Archive for September, 2012



When Steve King and I began working on Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes, we considered a number of potential titles including “Running on the Shady Side of 50“.  After recruiting potential contributors and considering some of the commentary, we realized that the older, “seasoned’ athlete will tend to self-identify and some would see themselves as seasoned at 40 and others, much later.  Thus, we finally came to the title we chose.

Fauja Singh - Mayor's 5K Sept 2012

Today, and interestingly enough Steve King was even involved in his well-known role as race announcer, I found myself running in a ZONE quite unimagined!  I guess it could be called the “Century Zone“. I was privileged to join in the entourage or posse of Mr. Fauja Singh (aka the ‘Turbaned Tornado’).  The local press has been full of him and his story, as has been the running media.  I won’t spend a lot of time recounting that he is well over 100 years of age, or that he has done some amazing things and holds all kinds of World Records. For this post, I just want to make a few remarks about the experience today, and the impact of this man in our midst.

From the time it was announced he would run the Mayor’s 5K at the Surrey International World Music Marathon, much has been made of it in the media. A number of people from the running community were asked to run with Fauja Singh Chindsa and I was so very happy to be one of them. We did have a bit of a practical purpose, namely to assist with making a bit of a buffer around him and ensure there were no unfortunate accidents.  That turned out to be pretty easy work and perhaps unnecessary.  Well, except that from time to time we had to gently warn slower competitors, yes – I said slower – to take care of the rather large group coming up from behind them.

To be in the presence of someone so revered in his community was very special.  It may be the closest I ever get to running with a Rock Star!  Signs were everywhere and at pretty much every major intersection there were crowds of people cheering him on.  Fauja Singh does not really speak English, but as we ran he chatted with what I learned were largely family members; “grand-children’ I was told, but I’m betting on at least Great-Grandchildren myself. You could tell how much they respected him just by the tone, but also that he was very witty.  He would often say something that would be met with considerable laughter.

I doubt I’ve ever had my picture taken so many times!  It was a great choice of the Surrey ogranizing committee to make the invitation and I’m thrilled that Marty Wanless of Allsport Marketing Services saw fit to include me in the event. The day could not have been much better. The sun was bright and by the time we started at 9:30am, warm, but not hot. I think some of the other runners would have been thrilled to have joined in, at least in the cheering at the start, but both half and full marathoners had long since left the area. In fact, some of the half marathoners had begun to finish.

I will be honest that I really didn’t know what to expect, other than it was going to be fun and very special joining a centennarian on a run.  I had heard that a time of 40-41:00 might be expected.  While that wasn’t going to be the winning time, it would still require running and not total walking. For the record, we were a good five minutes faster. We never walked at any point and on the easier downhill sections, the pace of running was commendable!  Recall, I mentioned that we gently alerted other participants of the large group accompanying Fauja Singh as we passed. In the end his time was 35:55 and he finished first in his age category.  OK, I made the last part up.  There is no Over 100 category in this race, or any other I have EVER done.  He did finish 200, out of a total of 356.  It hardly matters, though I just want to make the point that at 100+, this man runs.  The awe created by him being out there, looking very spry and healthy and inpsiring so many others to “the possible’, is what really counts.  As I said to one of his family, a man who was maybe in his 30’s or 40’s, “I guess as I find myself tiring, even hurting, in my next marathon, I can think of Fauja Singh and just dig down because at my tender age, ‘seasoned’ as it may be, I’ll have little to complain about, or expect sympathy either”.  I have others I call upon when I need inspiration.  More than once Terry Fox (his statue at Mile Zero in Victoria) has spurred me to the finish, as I know it will in the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon this coming weekend, but now I can also call on the inspiration of Fauja Singh – and I know I will.

I don’t want to sound silly or sappy about this or some kind of groupy, but I do love being around excellence of all kinds. I was in the presence of excellence today and I think I felt an aura of calmness and strength. I suppose that might have been my own impression, but I don’t think so as I watched both the immediate crowd of us running with him, as well as the spectators. We all want our heroes so maybe we create our own images and legends to that end, and that is fair enough when people like Fauja Singh provide the inspiration.

