category : ‘Race Reports/Favorite Races’



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See what I did there? Revel. In a new race.

Yes, I just learned a day or so ago that Revel Race Series has announced a new race in Chilliwack, BC. I have far from run all their events, but I’ve done one, twice and another one once – Big Cottonwood and Mt. Charleston. Check this out for a course profile!


The main characteristic of a Revel race is that it starts up, way up, and then runs down – generally fast. The new event (August 17, 2019) follows the pattern. If anything, the elevation drop is less than most other Revel races, but it still pretty much meets the standard. For those who really want the details, you can go to the Revel Chilliwack web page and dig around all you want. However, the basics are that the Marathon drops 2,100 feet and the half marathon drops about 615 feet. Both are more or less constantly downhill and of a similar slope except that it seems the marathon has one much steeper downhill section that makes it look like the course is a steeper profile than the half marathon. As normal, the half is just the bottom of the marathon, therefore an integral part of the marathon course profile. The profile is not nearly as extreme as some Revel courses, and that may be a good thing. Running a steep downhill is not as easy as it might first sound. What seems to be on offer in Chilliwack (I think there is going to be a little drive in my immediate future) is a gentle steady downhill for both the marathon and half marathon. Such courses are far easier on the legs but give a wonderful boost to the time at the finish.

Nicely started! Mount Charleston Half
(Photo: Courtesy of Revel)

There already seems to be quite a bit of enthusiasm on-line and I am part of that. I would love to run another inaugural Revel race. I did Mt. Charleston in its first year (2016). One of my big running thrills (well, fun really, since I didn’t kid myself about what really happened), was winning my age group in the half marathon and therefore taking the age group record! I’ve never held the record for ANYTHING where it comes to running.

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

I didn’t have any idea that I had even won my age group until I went to get my official finish stats and was pointed over to the WINNER table to claim my gold medal! I did have a pretty decent time, and was happy about that, but talk about a bonus. It caused me to think about running first time events and was surprised when I went back over the years, just how many I have actually done. Needless to say, when a few others found out about this great race just outside Las Vegas, my record lasted just 365 days, whereupon it was smashed – smashed, I tell you! Well, that’s OK. I wuz a contenda that first year.

I have a few personal REVELations from the Big Cottonwood Marathon too. First time was 2014 and then I did it again in 2015 (when my wife walked the half).

Judi and me at Big Cottonwood Package Pickup.

Big Cottonwood happens just outside (and well above) Salt Lake City, Utah. First time the start was at about 8,000 feet. They adjusted the course (snarky out and back at the lower part of the course was shortened) by moving some of the lower part UP the mountain a bit more so the start was at 10,000 feet. If anyone tries to tell you Revel races are easy because they are seriously downhill, do ask if they have ever run a race that starts at 10,000 feet or if they have run one that drops 5,000 feet or so. Starting at 10,000 feet will immediately challenge your oxygen gathering and transferring capacity. Even though I knew, and stayed most of a week at Park City (near 8,000 feet) to acclimatize, I was seriously taken aback as I went through the first few miles. How could I be that tired when we had just started. OK, not really tired. I guess it was more how could it be that hard. Suddenly, it dawned on me just how high we were. I slowed down. It got better and as we continued down, breathing sufficient oxygen became less of an issue. It is a gorgeous route and both times I did it the weather was amazing.

Looking better than I was feeling on ‘net zero’ out and back.

The first time I ran Big Cottonwood we started lower and it was, I think, the last time I had a marathon time that started with ‘4’. Boy was that a big mess though. I do a bit of acting and had been cast in a commercial. Yay me! I was clear that I was supposed to be in Utah, but could/would rearrange my plans, do the filming and still get myself to Salt Lake City. Then, I found they changed the filming schedule and I was between a rock and a hard place. Long story short, I flew on Friday, arriving around 4pm, just in time to pick up my race kit, go to a Marathon Maniac pre-race gathering, grab a couple of hours sleep, drive down from Park City (to bus transport) only to drive back up to the race start and then RUN. Interestingly, we still started pretty high, around 8,000 feet, but I didn’t feel an issue with the altitude. I am told that you either have to give  yourself time to acclimatize, OR, run in and race before your body knows what you did. I guess that I unwittingly did the latter. From the time I landed in Salt Lake City until we started the marathon, was about 15 hours, maybe less.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – Racing CAN be fun!

I will always love that first Big Cottonwood. One of the photos included in the entry shows me getting big air! I am getting pretty old and slow and have never been a high knee lifter anyway, but that is a photo of which I am very proud.

Between marathons and half marathons, I have run a lot of races with various bling and features. Revel Big Cottonwood was the first where the photos (including a personalized video) was part of the entry. More are doing it now, but it was a first for me back then and appreciated.

I really don’t know what to do about Chilliwack. I would so very much like to do it. The problem is that after three years of trying (unsuccessfully) I got a team registered for the Hood to Coast Relay.

Bob’s Border Busters – Hood to Coast 1987. My first Hood to Coast

It is a week later. Well, to be precise, six days later. This is my 10th Hood to Coast and with the combination of my age and the difficulty of getting a team into the relay, it may well be my last. Hood to Coast is amazing, but it is no joke to run plus or minus three 10Ks in about 18-20 hours with little or no sleep. For sure, unless something goes sideways, there is no choice. Hood to Coast it is for 2019.

