (5,373 km) across Canada through snow, wind, rain, and stifling heat before the cancer would strike again, killing his body but not his indomitable and enduring spirit.

It was a run that skeptics said was impossible. How could a boy who had lost one leg to bone cancer run a 42.2 km or 26.2 mile marathon EVERY day across hilly and mountainous highways, all the way across the second largest country in the world? Such a feat was considered impossible for most two-legged people. How could a one-legged person even think about it? Only one one-legged person, a man named Dick Traum, had ever tried a marathon on the primitive artificial legs available in 1980 and he had to walk much of the way. Terry was going to try to RUN a marathon EVERY DAY for several months. It was a run that would carry Terry Fox into the hearts of a nation and inspire millions of people across Canada and around the world, then and for decades to come.

As Terry’s friend and driver on the “Marathon of Hope for Cancer Research” and as Terry’s best friend from the age of 13, I learned much about his character and dreams. By sharing what I was so blessed to be a part of I hope to inspire you to reach out for your dreams, regardless of your present age, condition or situation.

One step at a time!- One telephone pole at a time!- One Marathon Run on one leg, one day at a time!- Over 5,300km across Canada through 100 km/hr wind, rainstorms, snow, -20°C late winter weather and searing 35°C summer heat; enduring freight trucks and inattentive drivers barreling along the Trans-Canada Highway at him; living in a small camperized van with the world’s worst cook (me) feeding him canned beans and peanut butter and jam sandwiches, Terry Fox ran a marathon a day for over 130 days taking only a couple of days off. Those “off” days were spent doing publicity events, television and newspaper interviews and meeting politicians and Prime Ministers. For Terry, the daily fundraising speeches and interviews were often more exhausting than the run. Miraculously, Terry Fox did it. He proved it IS possible to do the impossible.

When Terry first mentioned to me his idea of running a marathon a day, EVERY day, for 200+ days in a row across Canada to raise money for cancer research I never doubted he could accomplish such an unbelievable feat. Terry was always a possibility thinker. Terry believed in reaching for dreams with the abilities he had, not dwelling on what he didn’t have or what he might have done. I believed Terry could do it. Terry believed he could do it. The rest would just be detail and hard work.

To understand how Terry and I could believe such a feat was possible you have to know something of Terry’s background. When I first met Terry we were the only two Grade 8’s on the school cross-country running team. The school’s huge football coach who was our Physical Education instructor, semi-threatened us into joining the team even though running was not something Terry particularly enjoyed. In the first race of the year Terry came a distant dead last.

Untrained and new to competitive running, Terry was glad just to finish that first race, but he would not quit. With the encouragement and direction of outstanding teacher and running coach Mr. Fred Tinck (five of the athletes he coached went on to make the Olympic Games in various sports), Terry worked hard every day through cross-country and track seasons. By the time Terry was 15 he could run a mile in under 5 minutes. In other words, were it not for events yet to come, Terry was at the threshold of becoming an elite runner. But, as we know, Terry was destined to be not just an elite athlete, but an elite human being.

Similar to his efforts on the track, Terry improved dramatically as a basketball player. By way of a daily plan of training, believing in himself and just plain working his butt off, Terry went from being the shortest least skilled Grade 8 player (possibly in all of Canada), to making the basketball team at Simon Fraser University 5 years later. Academically, Terry went from being a 55% student in Grade 8 to holding an 88% average in Grade 12. Believing he could accomplish each of these goals, then planning and working towards them was the key to Terry achieving his dreams.

When Terry was 18 years old he felt a pain in his knee, a pain that got progressively worse over the next three months. Terry was stubborn. To him, pain was not to be a barrier to achieving his goals. He would not go to a doctor until he could no longer walk. Finally, after the doctors had done a battery of tests, Terry’s right leg was amputated a foot above his knee. Such a drastic measure was needed to try to prevent the spread of bone cancer that had started in his knee.

After surgery, several months of sickening chemotherapy treatments followed to try to kill any cancer cells that may have spread to other areas of Terry’s body. He lost his hair and vomited almost daily.

Terry did not dwell on his amputated leg and illness. He decided to get off his butt and show people what he could do. He said,

“I’m a dreamer, I like challenges. I don’t give up. I go all out…Nobody is ever going to call me a quitter.”

Terry focused on carrying a full course load of tough science and math courses at university. At the invitation of world wheelchair traveler “Man in Motion” Rick Hansen, he began playing wheelchair basketball. The British Columbia wheelchair team with Rick and Terry playing key roles, won the Canadian Championship three times.

After two years of treatment Terry vowed to do something to help all the kids he had seen suffering and often dying in the cancer clinic. He came up with the dream of running across Canada on one leg, doing a marathon a day to raise funds for cancer research. How could he accomplish such a feat on one good leg and a primitive artificial leg that was held on by air suction and a strap? The normal running gait was impossible so Terry invented a motion where he hopped with his real leg and swung the artificial leg through. Some people called it a triple jump and others appropriately called it the “Fox Trot”. One person said his running looked like that of a three-legged horse. To Terry all that mattered was that he was RUNNING. Problem number one had been solved by thoughtful experimentation.

The next problem to tackle was running a marathon a day. Terry had to come up with a training plan. He consulted everyone he knew who might be able to help him. Running and weight training coaches as well as nutrition experts helped Terry develop a plan. The first day Terry “RAN” just a single lap around the local dirt track and collapsed with an exhausted real leg and a bleeding stump, the result of the chafing of his stump in the bucket of the artificial leg. Terry went home with only one thing in his mind: a plan to do better the next day. The next day he ran two laps. After one week he was running a mile. By five months he was up to twenty laps a day. Terry said:

“I had some blisters man. It was like running on coals. I had some sores on my stump where the artificial leg was. They just rubbed raw and there is no protection. Sometimes the sores would bleed right through my valve in the bucket and the blood would run down my knee and my leg. I developed bone bruises. My toes and heel were totally blistered raw and I lost three toenails. I had shinsplints for two months…You have to get over a pain threshold. There were times where it really hurt, but I kept going.”

Then, with my crazy encouragement, Terry decided to pre-register for a 28km race in Prince George, BC on the Labour Day Weekend of 1979.   He still had two more months to increase his mileage and train his body. Slowly and systematically Terry increased his mileage to 18 km a day. Also, three times a week intensive two-hour sessions of strength and conditioning exercises followed the daily running sessions. These exercises worked particularly hard on back, abdominal, and lower leg muscles. Finally, race day in Prince George arrived and Terry ran the entire 28km without walking a single step.

Terry had now made up his mind. He would begin planning his run to cross the country at a marathon a day pace. The run would begin in April of 1980, just seven months later. He prepared a letter to get sponsors to help him in his dream. Terry wrote:

“The night before my amputation I read an article on an amputee who completed the New York City Marathon. It was then I decided to meet this new challenge head on and not only overcome my disability, but conquer it in such a way that I could never look back and say it disabled me. But I soon realized that would only be half my quest, for as I went through the sixteen months of the physically and emotionally draining ordeal of chemotherapy I was rudely awakened by the feelings that coursed through the cancer clinic. There were faces with the brave smiles and the ones who had given up smiling. There were the feelings of hopeful denial and the feelings of despair. My quest would not be a selfish one. I could not leave knowing these faces and feelings would still exist, even though I would be set free from mine. Somewhere the hurting must stop and I am determined to take myself to the limit for this cause…. I am not saying this will initiate any kind of cure for cancer, but I believe in miracles. I have to.


                                                                        Terry Fox (September 1979)

From September 1979 to Christmas Eve Terry ran 101 days in a row increasing his mileage from 10 miles (16km) per day to 20 miles (32km) per day by Christmas Eve. His mother ordered him to take Christmas Day off. Even when his wheelchair basketball team toured Washington and Oregon in early December Terry kept the streak of 20 mile days going by rising by 5 AM and running his miles.