Some have said he may be 103 now.  If that is so, then I just have to keep going for another 35 years and maybe I can run like this and inspire the folks out there. Oh, and continue running marathons.  This 5K today was just a bit of a training run in preparation for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Fauja Singh is also booked to run Singapore in the near future.  I do know some older and quite remarkable runners right here in our own community, namely the ever amazing BJ McHugh.  It never ceases to amaze the crowds around when they learn her age and of her running capacity and performance.  That said, even BJ has to look forward another 20 years to join Fauja!

It is actually a great thing that so many people continue with what they love, in our case running, regardless of the fact that the  ‘manual’ or best advice says we are too old. Most of us just do it – for our own satisfaction.  I guess that if you keep on long enough and choose your events wisely, you will win something from time to time. I was actually a little shocked (and only a little secretly pleased) to note that had I run the Mayor’s 5K at the same pace I ran the Team Joshua 5K last weekend, I would have won my age category. For about a micro-second  the small shallow innner me considered whether that would have been worth the doing and concluded I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. 

Actually, it is also a nice way to slide into the fact that I encountered Joshua and Michelle, his mom, at the end of the half marathon – both wearing the biggest finisher medals (and smiles) I think I’ve ever seen.  They were both looking pretty proud and pleased and it was great to hear how successful the Fun Run a week earlier had been in getting them closer to the goal of qualifying for Boston.

So, there you have it.  Two amazingly inspiring weekends of running. Here’s hoping the inspiration carries forward to my upcoming half marathon in Victoria!  Now, as I started writing that, I really intended that inspiration to lead to a good time, but even as I wrote I realized what I really meant was that it would be another great experience, whatever that might turn out to be. Just to close off here: my presonal thanks to everyone that made today so special.



There was a time when us runners just ran.  At one time ‘real’ runners were hardcore and approaching what might be consider ‘elite’ at this point in time.  I even remember in my early days hearing people say things like “unless you are doing 8 minute miles you aren’t really running”. On another scale, although I can show you 15 finisher medals from marathons I’ve done, some would have claimed I only actually ran ONE marathon.  Why? Because when I started marathoning it was often said that you only get to say you have run a marathon if you do it in less than FOUR hours.  In fact, back in those days there was actually and often a four hour limit. I think the ONE marathon I did in 1988 actually did have that limit.  By the time I ran my second in 2000, those attitudes had long passed so my plus (not by a lot) four hour time counted.  As an aside, something I find funny, sad and ironic is that my ONE marathon is the only one from which I don’t have a finisher medal. I still have (and dearly love) possibly the worst souvenir shirt I have ever received and a post-card that tells me of my final placing and achievement.  Oh, and uncounted memories and feelings.

All of that said, there was the growing health movement that got people out there moving their feet for health and enjoyment.  Racing wasn’t part of that.  At some point those two groups collided and our sport exploded as a popular thing to do. 

Charity organizations struggle always to find ways to get the attention of donors.  Naturally, you can just ask and hope that on the merit of the cause people will respond – still done and people still do give this way. I do recall participating in “Miles for Millions” events as one of the early versions of the charity run.  Actually, those were mostly walks, although some did run.  The key was getting the pledge ahead of the endeavour and then collecting after the achievement.