All that said, I am seriously mulling the idea of running the half marathon at Revel Chilliwack, not for time, just for the experience. The race is so close to where I live that I would drive to the start mustering area on race morning. The only expense I would have is the entry and a bit of gasoline. I mean, I WILL need some extra distance training in support of Hood to Coast. The individual legs are short enough, but even if I take the shortest combo, that is more or less the distance of a half marathon. I am certain that 2019 HAS to be a better year of running than 2018, so done strategically Chilliwack could work out OK. Guess I will watch for a bit and see how registration is going, not to mention my own training and running.

I mean, I just signed up for the ‘new and improved’ Fir2018.M.Logo.Event.FirstHalf.VancouverMarathonst Half in February. That will take some training and if it goes well, I think my year will be set up nicely. At my age and stage, I am doing a lot more experiential races than any in which I am trying to podium or even nail a ‘good’ time (a relative term, to be sure). Sometimes it happens anyway. Doing the first Revel Chilliwack Half Marathon would fit the pattern quite nicely!

That said, regardless of my own decision, based on my appreciation of Revel races, this is the chance for local (Vancouver/Fraser Valley) runners to give one a try. I don’t think you will be sorry. So, off to the Revel Chilliwack web page with you for a look about. At time of writing and although I could not see how long it lasted, they seem to be offering an early registration discount (Code: EARLY), so there is that to consider as well. See you at the races!




I’m sure you have all been wondering ‘Where can Dan the Blogger be???’. A couple of you? Nobody?

Well, I will tell you. I have been traveling on a trip of a lifetime kind of adventure with my dear wife of 50 years. The trip was a celebration of those 50 years, which technically and officially tallied up back in August. However, at that time the area we were going to would be experiencing the monsoon season, so we put off travel until October/November. No blog posting for the simple reason that there just wasn’t time to get down to it and do it properly.

Charlie putting the (surprise) move on Grandad!

We met up with all the kids and grandkids and in-law spouses in Victoria for the Victoria Marathon Weekend where I ran for the third time in the Victoria 8K with grandson Charlie and umpteenth time with his mom Danielle (Half Marathon). I expected Charlie to beat me (hoped he would – it is time) and he took off like the proverbial ‘scalded cat’, but a minor injury he has been suffering brought him back down to earth about 4K and I caught him at 6K. We finished together, except that I think he took me way too seriously when I said he was ready to beat me. Sore paw or not, he took off with about 100m to go and caught the old guy by surprise! I tried to turn it on and catch up, but he had me and did indeed cross the line looking a lot better than he actually felt, with me in hot pursuit. The one good thing about his surprise move is that our son, Cam caught us in full flight and ME getting air with less than 100m left in a race!  THAT never happens anymore! Thanks, Charlie/Cam!

What can I say? If you are going to pick one photo to represent a trip to India, I guess it has to be the Taj Mahal

No sooner was that celebration weekend over with, than we (Judi and I) were on a plane to India. I mean literally, as in later the same week, we were headed for India and Nepal (which is where Nagarkot – see title – actually is). We just got back a couple of days ago and I am planning the next trip – to Negril for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Don’t worry though. I am not going to recount every moment of three and a half weeks in India and Nepal. Unless, you want me to……………..??? No. I thought not.

Since this is about running, I guess we should start with my possibly unrealistic goals in that area. We lived in Malaysia for nearly two years and I ran something like 5 days a week. In other words, running in warm steamy places (including the last seven years at Reggae Marathon in Negril, JA) is not new to me. What I didn’t count on was the packed agenda of our trip and location of our hotels (where places to run were few and far between). Never mind.

My hope was to add two more countries to my list of 23 where I have run at least a bit. I also planned on adding one more country to my list of places where I have raced (much less impressive, at 5 countries). The first thing that happened was that just before leaving I was trying to sign my wife up to walk the 5K in the Run for Unity and Success (Oct 31 – in Delhi), when I discovered a conflict over dates. It appeared the race was either Oct 31 or Oct 28. The 28th was Sunday, which made more sense to this North American runner/racer, but the original date, including the date I had registered for, was October 31 (Wednesday). Long story short, when it finally got sorted out, they had to change dates and we were going to be nowhere near the race venue on October 28. Scratch the race in India. Very sad. They had a shirt and medal and everything. THAT would have truly enhanced my collection!

Just finished a very short, but very real run in Jaipur, India

From running as often as I could, I went to “I have to get a run in SOMEWHERE!”. That I did. It happened in Jaipur where there was a perfect place just outside our hotel. There was a promenade directly across the road along a lakeshore that was about 1km end to end and held no danger of getting lost on unfamiliar streets. So, that was where I added India to the list of countries where I have run. I suppose I could have run at the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, but while ‘running with the bulls’ is a thing, ‘running with the tigers’ doesn’t usually work out that well for the human. I passed on that even though there were great roads/trails and the air was clear. I raise the latter point, because that was not always the case and truth be told, had the race actually happened as originally scheduled on Oct. 31, I am not at all sure I would have taken part anyway. The air conditions in Delhi had gone from pretty darn good when we arrived, to awful.

Sagarmatha from our Buddha Air flight

The trip was everything we hoped for and much, much more. Nepal offered its own wonders, like this mountain we went to see, taking a special flight that goes right by the Himalayas and its star, Mount Everest, or as it is known to the people, Sagarmatha. This is also where the place in the title, Nagarkot, comes in. We traveled up (almost 7,000ft) from Kathmandu to stay at a hotel where we could watch the sun rise over the Himalayas.