Terry’s dream gave him amazing drive. He wanted to help kids dying of cancer. This dream kept Terry going through injury, lack of sleep and the pressures of university exams and term papers.

In his speeches Terry would often say that the pain he felt was nowhere near as bad as that of the pain the kids were feeling on the cancer wards. Some kids had tumors growing out the side of their head. Others had tumors throughout their body. Some would be there one week and dead the next. This suffering motivated Terry into action: one step at a time, one telephone pole at a time, one mile at a time. Now the dream was within reach. Running a marathon a day on one leg, across the second largest country in the world was just one step away.

On April 12, 1980 in St John’s Newfoundland Terry dipped his leg into the Atlantic Ocean. He filled a bottle with Atlantic Ocean water and tucked it away in the small camperized van we would share over the next several months. CBC television was there to capture the historic moment although much prodding was needed to convince CBC to have a film crew out to film such an impossible feat. A news reporter recorded the following quote from Terry:

“If it’s only up to me and my mind I‘ve got a lot of positive attitude. But you never know what might happen….I wanted to try the impossible…”

The first day fog limited visibility to fifty meters. The second day it snowed. The third day was sunny but with sub-zero temperatures that Terry said “Froze my balls off.” Seventy kilometer per hour freezing winds in his face made the running extremely difficult. On and on I watched Terry struggle. Day after day he accomplished the marathon goal. Day after day and step after step he captured the hearts of the kids and adults he spoke to at schools, receptions, and by doing countless interviews on radio and television. After three weeks he had run across the province of Newfoundland, a distance of 933 kilometers. By six weeks he had conquered Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. By seven weeks Terry had lost ten pounds, mostly due to my sub-par cooking. By eleven weeks Terry was through Quebec and at the Ontario border. Terry would say:

“I broke the run down. Get that mile down, get to that sign, that corner and around that bend.”

If I could describe Terry in one word it would be RELENTLESS.

Terry had accomplished what doctors, other amputees and skeptics had said was impossible. Terry Fox had proved them wrong. Now news editors hurried to record the story of the miracle boy who was capturing the imagination of people from coast to coast.

His story was simple. He had lost his leg from cancer. He had seen kids dying of cancer. He was determined to do something about it. He was asking people to donate to cancer research. A one dollar donation from each person was his goal.

His day would begin shortly after 4 AM. Before 5 AM he had to be at the spot on the Trans-Canada Highway that he had stopped the day before. In the pitch-black darkness Terry would step onto the highway under every conceivable weather condition. There were no excuses for taking a day off. Pain, blisters, and exhaustion were no excuse. A broken foot “MIGHT” be. Walking was NEVER allowed. He had to RUN every step.

Entering the province of Ontario in mid-July, temperatures soared upwards of 35°C. In major population centers thousands lined the streets to see and be inspired by Terry as he struggled onwards. Terry added several hundreds of kilometers to the run by heading south to Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, and London, Ontario. Terry wanted to go to large population centers to inspire as many people as possible to give for cancer research.

Terry relentlessly fought onward through the hot summer finally nearing Thunder Bay, Ontario. At mile 3,339 (5,373 km) the cancer struck again. The bone cancer cells that had spread from his knee had grown into tumors larger than baseballs in his lungs, causing one lung to collapse so that he could hardly breathe.   The Marathon of Hope had ended on Labour Day Sunday, exactly one year to the minute that Terry had run his only race, on one leg, in Prince George.

The run was over, but the dream of raising funds for cancer research was not. Telethons and fundraising ventures spread like wildfire across Canada as Terry received treatment for the cancer that was now surely and steadily killing his physical body.

Terry died just before 5 am on June 28, 1981. Ironically, one year before at 5 am on June 28, 1980 Terry ran across the Quebec/Ontario Provincial border. Ontario was the province where the fundraising skyrocketed. It seemed as if Terry was asking us to continue his dream.

I was sad to physically lose my best friend, but relieved he was free of the horrible suffering cancer had caused. Spiritually, Terry’s attitudes and values continue to inspire me. Several times I have thought of giving up running as my aging body breaks down. Three years ago my doctor did a bone scan on my swollen feet and discovered the beginnings of arthritis. Muscle pulls, tendon problems and even a broken upper arm that sidelined me from any running for two months have slowed me down. Due to a modified training program, improved diet, the support of other runners, and Terry’s attitude to take “ONE STEP AT A TIME’, I have been able to achieve some of my best ever running performances. Recently, I ran a 1:17 half marathon at the age of 46.

Do you have a dream? Think of Terry’s perseverance against unbelievable handicaps: bone bruises, shinsplints and severe blister-like cysts on his stump that often bled into the artificial leg. Whether they be trivial or major, physical or mental, let Terry’s perseverance and spirit inspire you through your tough times and personal challenges.

Today, Terry Fox Runs are held in over 50 countries and have raised over $360 Million for cancer research. Terry is still running, still stepping one step at a time, one mile at a time. As Terry said:

“You only live once and if you want to get something done you have to do it while you have the chance.”

Terry tried and his dream to find a cure for cancer lives on.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Boy does Terry’s dream live on! Notwithstanding how we see it now, the early days of the Marathon of Hope didn’t produce all that much hope. Going was slow and so was the fund raising. Compare that to what we were told this morning: “Over $700,000,000 raised” and counting. I could have written 700 Million, but I think for this we need to see those zeros. Terry hoped for $1/Canadian. I wonder what he would think of this. If I understand anything about his spirit and determination, I am going to guess he might be thinking something along the lines of Great start, but cancer is still happening!



Why indeed!

Runners Running (at the 2013 BMO Vancouver Marathon)

Runners Running (at the 2013 BMO Vancouver Marathon)

The question is totally loaded. There are probably as many reasons as there are runners. Maybe I’m writing this for all the people who don’t run or don’t know why YOU run. This is a problem, of course, since people who don’t run probably aren’t reading this blog. Maybe I should just stop. Well, no. Little things like this have never stopped me before!

About Half of the Contributors, Victoria, BC at the official launch.

About Half of the Contributors, Victoria, BC at the official launch.

Since the blog is called “Running in the Zone” and comes from the book of a similar name, perhaps I’ll start with the answer I got when I asked this question of the 26 contributors. And, while some were just like me, avid mid-pack runners, many were Olympians and world record holders. All were past their main competitive days, thus the second part of the book title: “A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes“. Seasoned was kind of code for ‘old’, but so much nicer.

I did a little survey about a bunch of things among the contributors and one of the questions was, “Why do you run?” While the words were all a bit different, they all pretty much boiled down to: “Because I love it.”

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh at the First Half Half Marathon

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh at the First Half Half Marathon

People start running for a lot of reasons, some start young and never stop, while some start much, much later in life and keep going for years. Just a few examples include the pictured “BJ” McHugh, Ed Whitlock and Fauja Singh (still running at 100 years of age). Usually the ‘later in life’ people start doing it because of weight issues or health. I was certainly one of those. Like many, I had run in school, but then stopped when school ended. Without going into a lot of detail, I picked up again when just shy of 40. I had been quite athletic in my younger years playing baseball, running track and field and the biggie (for my family), playing soccer. I played ‘at’ lots of things, but those three were the real deal. Soccer was the last to go. I played for UBC and only quit after a fairly serious injury and some heavy academic time commitments. Oh, and because I had found my limit regarding skill and ability. Unfortunately, the injury (knee) was something that seemed to linger through the years. Forty was not my first time of trying running. Every time I did though, after a mile or so of what you could call a jog pace, the knee would start screaming. No problem to walk forever or sprint from point A to point B, but that longer distance ‘jog’ pace just wasn’t happening. Finally, I figured that if I could run a mile without pain, I would do that, often. Surely, for health reasons, it was better than not running a mile. After doing this for a little while (few months) I decided maybe I could go a bit longer. Tried 2 miles without problem, then a bit more and a bit more and about three years later, trained for and ran my first marathon. All my PBs came in a period of about 18 months in 1988-89. I was 43/44 at the time. I must admit the competitive side of me wonders how fast I might have been able to run had I tried my ‘mile at a time’ experiment sooner. We will never know. Oh well, I suppose if you really, really believe in age grading, we could estimate some times. And yes, I have done that.