At the risk of having others chase me down with a stick because of an inaccuracy, it is my opinion that a young guy named Terry Fox showed us how a run could bring in money.  Of course, his was a solo effort until after his death.  Arising from his effort was the Annual Terry Fox Run/Walk. We just saw the 2012 version (32nd) of the Terry Fox Run(s). Prior to this year’s multi-national event the stats show more than $600,000,000 in funds raised.  I put in all the zeroes as I think we sometimes slide right by a notation like $600M without really taking in what it means.  Every time I participate I find myself wondering if Terry would ever have imagined such an impact and continuing enthusiasm for his vision.  Almost always I come to the conclusion that he just might have. The reason for my belief is that I tend to recall the Running in The Zone contribution of Doug Alward, his good friend and the driver of his van on the Marathon of Hope. Terry Fox was in one way just another young guy, yet he was also something that most of us can never really understand – a technicolor dreamer! Even though his original vision was raising a million dollars, somewhere early in his Marathon of Hope as he saw people making modest donations, and learned that in one Newfoundland community the total worked out to something like $1/person, he changed to wanting just $1 from each and every Canadian. He actually realized that dream before he died. So, I like to believe that in those last days he knew what could be possible. Thus was born a new movement of charity runs.

What is a charity run? It can be 100% pure charity-based and a so-called FUN run/walk.  Sometimes there is an entry fee, but often it is by donation.  Pledging is almost always encouraged from those who can appreciate and want to support what the participants have decided to do. In other instances we have major running events which support recognized charities, either by dedicating a certain part of the registration to the “cause”, or offer a facility for the runner to donate directly in the registration process, or create a pledge page. There are groups like Team in Training that have their own structures for charitable giving/support for participants and then organize their runners to take part in major running events as the personal physical input and dedication.

While this blog is really mostly about running related issues of interest to what we call “Seasoned” athletes, I like to think that giving back is part of what we begin to appreciate as we become seasoned. That said, I generally do not spend a lot of time promoting specific events unless there is some over-riding reason to do so. But, recently I have become aware of some upcoming events that I would like to mention.  One, the last in chronological order, is the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Great Pumpkin Run Walk for the Hospital ER.  Full disclosure on that one, I am aware of it because I am the Technical Race Director. Here are a few events coming up as early as this weekend.

Brad’s Run For Change.!/events/364155873663135/ 

Brad Firth (L) and Benji Chu (R) on the run.

Brad Firth has quite a story. It did not start as a happy one. Only recently has it turned in a better direction and Brad attributes much of that to his involvement with Run For Change. He has been moved to a four part running project to inspire others from Vancouver’s infamous Downtown East Side.  The first segment was an endurance run from Vancouver to Whistler.  The next installment is September 22 when he will run from the Carnegie Centre in downtown Vancouver to Chilliwack.  Then in October, he will continue his quest with his “Back Alley Run” on October 12, followed by another endurance run on October 13.

This is a most inspirational dedication and undertaking.  Check out the whole story at the link given and consider how you might get involved.

On Saturday, September 22, Brad and an intrepid team of supporters did just what they said, starting out from the Carnegie Centre and ran all the way to Chilliwack.  Anyone who followed on Facebook got to see the periodic posting as the day went along.  The photo was taken entering Abbotsford, coming across the Mission Bridge.  Only Brad ran the whole 105km, but there were lots of Run For Change supporters who ran with him to keep him charged up for the challenge. My post here was on pretty short notice, but with the events coming October 12 and 13, none of us has much excuse for not at least thinking about getting in there and taking part!

Team Joshua

What does it mean to be confined for your lifetime to a wheelchair? I have no concept of this of any sort.  In some way it is just IN-conceiveable. But, that is what Joshua is faced with. It turns out though, that just like the rest of us, Joshua loves to run!  Whoa!  What? Joshua loves to ‘run’ with his Mom, Michelle, and having heard her talk about this, you just KNOW she loves running with Joshua.

Post Run Fun at Team Joshua 5K

On Sunday, September 23, at UBC Campus there is a fund raising 5K that will let us join in the vision that sees Michelle and Joshua preparing for the goal that so many of us chase – running the Boston Marathon!  That’s right, Joshua wants to do Boston.  His Mom has already qualified on her own, but apparently it is necessary to qualify as a team. This run and the things that will follow are all about the equipment and training and other costs of the doing and going. For details on how you can participate, check the link. 