Sunrise view from observation deck at Club Himalaya, Nagarkot, Nepal

Everest made an appearance there too, but you had to know where to look and have a very sharp eye as the mountain range tails away from the view point and Everest is way in the distance (far to the right of this photo), unlike our flight on Buddha Air (yes, that’s right…………..Buddha Air). And also, unlike most flights you will ever take, while our plane had two seats on each side of the aisle, only the window seats were booked. The flight goes one way with the mountains to the left, turns around and gives the right side passengers the bird’s eye view going back. As we were near Everest, every passenger was invited to come to the cockpit and get some pilot’s eye views. Amazing, but no running! OK, except to get my turn in the cockpit.

Sadly, just as with India, no running in Nepal either. Same general reasons. I guess anybody with a Fitbit or similar was getting great numbers because we walked and walked and walked and very little of it was flat! So, there’s that.

OK, lets get back to talking about actual running and racing!

Nothing like a barefoot run on the beach, to start the day

Negril and the Reggae Marathon looms. Three weeks from this moment, as I write, I expect to be jogging along either Norman Manley Blvd or the Negril Seven Mile Beach, with my friend, Chris Morales. This will be my 8th year in a row in Negril and Chris’ 10th! The Four Amigos, Chris, Larry, Navin and Dan, will be raising a total of 34 fingers in our traditional and annual group photo, to indicate the total races we have done in Negril.

Four Amigos ride (run) again for a total of 30 Reggae Marathon events.

As much as I wanted to take on the Half Marathon one more time, unless I walk it start to finish, that just isn’t realistic. 2018 has been one awful year for my running. I won’t bore you with the details (already done that a few times, I think). Add the lack of ability to run while on our big trip and my decision that it will be the 10K this time, just makes sense. Besides, you get back for the beach party that much sooner!

While the memories of our India trip will be with us for the rest of our lives, I have some wonderful memories of Negril and as the reality of that trip coming in less than three weeks looms (depart on the red-eye to Toronto on Nov 28, for connection to Montego Bay), Jamaica is very much in the forefront of things.

Rise up in the mornin’

I have my room booked (as usual) at Rondel Village and already looking forward to early morning runs on the beach, followed by a breakfast of ackee and salt fish. I’m already wishing I could stay longer, for a bit more of that sort of thing, but the truth is that I am lucky to be going at all. The race has moved to Sunday this year as a matter of improved logistics. We’ll see how that works. For racers it probably doesn’t matter since once you are on Jamaica Time, things just have their own rhythm and the only important thing is to keep your departure date straight. OH! And the start time of the Reggae Marathon, because it will go off with military precision at 5:15am on December 2nd.

Negril River and fishing boats (what I saw for the first time on race morning).

There is nothing I have ever experienced to compare to that race start in the dark, feeling the air (kind of silky at that hour) and moving through the morning with a happy crowd of runners/walkers with absolutely nothing else to do for the next while, other than enjoy the moment of whichever event they may be doing. At my pace of the last number of years, by the time we reach the 5K turnaround at the Negril round-about, the sky is lightening. It isn’t dawn yet, but the sky isn’t fully dark. On the way back to the finish line (for the 10K) the dawn will begin. The sky will begin to change and colours will begin to paint the sky. For all but the very slowest, the finish will come before the sun actually rises. It is a magical time and that turn back to the finish chute is a great feeling.

Post-race, sunrise at Reggae Marathon. No winter jackets even if it is December!

As you cross the line and get your medal (new design this year!), the Caribbean beckons. Reggae music is already playing and the fresh coconuts are being chopped open to yield refreshing coconut water to replenish you. Oh, and if you are ready at such an early hour, the cold Red Stripe is waiting too!

Let’s not forget the Half Marathoners (and Marathoners). As the 10K people turn back to the finish (you have to pass the finish area by just a bit to get in the full 10K distance), the longer distance runners continue into the rising sun. Of course, the faster ones will be seeing that lightening sky and dawn AFTER passing the start/finish area. Actually, some of the really fast Half Marathoners will be finishing about the same time I finish the 10K, so there’s that. The route continues along Norman Manley Blvd to just where the Negril Beach ends, just pass the RIU properties, where it turns back toward the finish and the first run through Bob’s Mile. As the Half Marathoners happily pull off to their reward, the truly gritty Marathoners begin the whole thing again.

Marathon finisher bringing it home. Wait! It is Navin, one of the Four Amigos!

Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you that those gritty, dedicated runners aren’t going to experience a change of conditions. At the start, the temperature can be as low as 21C and up to 25C or so. But, it doesn’t change until the sun is up. When it DOES rise, so do air temperatures and the feeling of being hot is magnified by the fact that the sun is now shining directly onto you. This is when the smart running has to happen. The negative split is the goal of most distance runners. However, the Reggae Marathon is one race where ‘banking’ time makes sense. Running conditions are so much better prior to sunrise than after, that it makes sense to take advantage (if time matters). Once you are running in full sun, you need to be very strategic. The good news is how much support there is with both water and electrolyte solution available every mile. And, they are in handy plastic pouches that allow you to carry them with you rather than gulp down what you can and run on to the next aid station. Personally, I tend to drink the electrolyte and pour the water over myself for cooling. I have remarked before that this also serves as an early warning system for your well-being. The first time you mistakenly pour the electrolyte over your head is probably an accident – one you are unlikely to repeat – but the second time should be a warning that you aren’t quite on your game!!