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

Finishing up my Marathon PB (1988)

Anyway, that is how I came to my (second) running career that now spans well over 30 years. Racing was not always part of it, but for the most part I did keep the legs and feet moving, racing or no racing. Why? Because for a range of reasons, in terms of what it gives me – I love running.

Some of the elite contributors to Running in the Zone obviously started young and kept going. When I said that ‘Seasoned’ was another term for old, I should make clear that the youngest contributors to the book were only about 46 when they wrote their piece, but for unrestricted elite running, 46 IS old. Some continued with age group or masters running to satisfy their competitive nature and some just run and don’t compete at all. In most of those cases, the individual isn’t interested in racing when they can’t do what they used to do, but they still want the running part.

Lead Women - Boston Marathon 2009 - Being Fierce

Lead Women – Boston Marathon 2009 – Being Fierce

For the elites, I suppose a major reason for running is that they are good at it. And, being competitive of spirit, there isn’t much more to say. Knowing a fairly significant number of competitive elite runners, and knowing how hard they work to BE competitive, you also just have to know there is something fundamental driving them. Exactly WHAT it is they love is another matter. Being the very best they can be, winning, delving into the depths of their own endurance are all possibilities for the reason any given individual might put him or herself through what elites and even sub-elites do to be that good.

Double Agent two-fer on Maniacs/Fanatics group membership. (Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

Double Agent two-fer on Maniacs/Fanatics group membership.
(Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

I am a member of Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics, a Double Agent so to speak. There is a whole different dynamic at play in these groups, both of which are now counting over 14,000 members. While there are some fast runners in these groups, being fast gets you nothing. Elite marathoners generally run 1-4 races per year, two being pretty common. Not one of them could qualify to join Marathon Maniacs. The qualifying standard is ‘how many’ in a period of time; same for Half Fanatics. There are ten levels in both groups and attaining those levels depends on running a certain (generally large-ish) number of marathons (or halfs) in a specified period of time. I can say with certainty that members take pride and pleasure in attaining these goals. I am sure that among other reasons for running, they enjoy meeting similar minded maniacal (or fanatical) people. They enjoy traveling to run, because there just aren’t enough local races to run to realize the group achievement standards. And, just as running fast is a true athletic goal, so is running a lot. It is a different form of our sport and the people who do a LOT of marathons often don’t train much. Let’s face it, if you run a marathon every weekend, you don’t need to do a lot beyond loosening the old legs up between races. For those who neither think nor behave this way, if you did run a marathon every weekend for a year (some Maniacs do that) and took not another running step between races, you would cover 1,362.4 miles, or 2,194.4km. Of course, these numbers require that you cut every tangent perfectly, too!

I know a lot of people with busy lives or stressful jobs who use running to dissipate the tension that builds up. Some refuse to race (even if they run a lot and may actually be quite good runners) precisely because competing at running when the rest of their life is filled with various forms of competition, just becomes another stress. Who needs that? But, if running is a stress buster, what’s not to love?  It has certainly been one of my personal reasons, more-so  at some times than at others.


Speaking of mentoring, this is my grandson, Charlie, and me racing.

One of the things I love about running is being able to coach or mentor others who are just coming to it. I have been involved in leading running clinic groups for at least a dozen years. I know many who feel the same way and find great pleasure in being able to help and support others as they come to the sport for the first time or to improve their performance, whatever that may mean. While I have coached/mentored true beginners, in the clinic group I lead now I am often encountering people preparing for their very first half or full marathon. It is great fun to be able to help those individuals realize that major life goal.

I know many competitively spirited people who still want to ‘win’ in various senses. I am definitely one of those people. Winning has different meanings. I sometimes point out (usually to new runners, just getting into racing, and maybe feeling that they just aren’t good enough) that any race has precisely ONE winner. That is the guy (usually) who crosses the line first. Steve Prefontaine  described being second as ‘First Loser’. It was mostly a statement of his personal standard for his own aspirations, but puts a nice context into this idea. I have had some flack for that statement, usually from people who feel the effort involved in doing something hard makes them a ‘winner’. It makes a good conversation starter though, and gives me a chance to point out that I am really saying the same thing. I just use the shock value to get other people’s attention.

Revel does good 'bling'! Slept with my gold medal the first night.

Revel does good ‘bling’! Slept with my gold medal the first night.

Winning can mean winning your age group, and I know lots who avidly pursue this goal. Often they don’t so much want to beat anybody else (OK, sometimes they do), but rather, like Pre, they want to meet a standard they have set for themselves. Since I’ve never really been that good, I take my age-group podiums, including golds, when they come and enjoy them, but for me ‘winning’ means maintaining my performance either in raw times for any distance or in age graded times or performance. It is inevitable as you start counting off the years, that around my age, you are going to be slower. You can only forestall that slowing. You cannot stop it. So, holding steady on personal performance is a win for me. If that gets me a medal now and then, that is a bonus and gives me pleasure, but the real ‘win’ is being out there and doing it as well as I can. My big (being just a little facetious) thrill and claim to fame just now is that I am the age group record holder at the Revel Mount Charleston Half Marathon. Somehow, I managed to win my age group. 2016 was the inaugural running of the event. I have to be the record holder. Still, I’m having fun for now!

Another rewarding thing for runners can be pushing to some new level – a half marathon, marathon or maybe that first ‘ultra’. Finding yourself able to do something you never thought you could is hugely rewarding. In my opinion, it is also a fine reason to run. Actually, never mind the marathon, the first 5K.  Or, as the Vancouver Sun Run proves on an annual basis, the first 10K completed at any pace, amounts to a wonderful and pleasing accomplishment.

NYCM Expo 2007

NYCM Expo 2007

Parts of running can be a part of the ‘why’ of running. I run marathons in particular, at least partly because of the energy or ‘vibe’ of  such races. There is something about being around people doing a marathon. There is a mix of fear and determination along with anticipation that is not much like any other type of race. There is nothing certain about stepping to the line to start a marathon, not even for the elite runners at the head of the field. You NEVER know how it will go. The best runners have to drop out (sometimes) while the slowest, with dogged determination, finish. To be fair, you really can’t compare those speedy elites at the front with the rest of us, especially if you are running a big race like New York City Marathon, Chicago, London, Berlin, but we all run the same race, the same course, on the same day in the same weather.

Actually, one of the big thrills of those major marathons is that I can run in a race with the best in the world. Name another sport where the mere mortal is allowed to be in the same event as the very best. I play golf now and then, but I can’t just trundle down to Augusta and book myself a tee-time for the Masters. Granted, some of those marathons are hard to get into, but that is a matter of weight of numbers, not restrictions based on ability. Yeah, yeah, I know – Boston, but even Boston only requires that you be pretty good for your age.

Running isn't always about racing.

Running isn’t always about racing.