For now, I just want to say that I personally took part in this event and it was fabulous to see the families participating and to see both Joshua and Michelle in person.  More than 250 people got out and run the out and back course with none of the ‘race pressure’ we usually feel.  One of the more amazing things was that five independent retailer (Forerunners, Lady Sport, The Runners Den, Run Inn and The Right Shoe) and five prominent running gear suppliers (Adidas, Asics, Mizuno, New Balance and Saucony) collaborated to make it a fun day for everyone. Every participant got a special goody bag, even separated by whether you were a kid or an adult! And some great draw prizes too. And the food? Wow, Mahoney and Sons Public House looked after the post race hungries in fine style! 

Oh, the big object in the photo is a Fire Truck (ladder truck to be precise).  Should have seen those kids having fun with that.  Some even got to sit in the driver’s seat and that siren got sounded more than a couple of times!

Thanks to all!

Walk for Smiles.

I just became aware of another UBC located event that I want to pass on for your consideration.  The Starlight Children’s Foundation 7th Annual Walk for Smiles

This event takes place September 29 at Pacific Spirit Park.  There is an option of 5K or 10K and walking or running. The Foundation (and this event) support children with severe illnesses. If this is something near to your heart, please check out the link and details, then consider taking part in what looks like a good cause and fabulous running/walking event.

Peace Arch Hospital Great Pumpkin Run Walk

The Great Pumpkin Fun Run Walk is still a month off but there are some key deadlines coming up for registration and the chance to get in on some great incentive prizing for early registration!  The event began in 2007 and has grown steadily since then. The identified need for this year is the Hospital ER. As unfortunate as it may be, we can all relate to the importance of the Emergency Room!

This event has grown into a super fun event.  There are prizes for costumes because, as the event name might suggest, it is just before Halloween (October 21). There is entertainment and maybe some celebrity appearances.  The MC is a celebrity – Mark Madryga.  We are hoping as a locally renowned ‘Weatherman” he will be bringing his best version of a fine Fall Day, just like he did last year. Walk or run or do a bit of both, but come have fun.  Entry is by donation ($25 suggested minimum) but there are also prizes for those raising various funding amounts.  Details are at the link above.  We have a 1K option that pretty much gives anyone the opportunity to participate and special events for the kids.  This is a family event, so bring the family and enjoy!



Running in the Zone (the book) divided itself into “Zones” instead of chapters. One of these is “The Contribution Zone”. Running has many aspects from out and out elite competition, to health and wellness activity where no form of racing or performance is involved. Somewhere in that broad expanse is the fun run aimed at promoting something or raising funds for a worthy cause. The National Bank Financial Great Pumpkin 5K – 1K Fun Run/Walk is one such event. How do I know this? I know because it is my privilege to be the Race Director of this event, which will be taking place October 21, 2012 with a start and finish at the Peace Arch Hospital just off 16th Ave in beautiful White Rock, BC.

This is neither my first fun run event as Race Director, nor my first event with a specific fund raising goal, in this case support of the PAH Emergency Department. However, my greatest experience comes as RD of competitive events, which while they may raise significant funds for one or more worthy causes, are primarily races for runners, who regardless of relative ability want to challenge a goal or result, even if it just their own previous personal performance. The only reason to talk about myself in this context is to say that sometimes we runners get rather caught up in the fun and challenge of competitive races and forget there can be other reasons to run, and achievements to be achieved.

The beauty of a charity based fun run is that it not only raises vitally needed finances for the ‘cause’, in this case the ER at Peace Arch Hospital, but it also promotes a healthy activity that just might keep a person out of the ER!

The National Bank Financial Great Pumpkin Run Walk has been growing steadily since it began in 2007 and exceeded 750 participants in 2011. We are looking for even bigger and better things for 2012. The event itself is geared to be fun for the whole family, and coming just a week before Halloween, everyone is encouraged to come in costume and enjoy the Fairgrounds and everything that will be happening there, under the able hand of Mark Madryga, MC.