It’s a Reggae Party!

Regardless of your chosen distance, the finish is kind of the same. Medal, music, coconut, beach, beer and PARTY. There are also misting tents and cold cloths for those who have really pumped it out. They look after us very well.

So, the final planning begins and arrangements are being made for meeting up and doing lots of fun stuff in and around the race. Four Amigos notwithstanding, every year there are more and more friends to greet. Expect more on this. I’m back and ready to roll on to my final race of the year and without doubt the one that is the most fun. Believe it or not, I also find it spiritually uplifting. Jamaica/Negril, I think I have said more than once over the years, is my ‘happy place’.




Who knew? When the original book, Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes was drafted and crafted, one of the contributors, Doug Alward, wrote and provided his story on Terry Fox. While I am sure we can all relate some kind of story about Terry and how he touched us with his courage and Herculean effort, the Marathon of Hope, none of us was a boyhood friend, or the guy who drove Terry’s Van during the Marathon of Hope. Well, none of us EXCEPT Doug Alward.

That’s right, Doug’s Running in the Zone book contribution was entitled: Inspiration and Determination – A First-Hand Account of the Terry Fox Story.

And, first-hand it was. While I am always moved by any story of Terry, this one was truly unique. Doug and Terry knew each other from an age of about 13 and went through years of school together. Doug was in that van on the good days and bad days and really bad days. He was also there for a lot of other stuff too, long before the amputation and recovery and cross-country quest. His view was pretty much different from any other perspective. Terry was his buddy.

The 1st of 10 hand written pages submitted by Doug Alward for Running in the Zone.

It was co-editor Steve King who recruited Doug to write for our book, but I was the one who did the editing. At the time, either Doug did not have a computer or if he did, was not close friends with it. The original manuscript came to me hand-written on ten lined sheets. My fist job was to transcribe it into electronic form. I don’t think I have ever seen anything more powerful and pure. My job with every manuscript was to edit with a light hand, ensuring that the product was of high quality all the while taking care not to turn it into something essentially written by me, rather than by the actual author. The manuscripts we received were from professional writers like Joe Henderson and Rich Benyo, including Roger Robinson who is both a renowned writer on running as well as PhD Professor of English Literature; and at the other end of the scale, more than a few folk who, notwithstanding that they had a great story to tell, may not have recently written anything more significant than their grocery list. In no way did that diminish the power of the stories. It just made some work for your faithful editor. Let us simply say that at the time, Doug was closer to the latter than the former where it came to writing.

That said, I was reduced to tears every time I read/edited that manuscript as we worked it into shape for publication. It was neither his writing nor my editing that made that story so powerful, but rather the inspiration of Terry’s story as told in the purity of the friendship of his boyhood friend.

Now, what is that title about. What CIRCLE?

Just very recently, a situation arose here where I live (South Surrey/White Rock), that meant the organizer of many years for the Terry Fox Run found it necessary to withdraw. A call went out to individuals who had been regularly involved over the last few years and trust me, my involvement had only been as a runner and donor, but I guess I (along with several others) was on the Foundation’s list. Long story short, I am now part of the core organizing committee that will stage the 2018 Terry Fox Run on September 18. As they say, this is not my first rodeo. I chaired or co-chaired Terry Fox Run committees over the years in Summerland and Abbotsford and have interacted from time to time with the Terry Fox Foundation, but not since Running in the Zone was written. Thus, the concept of Full Circle.

Doug Alward (right)pushing up a fearsome hill near Okanagan Falls, on the way to a close second place in his first marathon.

I should probably give Doug a few more words of introduction, so you know who it is telling the story that follows. Here is a photo of Doug gutting it out at a marathon in Penticton. He fought fiercely for the lead and almost won with Terry’s message of courage and ‘never quit’, resounding in his head as he pushed through pain and strain. Not that it matters in regard to the Terry Fox story that follows, but Doug was second in this, the Peach City Marathon with a time of 2:45:46, and an age class record, just 6 seconds behind the winner. The book has four photos as part of the cover art. This is one of them.

I could go on at length about the worthiness of Terry Fox, his dream and the efforts of the Terry Fox Foundation, but I kind of feel that if the reader doesn’t already KNOW all or most of that, there probably isn’t much I can say that will be of great significance – not much that will move anyone more than they already are. So, I think that the best thing I can do is to reproduce Doug Alward’s Running in the Zone contribution. THAT just might give all of us a new perspective on something we all kind of think we already know. Here in Doug Alward’s own words, is his version of The Terry Fox Story.




Doug Alward

“Anything is possible if you try…..
Dreams are made when people try.”

Terry Fox, 1980

Terry Fox and Doug Alward – in Newfoundland. Where it all started.

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. 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 broker 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.

Why not find yourself a Terry Fox Run on September 16, 2018 and whether you run or walk, you can remember what Terry saw for the future and you  can do your own part by following this link to Register and Donate. If you are a South Surrey/White Rock resident, come on out to the South Surrey Athletic Park at 8:00am for a 9:00am Start. For more specific information and local updates you can check our Facebook Page. We have a longer route (just over 5K) and a shorter one (1.5K) to accommodate everyone. Run it or walk it. Your choice. You can register on site, but if you want to be one of the ‘cool’ kids, why not do your registration on-line. It will speed things up on Run Day.