I have somewhat let myself drift into equating running with racing. It isn’t. When writing/editing our book, Running in the Zone, I was faced with the question of what I would actually write for my own contribution. I mentioned earlier, the concept of stress busting being facilitated by running. I decided that maybe a few words on running meditation would be in order. What I wrote was a bit of a formalized description of what a lot of runners do whether they recognize it or not. I was quick to point out that this may require a certain fitness and ability level that would let a person just ‘run easy’. I mean, when you are first starting out, there may not be any such thing as an easy run. Truly though, it really doesn’t take that long to have a differentiated pace that can be described as ‘easy’. The essence of what I wrote was just a bit of a guide on getting your body and mind into the right place for a very meditative kind of running. It is wonderfully peaceful and rejuvenating. As I said, most experienced runners have probably done this with or without consciously knowing they are doing it. When that sort of option is available anytime you want to do it, what’s not to love?

I suppose I could go on at somewhat greater length, but as with many of my posts the intention is to get the reader thinking. I hope I have done that. I’d love to hear what others hold as their reasons to run.



As I have moaned a bit this last year, life keeps getting in the way of my running (and writing about it). Usually, I’d have had this written at least a day or so ago. Usually, I would have written a pre-race blog too. But, it is what it is.

Bob's Border Busters (1987)

Bob’s Border Busters (1987)

August 26/27 marked my NINTH time doing the Hood to Coast Relay. It would have been more than that, but I have tried unsuccessfully (collectively with teams) at least three and maybe four other times. I have been doing this on and off since 1987 (Bob’s Border Busters). At the time I did not personally realize that we were involved in just the fifth running of the event. It was surely a different event in those days, for so many reasons. For one thing, after hitting Portland, the route to the Coast was different and the finish location was completely different. The distance was also shorter (not much). The number of teams was in the 500 odd range at the time and although it has always been tightly organized (in a good way) the feel was far more relaxed.

A lot of the roads taken were not the major routes they are today. Same roads, but far less busy and far more rural. Because the whole thing was smaller, the restrictions on vehicles was less. I recall one team with a school bus. They had a massage table they would haul out at exchanges and give the incoming runner a quick going over before moving on. I think (not sure about that) the massage person was just that, not a runner, but rather team support! Both of the first times I went, the system was what I call ‘odds and evens’. Two vans, but instead of first six legs and second six, we did a leap-frog with the odd runners in one and evens in the other and a system of dropping off and picking up. That gave more time to stretch out the legs after running. It also meant there was never a major exchange point. Of course, in a sense, it also meant every exchange was a major exchange. Well, I guess the real thing was just fewer teams, especially after Portland when the walkers and high schoolers now join in.

Ready to Start Hood to Coast - 1989

Ready to Start Hood to Coast – 1989

The second time I ran Hood to Coast was 1989. It has so many personal memories for me, including being the fastest I have ever run over a significant distance. That was Leg #1, which apart from the quality and nature of the road, oh and that we started at 10:30pm in the pitch-black dark, with handheld flashlights, was almost the same. It ended right at the bottom of the hill though and was 5.5 miles. I averaged

H2C Start Line 2006

H2C Start Line 2006

5:59 per mile but it felt like 4:00/mile running in the dark with no distance perspective. As is always the case at the start, unless you are counting noses and watching over your shoulder, it is hard to know how you did relative to the other teams (especially in the dark). I learned from my team, after finishing, that I had come down the mountain in fourth place in our starting group. We had a pretty decent team. I turned out to be third SLOWEST on the team. Our team average pace was 6:50/mile!  Ah, those were the days. Now, my role on Leg #1 (and all the others) is to offer myself as ‘road kill’ for other runners!  But, back to the glory of that race in the summer of ’89. Shaughnessy’s Cove (as we were called) finished 20/208 in Men’s Open and 64/684 (starters).

Due to a few things like living in Europe for three years then half way across the country for a bunch more and actually not doing much racing (running, yes – racing, not so much), oh and that two years in Malaysia, it was not until 2006 I had another chance to do Hood to Coast. That time was more good luck than good management. A team of loosely affiliated runners, including some from my running club (Pacific Road Runners) was coming together to do the Relay. We had people from BC, Washington, Oregon and Montana. Naturally, because of all those international, state and provincial boundaries we called ourselves Bordering on Insanity. Well, that explains the ‘Bordering’ part. The rest doesn’t need much explanation.

Hood to Coast Relay

The traditional team on the rocks photo (2010)

In case you are starting to worry, I am NOT going to recount each of the six other races I’ve done. Each was worthy of a good story or two, but I may just resort to a selection of photographs. I had the fun of having our daughter Janna run on one of the teams (when she was a member of Pacific Road Runners). We went as PRR -Cha, Cha, Cha in honour of a club member who used to be ‘the organizer’ of such teams, and who had died quite suddenly and quite young. As I recall, my years of getting a team in were: 1987, 1989, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010,  2012, 2013 and 2016. Most of them, I managed to do Leg #1, but I’ve also done Leg #3, Leg #2 and Leg #12. I was captain or co-captain for the bulk of the teams because one of my great pleasures is the organizational side. Besides, as I get slower and slower, it is my ticket to actually being ON a team!

The less traditional team in a parking lot photo (2016)

The less traditional team in a parking lot photo (2016)

Fast forwarding to Hood to Coast 2016, Canucks to the Coast had a great experience and many individual members found out some stuff about themselves they maybe didn’t know. As individuals, we had a bunch of links to each other, but the most common (7/12) was involvement with Forerunners where we participate in the half and full marathon clinics. Even though it is a fun event for most people, nobody has ever said it was easy. Each year brings its challenges and 2016 offered up some of the hottest weather I think the Relay has seen with bright sunshine and temperatures into the high NINETIES! Thankfully, overnight and as we approached Seaside, everything cooled down and Saturday running was pretty ideal. It is not that common to run three hard races, because that is what each leg amounts to, in such a short period of time. That is a major challenge that most runners not familiar with the race format, have not faced. Getting out for the third leg is hard to compare to anything else. I suppose Marathon Maniacs or Half Fanatics might disagree (especially those that do races back to back or more), but the short distances at Hood to Coast tempt you to run pretty hard. Then, there is the whole run, sit repeat thing that stiffens your legs so by leg three it is always a mental hurdle to get out there again. But, everybody does it and I know from observation of a lot of team members over all those years, that this is one of the big achievements for most.

There are 195 RK marks there if you care to count!

There are 195 RK marks there if you care to count!

I mentioned earlier that while I used to get my share of ‘road kills’, I now represent a fairly sure thing for most other runners. I guess I can feel comfort in knowing I have brightened a few lives! Of course, I do cling to the idea that when you are doing the actual first leg, your RK opportunities are limited. For the most part you are limited to those teams that start in the same wave.  Even if you were first to Government Camp, the most you could pass would be about 20. Some on our team passed over 30 in a single leg. I did get two ‘kills’ on Leg #1. I know because I physically passed them. There may have been a couple more behind me from the start, but not more than one or two. On Leg #13, I caught just one and was close to a second. Interestingly, I didn’t get passed by all that many as I think about it. Must have been in one of those natural gaps that form from time to time. Leg #25 provided me three more, so I totalled six; enough to feel I was not a complete anchor for the team!

For those who haven’t done Hood to Coast or another relay, I guess a moment is warranted to say the ‘road kill’ idea is not as awful as it sounds. It is done with good humour and is not really taken seriously. The main rule is that you get to count anyone you pass. If you are having a see-saw battle with someone, you only count once. Best of all, it is not a ‘net’ count. Nobody subtracts the number of times they got passed from the passes they made. I won’t say there isn’t a little competitiveness between team vans though! For instance, the driver of our Van #2 was pretty sure their 120 (“maybe even 130″) RK count was exceptional. That was until I pointed out that Van #1 had 195. I must admit that I might have let him go on for a bit before revealing our count. It seemed like the thing to do at the time.

Checking the results!

Checking the results!