Registration is by donation. All participants are encouraged to make a donation in lieu of a registration fee. 100% of that donation goes to the project and stays in the community.   Suggested donation is $25 and tax receipts will be issued.  Every participant is strongly encouraged to seek the financial support of family and friends through pledging.  Once a participant registers, there will be an easy to manage facility to let supporters get on ‘your team’. And speaking of teams, that is another option – form your own team and follow your own theme while setting challenges in the fund-raising arena.

Of course, we will be doing all the usual local community advertising and promotion for such an event.  However, I am writing on the Running in the Zone Blog with the hope of reaching the more competitive running community and reminding our friends that taking part in this event is a way to both have some real fun with your running and to give back.  We all roam about the region looking for races and there are several in the White Rock/South Surrey area that happen in the Peace Arch Hospital catchment region. While we never expect to need a hospital, none of us ever knows when that can happen. And, if it does, the ER will be that first point of contact!

Runners, in my experience, are fun folk, but serious runners of all abilities usually aren’t into getting costumed up while trying for a new PB!  Here’s your chance to get a little silly for a good cause and have some fun!  There will be a clock, but no real timing of the sort we are used to in competitive runs. The courses will be well marked and marshalled for safety, but otherwise it is a matter of having a good time and doing good all at once. Through the generosity of supporters and sponsors there will be random prizing and for those ready to do some serious fund-raising, there will be incentive gifts to sweeten the deal!

There will be more on this event as the date of the National Bank Financial Great Pumpkin Run Walk draws near but right now, why not go to the Registration Page and get started. You know you want to!  You’ll be glad you did!  I promise.



Another one done! (Photo: Betty Neels)

That seemed like a suitable title under which to sum up a busy few months of running and organizing. Several events made for great experiences, both as a runner and race director. Interestingly, they all came in rapid succession over just a few weeks.

Arc’Teryx Squamish 50. By way of full disclosure, I am not much of a trail runner.  Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I had back surgery a couple of decades ago, and while I continue to run and enjoy it, my left leg isn’t 100% and really likes to trip over rocks and roots, especially as I tire. Still, because the Squamish 50 is a new event that is kind of carrying on, in spirit if nothing else, from STORMY (ran several times on relay legs) I decided I had to give it at least one try. They seemed to know what I needed, so they included a nominal 21K solo race.  That seemed to be for me, as well as over 100 other folks not quite ready for the full 50 miles and yet eager for more than a relay leg.

The weather couldn’t have been much better and if it weren’t for the sweat in my eyes, neither could the scenery.  I’m still not that great on trails and took the Powerhouse Plunge much too literally! But, my trail running friends tell me if there is no mud or blood you really weren’t trying hard enough.  I guess I can say I tried!  The event was very well organized and I am sure it will have an excellent future.

How did I do? Thank you for asking. Well, I’ve learned that a) 21K on trails can be 23 or some would claim, even 25km, b) trails aren’t like roads and they are what they are and that can even depend on the day. So, I won’t say what my time was, but I will say that I definitely wasn’t last and I won my age classification (M60-69) which means I now hold the age class record for that course. How many other runners were in that class? Oh, well………uh, none. However, I will cling to the undisputed fact that I was the only guy of my age willing to put it on the line. I fear my ‘record’ won’t last past next year, but for now…..I am the champ!

Special thanks to the race organizers and all the volunteers and people who brought the event together. It is one thing to stage an annual event and totally something else to set it up for the first time.  Congratulations Arc’Teryx Squamish 50!

Warming up for Run For Change

Run For Change.  The 3rd Annual Run For Change 5K Fun Run/Walk took place in August and organizers from the Run For Change Society were thrilled that participant numbers almost doubled again from the previous year. Twenty people from Victoria’s ‘Every Step Counts’ group came over to take part. The day was superb and everyone had a great time, with lots of fun for everyone. More than our usual runs, Run For Change represents some major life decisions on the part of those who trained for the 5K event, making a commitment to a different and healthier life-style. Plans are already coming together for the 4th Annual Run For Change.  Stay tuned for more information on that, but meanwhile, a big congratulations to everyone who made it all happen this year, whether participants, volunteers or core organizers.