A strange title to be sure, but maybe not after you hear the story.


Boston. 6 Star Finisher (2018)

Running in the Zone (me) was very excited to sit down with a runner who had (as of Boston 2018) just completed the Big Six or Abbott Marathon Majors races to become what is known as a Six Star Athlete. I was primed with questions that all us eager runner types would find interesting: How long did it take (first to last)? Did you qualify, buy your way in, use charity entries, get lucky in the lotteries? Ummm, ……………. how much did it all cost???

OK, let’s step back for just a moment and get everyone on the same page. The Abbott Marathon Majors and the Big Six races that the mortal man must run to qualify to become a Six Star Finisher, represent quite a list of global running races! In annual order the events are: Tokyo (Feb), Boston (Apr), London (Apr), Berlin (Sept), Chicago (Oct) and New York City (Nov).

How it looks, approaching the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Recapping the general introductory stuff, just a bit more: it takes luck and/or money (and the will to spend it on running), if you expect to achieve this goal. I was also going to say a bit of speed since you generally need to qualify for Boston, but if you were right down to it and only had Boston left, there is the Charity Entry as an option. Some of the events will let you ‘buy’ your way in with a travel package that includes a guaranteed entry. After researching all six races, it seems like the two most certain ways to get in are to be fast enough to meet the qualifying standard for a guaranteed entry, or to buy the travel package with guaranteed entry. For most of them, the lottery is a pretty so-so option considering the odds of success.

OK, so now everyone is kind of in the same place here and should understand why I was so excited to sit down with someone who actually owns one of the NIFTY completion medals showing all six races.

What happened next is where the title originates and by which it was inspired. At first I was shocked, then amazed and finally realized I couldn’t agree more.

Our intrepid runner actually said he would prefer that his name wasn’t even used, because that isn’t what he wanted people to take from his experience or this write-up of the whole thing. I pointed out that while I understood his point, SOMEBODY actually went and ran those races! That said, I am going to do my best to stay true to his sentiments and intentions in talking publicly about this matter.

So! What ‘village‘ was responsible for bringing this marathoner along? Our Superhero, we’ll just call him Major Tom for obvious reasons, is a long time member of the Forerunners Marathon Clinics. As he puts it, the community of runners, coaches and supporters. That is the village to which our title refers. As he talked, I realized how many of us who are part of that community probably feel exactly the same way. I am particularly happy and humbled to try to convey his feelings and core message.

Let’s start at the beginning and see if I can do justice to the story and the information shared.

As for many of us, at first running was kind of a health and wellness thing for our Superhero. He would get up early before work, get the gear on and do a modest run of up to maybe 10K. Every three months or so he would enter a half marathon somewhere around Vancouver, but more as an excuse to justify why he got out of bed to go for a run when asked by his non-running friends. He was “Training.” Over the years he ran probably a dozen half marathons, before someone planted the seed in his mind one day: “You should do a Full marathon! It would be a great bucket-list item!” Like all good ideas, once it was planted, the idea grew over time until he decided to do something about it…

So, with a little bit of Dutch courage one night (all the best life decisions are made this way, right?) our Superhero decided to test his luck and put his name in for two race lotteries. If he was only going to run one marathon in his life, it had to be a good one! New York or Chicago were the obvious choices (apparently). He told me he forgot all about this after the evening, something about waking up the next day a little hazy, but a couple of weeks later he got the “Sorry, try again next year” email from New York (a common experience). He confided in me that there was even a little relief when the rejection came. He admits it may have been one of those “What did I just do?” kind of things. Then, a couple of weeks later, there was another e-mail. “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into the Chicago 2014 Marathon.

A sense of panic quickly set in! What was he going to do? He figured he’d continue to do what he had always done, get up and go for a run… but just a bit longer! This didn’t quite go to plan. He went for a couple of longer runs of 25km – 30km with what he called “horrible results”. He found out what “The Wall” felt like half way around Stanley Park one day and couldn’t get over the mind games that he kept playing with himself as well. You know the thoughts that sneak into your mind sometime around the 30- 35km mark of a marathon when everything is hurting? Yes those ones…

Where it began in 1986, Forerunners on Fourth Ave.

So he found himself in a bit of a dilemma. He knew that because getting into the race is pretty hard and a lot of people miss out, it would not be right to just blow off the entry. Still, he felt he couldn’t do this alone either. After a few conversations with a couple of other runners  and a little internet research, he walked to the Forerunners store on 4th Ave.

He recalls the first night that he showed up to the clinic. Butterflies in his stomach, he started to question his decision about joining when the Coach started talking about pace groups and times. It should be noted our Superhero has never worried about his times, but I’ll get to that later. He also recalls feeling like an imposter. Everyone was wearing marathon t-shirts from various events they had run. To his eye, they were all serious runners and he was definitely not. He mentioned that everyone seemed to know everyone else really well. People were hugging, joking and talking like they were all life long friends. He figured that all the people in the clinic would obviously be running Victoria, it is only a short ferry ride away after all, which meant he would be on his own for the Chicago Marathon. Oh well, it’s going to be a one and run event anyway he told himself, so, “Suck it Up”.

Major Tom nails the first one.