A few years back we had a road kill situation that was pretty humorous. Unfortunately, one of our members arrived at Mount Hood with a full on case of pneumonia. I had been clever (and lucky) enough to recruit drivers that year, including one who was a good runner and ready to sub in at the last minute should there be a need. Well, there was a need, for sure. We did it all legal like, but of course our start time had been long settled on the projected time of the original team. The new guy was a really good runner and the sick chap was not (as good). The whole team was pretty exceptional other than yours truly. Road Kills were pushing up into the 6-700 range for the two vans together and there was a lot of internal competition. Anyway, our final runner, who was the aforementioned sub hit the beach snorting and snarling that he had been cheated or something because try as he might, he had not found a single RK. We had to point out that there was a reason. We were the third team on the beach that day. There wasn’t anybody to be passed! We thought we might just have been fast enough to have won an award, but it turned out we had just missed. Made for a fun afternoon as we drank beer and watched the results.

Starting H2C 2010

Starting H2C 2010

We had a rather early start time in 2016. It created a bit of personal stress as it meant less time to get organized and up to the start. We had plenty of time and what not, but van decorating is part of the fun and something we’d always done before heading for the mountain. I can never fully relax until that first runner has the bib on and slap band in place. Usually, the first runner is me and I tend to fully relax about the time the teams are being called to the start and introduced. From that point, it is what it is. Let the games begin!

We had our share of stories, but most of them are of the ‘inside baseball’ variety, so best saved for a team after-party. There are often celebrities and this year one of the big names was comedian Kevin Hart. Everyone was asking ‘have you seen him?’ and hoping for a sighting or to run a leg with him. Personally, my big thrill was at the Leg 29/30 exchange. We were manoeuvering the van when I looked over at the row of Honey-Buckets and saw this guy come out who was the spitting image of Ashton Eaton. Then I saw a volunteer shake his hand and congratulate him. I rolled down the window as we got near the volunteer. I asked, “Is that who I think it is?” Yes it is, was the answer. I saw him again shortly after (I was still jockeying the van) and almost rolled down the window to ask if he’d brought ‘the wife’ along. Of course, I’m Canadian, so I didn’t. Had I read some of the publicity stuff I guess I would have known that Eaton (Olympic Gold Medal – Decathlon) and Brianne Thiesen-Eaton (Olympic Bronze Medal – Heptathlon) were both running. You would have thought that little adventure a couple of weeks back in Rio would have been enough to hold them for a little while!

My social media reporting of the adventure seemed to have impressed That Runnin’ Guy, Chris Morales, my good friend of Reggae Marathon fame. He did a whole blog post on our adventure. I think he is bucking to join the next team!


Carbing in Kelso. Canucks to the Coast 2013.

I count less, how well my teams finish, even though that is the easiest thing to keep track of, than I count how well we do together. By that I mean how the people get along and whether or not it is an overall good experience. No team ever makes it through without some tension or stress, but how everyone handles it is the big thing. If you can’t manage the pressure of the dynamic of this event, you will not come away saying it was a great experience. I really want to say to all the members of Canucks to the Coast 2016, this may have been the best of my nine Hood to Coast teams. Well done all!

Oh, and because it is the easiest thing to keep track of, at last reporting Canucks to the Coast finished 442/1050 and 26/107 in Mixed Sub-Masters. Had the driver (that would be me, at the time) not got a little lost on the way to the 24/25 Exchange we would have been about 30 minutes faster and a few notches up both results charts. Sorry guys! No prizes for us either way, but a good solid showing.

As I was running my last leg and my personal legs were shouting obscenities at my brain, I was wondering if, at the age of 71 it was time to make this my last Hood to Coast. I mean, if you can’t crush the Leg #1 combo, what else is there? Today my legs are feeling pretty good and I may even try a run in a little while. And, what the hey, I did have SIX road kills!  And, who quits at NINE when TEN is just one more away? Oh what the heck, anybody want to run H2C 2017????


Chris Morales at the Reggae Marathon Finish

That Runnin Guy – Reggae Marathon Finish 2009

This piece was inspired by my friend Chris Morales, aka ThatRunnin’ Guy, aka Sugar “Tuff Gong” Bong (the official blogger for one of my very favourite races, the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K in Negril, JA. In case, you are wondering, that strange name is his Reggae Name. Mine is Doctor One Drop Dread.  Never mind. It doesn’t matter!

It is kind of funny how one little comment can trigger an idea. In response to an exchange we were having on the “Personal Message” feature of Facebook, Chris said something like: “Boy, you really are a planner!” DING!!!!  That was all it took to inspire what follows. Mostly, it is about me and my perspective on things, but as usual it also goes farther.

Bob's Border Busters - Hood to Coast (1987)

Bob’s Border Busters – Hood to Coast (1987)

Somewhere after that comment and a detailed discussion on my part of how much you need to plan if you want to put a team into the Hood to Coast Relay (another favourite event), I may have mentioned that at my age, the planning is starting to almost be more fun than the running. Where it comes to Hood to Coast, many of my team members keep thanking me for all the work I do as team captain. That is much appreciated, but the truth is I love the detail and intricacies of putting the team together and getting the right people on the right legs while planning all the logistics before, during and after. Oh, there was a time when I could consider myself a strong contributor to the actual running effort, but that was a while back now. This August will be my NINTH Hood to Coast. Could have been a much larger number, but it is no longer easy to get in, and just as an example, this entry was a ‘third time lucky’ success. Of the nine teams, I guess I have been the outright captain of five and co-captain of one other. It is no secret to veteran Hood to Coasters that planning is the key to success, whether success is defined by having a really good race or just having a whole lot of fun.

Anyway, that is how this whole thing started. It reminded me of all the different things that can be involved with regard to ‘running’.

Running the forest trails. Early morning. Friends. Just running.

Running the forest trails. Early morning. Friends. Just running.

Facet #1: Running is running. Running is good. So, right there is the first ‘facet’ from the title. I guess if you don’t enjoy running you just aren’t likely to get much into anything else that follows. I know people who started running, but have never raced and I know people who have gone from being active, even elite, competitors who no longer race, but just run for the shear joy and pleasure of it.

Facet #2: Running is NOT necessarily racing. As hard as that is to believe, it is nonetheless true! There is no doubt it is a short leap from just running for fun and health and whatever, to trying out that first race, which may also be ‘just for fun’. Nothing wrong with it stopping there, or not even getting that far. Just do it because it feels good and is good for you.

Facet #3: Racing is challenging and fun. The first point is certainly true, but if the second is not, then it may be best to revert to ‘Facet #2′. The challenges of racing are many and varied. You can run to win outright, or your age group or just to beat your former self, and so many other things too. Like so many other things of this nature, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. At my age, I kind of feel like I’m winning just be being out there. Sometimes I win my age group now, but sometimes that amounts to be ‘first out of one’, and that is when I invoke the idea that being out there is winning!

Double Agent two-fer on Maniacs/Fanatics group membership. (Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

Double Agent two-fer on Maniacs/Fanatics group membership.
(Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

Facet #4: Running is a social activity. This is true on so many levels from having one or two running partners/buddies to being a member of an organized local club, or a member of a more ‘virtual community’ such as Marathon Maniacs or Half Fanatics. The latter are real things with real people and those people self identify and congregate at races, but seldom do we members really know one-another, other than through social media exchanges or club news letters. Most Maniacs and Fanatics do know a few of the other members, in some cases quite well, but largely with both groups hitting just around 14,000 members, the association is more notional in nature. It is no less fun though.

I’ve also talked a good many times of the family running exploits involving me, my wife, the three kids and now our grandson. The Hood to Coast and other relay groups I’ve been part of may be about racing but are also social, top to bottom.