PRR Going Coastal at Mt Hood (Photo: Grant Finnighan)

Hood to Coast Relay. If it isn’t clear from my earlier posts, Hood to Coast is one my favorite all-time events. Every team is a bit different, and yet the vibe of the whole thing is kind of constant and exciting. Many teams go strictly for fun, others for performance and most for a combination. The winning team came from Japan with the express intent of winning.  PRR – Going Coastal was there for the fun and the experience and to just do our best, whatever that might be. As it turned out, that was actually pretty good, all things considered.  This time around the team was fairly young and we wound up in the Open Mixed category.  It was sobering for me to realize I was old enough to be the father of all but one of the other team members, and technically, I guess I am old enough to be his father too!  Good thing this blog is for ‘seasoned athletes’. Although it seems they may still be sorting final team categories and standings (it is the team you show up at the start with that determines your group placement), we were 21 out of 362 in Open Mixed and something around 138 out of 1007 finishers.

There is something about running 200 miles with 11 of your closest friends (OK, ‘close’ has more to do with riding in cramped vans, than life-long relationships, but there IS a special bond when all is said and run). Once the gun goes the team doesn’t stop, or you hope it doesn’t, until you reach the finish.  The start is at about 6000 ft on Mount Hood and the finish is at Seaside, on the beach. The reward at the end is the biggest beach party I have ever seen. This is my seventh Hood to Coast, the first being in 1986. So, there have been changes over the years, including the total distance, route (especially from Portland to the coast) AND the finish location. I’ve run Leg Combo #1, #2 and #3, but specialize in Leg #1, having done it five times. I don’t get a lot of competition for that leg as it drops 2000 ft over 5 miles and not so many people like that sort of thing. The other thing is that the other two segments are relatively short and flat, which works with my theory on team strategy – keep the oldest slowest guy on the road the least amount of time. That is generally me.

3:15pm Start Wave (Photo: Grant Finnighan)

It is always great to feel the energy of being the guy who starts, but this time I think FEAR was more the emotion. For those who haven’t done Hood to Coast, teams start every 15 minutes from about 6:00 am until 6:45pm with about 20 teams in each wave. As the teams were being introduced I began to realize we had been placed in what was mostly the elite start wave.  The teams that came 1st, 2nd, 4th and first in several of the sub-categories, both this year and last year as it happens, were all in our start group. Knowing there were lots of PRR – Going Coastal cameras around I started like a rocket (well, my impression of a rocket, anyway), but that lasted all of 15 or 20 strides and I was very nearly dead last before we were really out of the parking lot and tipped over the edge of the hill to start down Timberline Road for the first exchange at Government Camp. I’ve seen the elites on my leg before but generally it was a case of being passed on my second leg, sometime in the night.  Not this time.  Right after the start, my only view of those fast, fast teams was the sight of their rapidly disappearing backs.  But hey!  We just went for the fun, right?

So, in a nutshell, that winds up three major events for me for this summer.

It is time to start planning for the Fall.  For my own running I plan to be at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (probably running the Half with daughter Janna).  Shortly after that I will be back to the organizer role as Race Director of the Peace Arch Hospital Great Pumpkin Fun Run and Walk (5K and 1K) on October 21 in White Rock, BC – fund raiser for the ER department. Last year our son Cameron and I completed the Lad and Dad Half Marathon Challenge at the Try Events Boundary Bay Marathon and I’m thinking there could be a return engagement there, minus Cam. The last event I have squarely in my sights is the Reggae Marathon in Negril, Jamaica. At the moment it seems like the Half Marathon is going to be the goal.

I will also be posting on other running topics through the coming weeks and months. What a great performance we saw from our trio of Canadian marathoners at the London Olympics! Methinks there is a great deal more to be heard from Dylan Wykes, Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis.  I will certainly be watching to see what that might be.

Happy running to all!