Shortly after, while doing a speed workout with the Forerunners folk, he began talking with one of the group leaders, She asked him if he was training for anything, the answer obviously being Chicago. Her response: “Me TOO!” Within a few moments, there were several more people in the group who revealed they were also running Chicago. He didn’t realise it at the time, but he would have a little “community” there with him and a group of people who would push him along the way through his little journey.

Some of the ‘Villagers’ that did Berlin together!

Once into the Forerunners group, and the various training options offered, he found himself part of a close-knit group of people of similar talent and ability as well as the larger community of all the people of various levels of talent/ability that make up the clinics. It felt good. It felt welcoming. It became a kind of stimulus to work at running and to challenge himself to improve on his own abilities. Now, our man is hardly a back of the packer, but he is still waiting to break three hours, soon probably, but not done yet. It doesn’t matter, but does give context.

Typical Saturday morning at Main Street. Pre-run, marathon clinic.

I don’t want to seem to be jumping on his personal band wagon, but as we talked I realized we couldn’t agree more on the community and encouragement side, and I AM fast becoming a back of the packer. It is part of what makes the magic in the running community. And, while we are talking here about a specific situation and a specific community of runners associated with Forerunners, it is a common experience in running groups whereby you do become part of a true community that supports and encourages.

Maybe this is a good time to get some basics of this particular story, out of the way. It is no secret that all SIX of the Big Six got done, so here is the sequence: (1) Chicago (2014), (2) New York City (2015), (3) Berlin (2016),  (4) London (2017), (5) Tokyo (2018) and (6) Boston (2018). It would be wrong to suggest he only ever ran these six. It isn’t so. Needing to qualify for Boston required hard work and a good race to ensure a time fast enough to meet the ‘fastest first’ policy now applied to the BQ. While there were a number of “Crash and Burn” events, he actually BQ’d twice in 2017. The first time was by 43 seconds, which was not fast enough to guarantee a spot, so he tried again and succeeded 6 weeks later. This time, finishing with time to spare.

London Marathon. Oh! Did we mention Major Tom is from Australia?

Once all this began, the ‘village’ kept him moving forward and for four of the six races, some of the ‘villagers’ came along for the ride. OK, nobody was just coming along. Everyone had their own reasons and goals, but the race(s) turned into something far more than a race with time goals and PR attempts. Far more. It was the experience.
One of the experiences related to me was the impression of finishing the London Marathon. Apparently, the vista before the runner as he approached the finish near Buckingham Palace was so amazing and perfect on the day, and knowing he would not likely see it again, he actually slowed down to take it all in and savour the moment. Would that we might all do that; experience such a moment.

Something I know about our Superhero is that he doesn’t much do ‘technical’. Oh, he has a sport watch with GPS that he uses, but is known in races to tape over the face so he can’t see it. I’ve seen him do it. I actually ran the first race at which he ‘just qualified‘ for Boston, and saw his watch. He just likes to run as his body tells him he should. After, he is quite ready to assess how well he did with it. Although I can’t personally say I’ve ever taped over my sport watch, I do understand his point and I know I get far more out of it post-run when I analyse what went right and wrong, than I do while running. Maybe I need to get that tape out myself one day soon. Whatever, his approach and success is inspiring.

NYCM is in the ‘books’.

We know that all six of these major marathons got done, but that wasn’t the primary message of the story. Before getting back to the community of the Forerunners training groups, I must relate one more anecdote from the roads.

As anyone who pays attention knows, Boston Marathon 2018 was one of the most brutal Boston Marathons in recent history. If you don’t know, it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs, was very windy and was cold. With the wind-chill factor, the commentators of the elite races stated that temperatures never got above 0°C. Apparently it did warm up marginally later in the day but was still very, very cold.

Making it happen on one certifiably AWFUL day in Boston.

At the bottom of Heart Break Hill, there were nine runners going all about the same pace and had been for much of the race. That happens in big events. You often wind up in a small group that never seems to really break up, at least for a long way. One of the more assertive members of this intrepid little group said something like: “Right, three in front, three in the middle, three in back. We are going to do this thing together.” They took turns of about 200m, with the leaders dropping to the back and next row moving up, until they were through that section of the course. Amazing story, but yet another aspect of what runners do together.

Tokyo Marathon (2018). He looks pretty happy. Just one to go. Little did he know what Boston was going to be like!

Back to Vancouver now and the four years from 2014 to 2018, over which the Major series was done.

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to review every workout and minor race done over that time! What is important is that the clinics and run groups go pretty much year-round. You can do that in Vancouver, although some of the winter runs can approximate this year’s Boston Marathon, at least for wind and rain. What is special about that is not that we silly runners will go out in such conditions and run/train, but that our common coach, one Carey Nelson, has for more than 10 years been out on that course manning a water/aid station, waiting for each of us to make our way through. Some of the better runners, cover the distance pretty quickly on our long runs (usually Saturday mornings), but until I began coaching the Learn to Run 5K clinic, I was the pace leader for the slowest marathon pace group and trust me when I say we were a LONG way behind the fast kids!

Water station on NW Marine (UBC Hill).

Coach Carey was still there for us. He could have been out doing his own training, because although he is a one-time international elite runner, he is nonetheless very much an active and very good runner. He is not alone though. This is a bit of a norm with the founders of the store, Peter and Karen Butler do such duty when needed, and other coaches too, as the stores have expended from one to two, to three.

A few of “The Villagers” stop by to wish a local Olympian well. Major Tom is in the back right.