Facet #5: Racing can be enlightening. I started out thinking about how I (and many others) travel to run/race. But then I realized that in seeing different people and places, not to mention perspectives, you achieve one kind of enlightenment. However, the various achievements, from just learning you can do it through pushing yourself to performances you would never have imagined, running can open the mind and personal perspectives of almost everyone. The examples are almost limitless because this aspect is very personal.

Terry Fox - 'Mile Zero' at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

Terry Fox – ‘Mile Zero’ at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

Facet #6: Racing can benefit others. Yep, those charity runs do some amazing things. Sometimes it will be a personal pledge/challenge to raise a certain amount for a particular cause (as related to your actual entry such as for events like the Boston Marathon) or sometimes just supporting a particular event because it contributes to something worthy and special (Terry Fox Runs). Some people just dedicate their effort to supporting a friend’s struggle (no money involved).

Facet #7: Runners  support running/racing. By this, I mean that even though we may run for our own fun and challenges, we can also volunteer to serve and support others. The Running in the Zone book was divided not into chapters, but rather ‘zones’. One of those was “The Contribution Zone“. Whether you ‘just’ help at packet pick-up or at a water station or take on being race director for an event, those things enable everyone else to do what they do. Some other examples include officiating or becoming certified course measurers. There is so much that underlies our racing and there are people who must do those things. They don’t just happen. We can all take our turn at being a volunteer in some capacity. It is rewarding and sure gives perspective for when we race ourselves.

While my own Hood to Coast organizing activities are ultimately about the running, the administrative planning and organization probably fall here. I mean, that being the inspiration for this whole post, it had to come into the discussion somewhere!

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer - Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer – Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Facet #8: Running produces heroes! Of course it does. Pre, Mo, Meb. Bet I don’t need to expand on those three names for runners who follow this blog. It goes beyond the performances of people like Paula Radcliffe and Usain Bolt who thrill us with feats almost beyond our imagining. We also have the people like Kathrine Switzer who work over decades to advance things like the place of women in running. It was really not THAT long ago that women were highly restricted in what they could run. Although Kathrine was the most notorious woman to break the Boston Marathon barrier, she really wasn’t the first, but she was the one who took it to a different level. The first women’s Olympic Marathon was run only 32 years ago (1984), and that took a lot of activism from none other than our Kathrine Switzer. While Roger Robinson was a terrific runner in his own right winning many masters marathon titles and setting records, some of which still exist, he and Russell (his bionic knee) are setting new standards of running excellence because, for Roger and many others, running is just that important!

Team Joshua in action!

Team Joshua in action!

But, there are other heroic figures in running. Some get a bit of news, but many just truck along doing what they do, but boy do they do it. A local team of heroic racers is embodied in Team Joshua. Josh has a complex affliction that severely limits him but his mother Michelle realized some years ago that he was very happy when she would run with him in a jogger. As he got older, the jogger had to get bigger and she had to get stronger, because as a teen, Josh is no lightweight, but they press on, setting targets and achieving them. What about the people like Ed Whitlock or BJ McHugh that push those upper levels of seniors running? They aren’t just amazing because they are still running, but rather because they excel.

I could go on, but the point of talking about these heroes in our sport is not their specific achievements but rather the inspiration they bring to all of us.

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh at the First Half Half Marathon

BJ (Betty Jean) McHugh at the First Half Half Marathon

Facet #9: Running is for life. Well, for as much of life as you want it to be, barring personal standards and good health. Running is whatever you consider it to be. I enjoy running as such, but still like to compete. Compete? With who? Well, at this point, mostly myself. Long ago, my raw times started falling off, never to be seen again. That was when I embraced age grading! My competitive challenge is to try to maintain my standard of performance as given under the age-graded outcomes. I used to look at the adjusted times (and still do), but have almost moved over more to the % Performance statistic. Of course, any given race can be impacted by a wide range of factors, but I usually compare my annual PBs against previous years and maybe more significantly have started doing 5-year PB stats, simply because in any given year I may only run one race of a certain distance and that may be a fabulous result or could be marred by weather, a hard course, or who knows what else.

Facet #10: Friends. Oh sure, there are lots of ways to make friends that have nothing to do with running and not every runner you will ever meet is going to be your friend. That said there are a bunch of interesting things about ‘running friends’. On a very superficial level, the common interest or bond of running means people will start talking as if they’ve known each other for years. Running is maybe some kind of unspoken introduction made by a good and trusted friend. “Well, if Running likes you, you must be OK!”

Me with Carey Nelson (2X Olympian) Ellie Greenwood (2X World 100K Champ, Comrades winner and Western States winner X2) (photo: P Cheung)

Me with Carey Nelson (2X Olympian) Ellie Greenwood (2X World 100K Champ, Comrades winner and Western States winner X2) (photo: P Cheung)

Another facet is the wide range of people you can meet. I have to be careful here because everyone will be different, but because I have involved myself at a number of levels of running from actually doing it, to organizing it (race director stuff and all that) to writing about it and even doing announcing, I have met a lot of people that range from the famous to just regular folk (where I classify myself). Because I like to combine travel with my running, I have also had a chance to meet people from all over the world, most of them just like me. I have been privileged to know Olympians, at least partly through editing Running in the Zone, but also because of the running communities of which I am a part and some of the people I know, who know people, etc. I’m not saying every one of these people I’ve met have become friends, but some have.

There are so many people I could talk about, but I could probably write a whole blog about each one, so that isn’t going to work too well. I guess what I will do, which may illustrate several parts of this ‘running friends’ idea, is to talk about the same guy I opened this post with, Chris Morales. Now, it is only partly about Chris and me as friends because there are two others that must come into this story. Actually, there are probably several, but it kind of started with us four.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin' Guy second from the right.

Four Amigos after RM2015 showing 22 total races (fingers up) with That Runnin’ Guy second from the right.

We met through the Reggae Marathon. Actually, as the blogger, Chris had been reaching out to various people through the event blog and one way or another the three others of us, were drawn in by Chris. I had quite an interaction going long before I ever set foot on the white sand beaches of Negril (which, by the way, was where Chris and I actually met face to face). The other two are Larry Savitch and Navin Sadarangani. The first time we all actually met was at the 2010 running of the Reggae Marathon. Since then, we meet up each year in early December in Negril for a run in the sun not to mention a little fun. OK, a lot of fun. There have been a number of Reggae Runners Half Marathon Challenges. The first happened because Chris, Larry and I were all running a half marathon on the exact same day: in New Jersey, Toronto and Vancouver. We set up a bunch of rules (OK, I set the rules) and Chris even got a friend to make us handcrafted medals, and from a major Reggae Marathon sponsor, a first prize of a pair of PUMA running shoes to the winner. Every year in Negril we continue the racing challenge but have added several more regular participants. We all run whatever distance of the three on offer, then everyone gets age graded and adjusted to the common distance of the half marathon. It is all for fun, but boy does it produce some trash-talk on social media when we can’t be there to do it face to face. Funny enough, I just realized, there is relatively little trash-talk when we ARE face to face! For several years now the Four Amigos have a goup photo taken, each of us holding up the number of fingers representing the times we have run the Reggae Marathon. When we gather in Negril on December 3, 2016 we will be collectively showing 26 fingers.

I said that you meet people from all over. This group is quite the package. Chris is Canadian and from Toronto, but he was born in and only left Jamaica in his mid-teens. Of course, I too am Canadian but from the West Coast while Navin is of Indian heritage, he also lives in Canada (at present, being a true citizen of the world). Larry is from the East Coast and American (lives in New York State). We are of a wide range of ethinic, religious and racial heritage and that one thing of running drew us together so we could become friends. Running no longer keeps us together, even if it creates some opportunities for us to see each other. Nope, in this instance running was just the catalyst for something a lot deeper and more meaningful.

So there you have it. I didn’t set out to make it 10 points, but that did seem to work out both naturally and quite well. It also feels quite appropriate to finish on the matter of friends we make. There may well come a day, and in my case it could be sooner than later, when we aren’t really able to run. However, I doubt very much that when the running ends, the friendships made, will end with it.  I doubt it very much!


  Sandcastle City Classic 5K

Sandcastle City Classic 5K

This might be a form of ‘true confessions’. Stay tuned for the juicy stuff!

Giant's Head 5.4K

Giant’s Head 5.4K

The two races are both 5K’ish and on the same weekend and about 400km apart. One happens Saturday at 6:00pm and the other, Sunday at 8:30am. Can’t do both. That is the true confession. I’m on the organizing committee for the Sandcastle City Classic 5K, being held in White Rock on June 5th. As I’ve already shared here, while the Sandcastle race isn’t new, the 5K distance is and should make this a great event from so many different perspectives. But! I won’t be running it myself and won’t even be there. Full disclosure to all the running friends I’ve been promoting to go give this new distance a try.

No, I will be in Summerland, up there in the Okanagan, where we lived for so many years and where I started running. I will be running the Giant’s Head 5.4K on Saturday night, June 4th, with my grandson Charlie. The Giants Head Run (GHR for short) is the race that is 5K’ish in length. I actually don’t know the story of how it got to be 5.4K. While memories are a bit hazy, I think it may have been the very first race I ran as an adult runner (I ran in school). There was a 5K and a 10K, but nobody had Garmins or other gps devices and likely someone drove the route with a car and determined it was about a 5K. By my hazy recollection, I don’t think the route has changed. It has always been more about the fun than serious competition, so who really cares, right? I guess in later years they realized it was actually 5.4K, measured it and made the distance clear. It actually isn’t an easy course, so adding a 400m bonus would tend to leave someone like me wondering how you could be so slow! Well, now we know, and I also know that I, for one, feel better for it.

Post Race Awards and Prize Giving at West Beach

Post Race Awards and Prize Giving at West Beach

The main reason there is no question in my mind that Summerland and the GHR is where I need to be is that family running has always been important to me. More on that in a minute. BUT, for all you Lower Mainland folks, I highly recommend the ALL NEW SANDCASTLE CITY CLASSIC 5K. I did use the Lower Mainland designation because the Sandcastle 5K is a part of the Lower Mainland Road Race Series (LMRRS) and is Race #6. This is a popular series and we are confident that the move from the long-standing Sandcastle Classic 10K format is going to make this race one of the more popular ‘fixtures’ in the schedule. The course is right along the beach-front and if the weather cooperates, the ‘out’ leg should provide some amazing views of Mount Baker and the water.

Mount Baker over White Rock Beach

Mount Baker over White Rock Beach

You will be running right past the great restaurants on the Marine Drive strip and even though the Semiahmoo Sunrunners and Walkers will be putting on a great post-race spread, you may want to hang around for your own brunch/lunch sampling of those restaurants, or just to explore the promenade and the beach itself. As long as you leave before noon (or at least pay up) the parking will be free near the race start/finish at the far end of West Beach. As long as the weather is dry, you are even going to have live music (apparently, the band isn’t thrilled to be hooked up to amps and things when it is raining). Come on out and enjoy the fun. At 5K, it also fits as a fun/family race and if you keep a brisk walking pace you can probably finish before the permitted race time. So, competitive runners can bring along the younger ones or walkers who can also join in the fun. All of which makes a nice lead for the following.

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

Now then, what is this family running thing? Well, as noted, I started running while we lived in Summerland. It is how/where I met Steve King. We ran in the same club in those days and were on some relay teams together. That was the time when both our daughters began running and we did a few of those local races together. For a brief while, wife Judi ran a few races too, although later she has taken to really long distance walking like the Camino, and from time to time up to a half marathon when the events allow enough time for power walkers to complete the race. While our son was a bit young for running the main races, he did start with events like “Man of Steel” in Summerland (kids triathlon), a part of the same Summerland Action Festival that offers the Giant’s Head Runs.

Half Dad's Age Half Marathon Challenge

Half Dad’s Age Half Marathon Challenge L-R: Danielle, Dan, Janna, Cam

By accident, I ran the Ottawa Race Weekend half marathon with our oldest, Danielle. The accident part was that it was her birthday, which drew my attention to the fact that I had run a half marathon with her when she was half my age. I was 56 and she was 28. From then on I was on a mission to run a half with each kid when she/he was half my age. It took another 10 years to complete our project, when I was 66 and our third child and first-born son was 33. That was pretty tough for him. Although we did run some races together during our sojourn in Brussels, Belgium, Cam has only run shorter races and never really caught the racing bug like his sisters. He was very brave to prepare for and make it through that half marathon with me!

Danielle and Janna and I have run a whole bunch of races together, particularly the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon races, Vancouver Marathon races and then a few odd ones like Ottawa (Danielle) and a race in Manitoba (Janna) a couple of years back. Although a wee bit less frequent, I’ve also run in events with both of our sons-in-law. So, you can surely see how this family runs together.

Last year, it was a total thrill for me to be able to run my first race with Danielle’s (and Greg’s) son, and our grandson, Charlie. I wrote about it, and if you want to recall what it was all about, you can just check it out HERE. Now, we are about to run our ‘second annual’ GHR. I think I am only slightly less excited than I was the first time! As much as anything, it is that Charlie actually wants to run with ME! He will be 10 in July.

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

Charlie celebrates running into new territory (distance)!

Here is another true confession. I want to run with him this one more time when the old guy is still likely to be more or less evenly matched! Last year, I paced myself to run with Charlie. This year, I’m thinking we may be fairly even with nobody adjusting to the other guy. By next year, if we run together, I’m thinking HE will be waiting for me. Well, that is fine. It is the nature of such things. We are both getting older. In his case it is an advantage. In my case, not so much! He is getting faster and I am getting slower, but this is where I go to my fall-back – ‘at least I’m still doing it’.

We are hoping for another big family running get-together in October in Victoria when both the girls and their families will be there, and Cam has to be there, ’cause he lives there. There is another grandson now, Jonah, but he is pretty young, so I’m not sure about ever running with him. We thought maybe a jogging stroller was the answer, but at least for this race, Victoria has a no stroller policy, so it won’t be this time. We are still sorting out who intends to run and what distance. I know Danielle is signed up for the Half and Charlie and I are signed up for the 8K, his next move up in distance. “Uncle Cam” says he is game for the 8K but he hasn’t registered…… yet. We have quite a few marathons among us, something in the neighbourhood of 35 in total, but I don’t think anyone is aiming for a full marathon this time. I guess we will spread ourselves around between the Half and 8K. It should be fun, and boy will there be a LOT of finisher medal bling and race shirts!! Charlie will get to do his first Victoria Marathon Weekend post-race brunch — as a competitor!

So, sorry Sandcastle Team. Hope you understand. I’m trying to do my bit pre-race. I’ll be thinking of you, but my heart (and the rest of me) will be in Summerland, at the Giant’s Head Run!



Preview of things to come! The gates of Hayward Field.

One of these is no surprise, considering this was my fifth time running it out of the 10 times it has been held. The other maybe shouldn’t have been a surprise since I’ve run a ‘sister’ race (‘brother’? – do races come in genders?) by the same organizer.

First up was the Eugene Half Marathon on May 1. It more than lived up to its reputation and my expectations. Probably met or exceeded expectations for several other Forerunners folk with four BQ’s out of six entrants in the full marathon! Yep, it is that kind of course.


Blogger and wife at Pre’s Rock. Still a moving experience.