In what other world do you see Olympic athletes not just supplying truly expert and often personalized coaching advice, but also standing out in the rain so clinic groups can keep hydrated, providing tissues for runny noses and if necessary taking people off the course when something isn’t going right. This is the kind of thing that is meant by the community of runners.

Another thing is the encouragement and inspiration that comes when part of such a group. Before a race, clinic members support and push each other to improve. By push, it is not meant as the idea of cracking some kind of whip. No, nobody who runs (or plays other sports), always goes out, every time, feeling great and running to peak performance. It is on those days that the others drag us along (in a good way) when we just aren’t feeling it. Other times it is you who is doing the ‘dragging’.

In representation of “The Village”, Coach Carey symbolically ‘presents’ the Six Star Medal.

When it is all said and run, this community sits down after a workout or after a race over a coffee, beer, food to just kick it all around. Congratulations go along with the ribbing. Trash is talked, but heartfelt concern shown for those needing support. Individuals come and go as life dictates, but over the years a group seems to endure and to have the spirit that inspired this man who wanted me to write about that part of the experience that got him from a sometimes lonely early morning run to the owner of a fancy Six Star medal, supported by this amazing community made up of all its components, only some of which is described here.









Finishing my very first marathon.

As posted previously, the BMO Vancouver Marathon marked the 30th anniversary of my fist marathon and my first Vancouver Marathon. I guess if I had been paying closer attention, I could have figured out how to make it my 30th marathon too. Of course, I count ‘marathons’ like a Marathon Maniac. How’s that? For the purpose of your MM statistics and level qualifications, anything 42.2K or longer counts as a marathon. So, I actually have 28 marathons and one 50K Ultra. We’ll just call it 29 marathons.

It has been an interesting journey and nobody need worry that I am about to chronicle the whole thing.

A small part of the King Edward High School track team (1962). That’s me in the back.

Beginning at the beginning, I used to run (mostly shorter distance track) when I was a kid. I also played soccer finishing up on a UBC team before a knee injury put an end to that. For the next twenty odd years, I would try to do this new thing called ‘jogging’, but any distance at all at that kind of pace would produce a piercing pain in my knee. I could sprint for a short distance and walk forever, but I couldn’t jog. Over the years, I tried several times, but it wasn’t until I was 39 and getting too heavy and out of shape that I decided to MAKE running work. I figured that if I could run about a mile at a jog pace (I could) without pain, that is what I would do and I would do it more or less every day. I consulted my doctor about it, because under the circumstances of my motivation, age and relative current condition, you really should. I also mention it, because in the end it was Dr. Don’s fault that I even ran my first marathon.

The old at the new. Me and the shirt (old) and the posters at Expo (new)

As you might imagine, after a bit of doing a mile a day I began to wonder “If a mile, why not two?” About three years later, I ran my first marathon. It was Vancouver 1988. Not surprisingly, given the title, that was 30 years ago. It was actually May 1, 1988, so Vancouver 2018 was a few days past the precise anniversary but that is neither their fault nor mine. We came as close as the calendar would allow.

Did I pique your curiosity just a little when I blamed/credited my doctor for my decision to take on the marathon? As you might have guessed, he was a runner too. Living in a small town, we ran together fairly often. Why was it his fault that I ran my first marathon? Well, when he told me it was the second most exciting thing he had ever done next to his honeymoon, how could I resist??

Start of Vancouver Marathon 1988. Trust me, I’m in there somewhere!

Little did I know, but my first would be my best and fastest. After that first one, I was pretty sure I would do more. I had trained well and felt strong. I had run closely to my plan. There was nothing to make me swear off ever doing another. However, back in those days marathons did not happen every weekend. You had to hunt a little to find one. It didn’t bother me that much. I was pretty busy just around then. One would come along soon enough. Apparently, I ignorantly missed out on a lot for that attitude. Only a few years ago and because the magical and illusive BQ has remained out of reach, I sleuthed out the BQ time for my age in 1988. It turned out it was BQ-worthy. In my own defense, I must say that it was not as big a deal back then. Yes, you had to meet the standard, but if you did, you were in. While I was happy with myself for my time, I was not as impressed as I maybe should have been. I was hanging out and running with so many people able to go sub-3:00, that my 3:24 wasn’t that impressive (to me anyway).

Two years after my first marathon, almost to the day, I was in a hospital having back surgery (ruptured disk). While recovery was pretty good, I seemed to have lost the edge I had prior to surgery. It may have had something to do with the residual nerve damage in my lower left leg (old and well chronicled news).

All my PB times came when I was 43/44 and were still improving when interrupted by the disk problem. That included my half marathon time. A bit more than a year after my surgery, and while living in Brussels, Belgium, I ran the 20K of Brussels, which was as close to a half marathon as I did around that time. I trained well and seriously. My pace prior to surgery, at half marathon range was 4:26/km and after, 4:48/km on a slightly shorter course. That is only 22 seconds slower per kilometre, but it adds up and represents a time difference of 7:42 over a half marathon. I never got that back. Obviously, with that kind of loss, I was not likely to better my marathon time. Also, I was very busy with work and family and although I certainly DID run I didn’t race much for a good 12-14 years. That went on up to and through 2002. There were a couple of periods when I did run/race more, but not steadily. There were also a couple of aborted attempts at doing another marathon.