Being a Race Ambassador (yes, I was, but then you knew that) I got to Eugene early and did a couple of Ambassadorial stints at the Expo. But, before the first session my wife Judi and I made the almost obligatory pilgrimage to Pre’s Rock, and then walked the other side of the Willamette River where you can follow what they call “Pre’s Trail”. This was apparently an area he ran for longer training runs.


Pre’s Trail meanders through much of the last 3 miles of the Eugene Half.

Before the racing even began (Saturday morning to be precise) I had a chance for a quiet coffee with Running in the Zone contributor and running writer extraordinaire, Joe Henderson. We covered more topics in an hour than you would ever imagine. Some of those topics may turn into later posts. For now, I just want to say it was great to be able to touch base. We met up again at the finish, where Joe was awaiting the arrival of the members of “Joe’s Team”. He even had a photographer there, one Mike Lebowitz, who just happens to have lived in and around Vancouver for something like 30 years. The picture here, is his work!


Joe Henderson greeted this old blogger/slogger at the finish. (Photo: Mike Lebowitz)

Well, that kind of skipped over the whole race thing, so I suppose I better step back a little and cover that. Since I don’t do ‘in competition’ photography, I snapped a picture of the fabled gates to Hayward Field while on my way to the Expo on Friday. Just seeing those gates gave me a few chills and excitement for what was to come. Sunday morning dawned bright and cool, perfect conditions for running. A kindly ‘random stranger’ snapped a photo of Judi and me pre-race. It is wonderful to have a personal support team!

Almost ready. And, toasty warm.

Almost ready. And, toasty warm.

Soon enough we were off and since the full and half use the same course up to about 10 miles and a bit, and have done so as long as I’ve been running this race, there were no particular surprises. I tried to get into the pace I wanted and then just let myself enjoy the morning, the place where I was and what I was doing. It didn’t seem like a really long time before we were passing by Hayward Field again (just around 9 miles). Excellent.

Now, nobody really needs to know that getting older means I have a lot of trouble getting all the way through a long race without a ‘comfort stop’, but that is how it often is and was this time. The main reason for mentioning it is that even that worked out well. Once I knew I just wasn’t going to be able to press on to the finish, the next set of Porto-Potties was a ‘no waiting’ set and I was able to run right into the first one in line. I am totally OK with the time cost of this necessity, but I really HATE having to wait the extra time for others in the same situation. That always hurts. So, a minimal time was required before I was on my way again.


Near 10 Miles. The Beginning of the End!

Between 9 and 10 miles there is a slightly challenging bit of running which is probably only challenging because it IS between 9 and 10 miles (15-16km). At 10 miles the route leaves the road and goes onto walking/biking paths and heads down toward the Willamette and the bridge across, where once on the other side, the marathoners go one way and the half marathoners go the other and really start the drive for home, with something less than 3 miles or 5K remaining.

Ran the race. Got the T-Shirt. Got the Medal!

Ran the race. Got the T-Shirt. Got the Medal!

All that said, it started to get ‘demanding’ shall we say. In reviewing my Garmin stats, it looks like I did pretty well up to around 14km before my pace started to drop off. Nothing drastic, but what up to that point had been around what I wanted, what followed got markedly slower. Still, I finished a race I love and nothing beats the feel of heading down the straight-away of Hayward Field, past cheering fans (fans of running, because with just one exception, none of them knew me). Then it was done. On to the post-race and some hard-earned refreshment. No lingering allowed though, as we had to push on to the next race in Las Vegas, NV.

In truth, the hurry was to get a shower before leaving and then get away early enough for an easy drive to our overnight location in Northern California.


Gratuitous tourism photo of the Grand Canyon (South Rim), AZ.

Monday, we drove the rest of the way to arrive at our destination and ‘home’ for the week to come. We pretty much did the tourist thing for the next several days, including a trip to see the Grand Canyon. First time for both of us. Words hardly describe it, as anyone who has visited will know. As a runner, I couldn’t help thinking about a few crazy friends (you know who you are) that think what you should do at a place like this is run – a little adventure known as Rim to Rim to Rim. Uh-huh, run down and across the river and up and down and back up. I couldn’t believe it as I gazed down into that huge chasm. Maybe there needs to be a post on this and other crazy undertakings like the Badwater 135!


Package pick-up for Revel Mt. Charleston Half Marathon. Wearing my Eugene Marathon volunteer shirt!

The weather was great, but for the weekend they were calling for much cooler temps and maybe a shower or two. The race to be run was the Revel Mount Charleston Marathon (and Half). It is the fourth and newest race in the Revel Series. If you don’t know about Revel races, they all have one major characteristic – down-ness, a LOT of down-ness. This one drops about 5,000ft over the full marathon distance and is a fairly smooth profile with just a couple of bumps that may almost be a relief. The half is slightly less steep than the upper part of the full marathon, but still nicely down.

Friday, we headed for the Expo, ready for the Saturday race. Early start! Because there is seldom room where these races start, you go to the Finish and get a bus to the starting area. Because of the logistics it requires an early arrival at the Finish area to catch your bus. Because Vegas can be pretty hot, the start was scheduled for 6:30am. You do the math. It was an early wake-up!

Nicely started! (Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

Nicely started!
(Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

I’m told there were a few flakes of snow at the top of the marathon course, nothing sticking, just floating down. Well, they were at something like 7600 ft. We half marathoners were much lower down, but even still were over 4500 ft. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t quite as cold as we thought it might be. By the start, when we had to strip down to what we planned to wear for racing, I felt OK in shorts, singlet and arm warmers. Once we got going it was near perfect.

So, I’m not going to describe every step, even if this was a brand new race. The grade was smooth and almost totally down, at least through the first half of the route. After that it flattened a bit and there were a couple of very modest up-grades. The only ‘hill’ was the rise over a major highway we had to cross, then it  was down again to the finish. By the time I finished it was sunny and getting warm.

Double Agent rockin' the Finish!  (Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

Double Agent rockin’ the Finish!
(Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

As I approached the finish line, I could see the numbers on the clock and knew I was going to finish in a very satisfying time that would prove to be the best I’d done in about two years. With age grading it might even be a bit longer than that.

Revel does good 'bling'! Slept with my gold medal the first night.

Revel does good ‘bling’! Slept with my gold medal the first night.

What I didn’t know was that I was finishing FIRST in my age group. I thought I had spotted a ‘competitor’ early in the race and he left me behind. Obviously, he wasn’t. When I went to get my official result I learned the fabulous news and was sent immediately to collect my gold medal. Revel does a great job of race bling and the inaugural medal and shirt certainly lived up to their normal standard and maybe then some (Big Cottonwood Marathon, in Utah, is a race I’ve run twice, so I have some familiarity with Revel races).

I have been having great sport noting that since this was the first running of the event, coming first also makes me the age-group record holder. That’s right! I HOLD A RECORD! I anticipate it will last about 365 days, but for now, I’m the man. Love it.

I had knocked some 14 minutes off my Eugene time, which was kind of in line with other recent half marathon times. So, my 2:17:23 had me feeling pretty good. Oh, and since you ask, there was another comfort stop of just over a minute, so run time was that much better and while the official time doesn’t change by a second (nor should it), on a personal satisfaction level, this race was fabulous for me.

On the Vegas Strip. Jersey Boys, playing at Paris.

On the Vegas Strip. Jersey Boys, playing at Paris.

We celebrated the race, by going to bed early! (Well, I did anyway. Hey! I was up at 3:00am!) We did manage to take in a couple of shows while in Vegas, one being “Menopause” and the second, on Sunday was “Jersey Boys”. Oh, and since Sunday was also Mother’s Day, we had a really nice late lunch/early dinner before the show.

Monday, it was back on the road and two and a half days later, we arrived home after a very successful vacation and running road trip.

For the runners reading this, I highly recommend both of these races if you haven’t done them.