Janna Finishing RVM 2000

Dan Finishing RVM 2000

My second marathon was kind of a Year 2000 project. I resolved I would train for and run a marathon. I actually intended that it be Vancouver, but I wasn’t anywhere near ready. I finally pulled it off at the Royal Victoria Marathon in October 2000 (which has now morphed into the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon). The fun of that was running it with daughter Janna, who was taking on her first. I now found myself over four hours, never to dip under again. Not a lot over though, and still my second best raw time at 4:17. I mention this as a set-up for something coming ten years later. Oh, and Janna went sub-4:00 for her first time. Just to complete the family story re marathons, our oldest daughter, Danielle came out from Toronto to cheer us on and was so impressed that she went home, trained for and ran her own marathon a year or so later!

Danielle, Dan and Janna 2007 at Victoria Marathon. That year we all three did the half marathon. My shirt was from the 2000 marathon, though.

So, you might think that having got #2 under my sneakers, I would be running more marathons. Again, life got in the way. About the time I got rolling again, we moved to Malaysia for almost two years. There were NO marathons happening over there (for me, anyway), even if I did run nearly every day. When I got back to Canada and settled into Vancouver it seemed time to get another marathon on the go. In 2004, I signed up for and did Vancouver again. It might as well have been a new race, because it certainly was a different route. Time and therefore my age was making a difference. In 2000, I was already 55 years old, not the spry young runner of 43 that I was in 1988.

Napa Marathon. It was a challenge!

I was not that inspired in 2005, but in 2006 I really wanted to do a marathon somewhere that wasn’t Vancouver or Victoria. I picked the Napa Valley Marathon. When you would read the web site description of weather and conditions, it was near ideal for marathon running. The day before and day after were pretty much as advertised. The day of the race was brutal. A storm rolled in and we were being threatened with wind gusts of up to 50 mph. That never happened, but we had steady rain, steady wind of about 15 mph (24km/hr) and gusts to 25 mph (40 kph). If that wasn’t bad enough it was also cold, probably never higher than about 4-5°C. Because it is a point to point route, we were lucky enough to have a headwind the whole way. While not quite as bad as Boston 2018, I had no difficulty understanding what those people were going through.

I just kept going slower and slower, but never did myself any major damage. I decided to use Napa as a training run and signed up for Vancouver again, where the outcome was far more satisfying.

Janna and Dan ready to start the NYCM. Shirt design courtesy of Danielle!

2007 saw me make the big move to run the New York City Marathon. After that one, I swore I would never run NYCM again. Why? Not because it was so awful, but rather because it was so perfect. Again, I ran with Janna (and SHE came home with the big BQ). Because I was then RD for the First Half I got in on a race directors’ special program and special it was, including grandstand seating to watch the US Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials the day before (Ryan Hall won). Day was great, had other friends there and made a last minute decision to bring my wife Judi along (originally she wasn’t going). Oh yeah, considering I was coming back from injury, the race was pretty good too! I actually passed and beat the whole cast of Star Wars and a lighthouse!

Vancouver 2008 (20th Anniversary). Nearing the finish! Again.

In 2008, I got right carried away with myself. Being big on anniversary things, I signed up again for Vancouver for the 20th Anniversary. Unfortunately and as chronicled in detail in a post prior to this year’s marathon, I hurt my back getting out of the shower about a week before the race. Long story short, I got it done anyway.

Later that year (September) we planned a vacation to Maui, where I was signed up for the Maui Marathon. That one was HOT. Bart Yasso (RITZ contributor and CRO for Runners World) ran it too and afterwards declared it officially brutal. By this time, I was chasing the illusive Boston Marathon ‘BQ’ again and was planning to run the California International Marathon in December. I was signed up for the Half at Victoria as a kind of preparation race for CIM. I didn’t do much damage to myself in Maui, as it turned out, so a bit on the spur of the moment (because Maui kind of amounted to the long slow run building up for Victoria) I switched to the Full. FWIW, Maui was the first marathon where I went over five hours. It wasn’t surprising, but I had some fun with it, telling running friends my time had been 4:66. That brought some strange looks, until they figured it out and had a good laugh (at my expense).

That began a string of races where my time got incrementally better as I chased after a BQ. It went Victoria (2008), CIM (2008), Victoria (2009), CIM (2009), Eugene Marathon (2010). As it happened, the Maui, Victoria, CIM sequence qualified me not for Boston, but as a Marathon Maniac! Still, it took several years before I joined, because all of the very few Maniacs I knew had dozens and even hundreds of marathons to their names. Thankfully, some of them told me, “That’s not what it’s all about- JOIN.”  I did.

Rolling by Hayward Field, about nine miles into 2010 Eugene Marathon.

Eugene in 2010 was a huge milestone for me. You may recall I mentioned something about my second marathon in Victoria in 2000 being second best raw time, but to wait for what was to come. Well, this is what was coming. Around this time of incremental, yet ever better results, I was working with the Forerunners marathon clinics and really driving my training. In Eugene, finishing on the fabled Hayward Field, I laid down my third best raw time, 10 years and 10 marathons after Victoria 2000. Those 10 years were important though, because my Eugene time was only about 10 minutes slower than the race in Victoria in 2000 and clearly, by some distance, my second best age graded result. Getting older does slow you down, but not nearly as much or as fast as you might think, if you are ready to work at it. I’m not sure if it was some kind of running karma or reward, but I got my first marathon podium (3rd M65-69, with 16 of us in the category). I nearly fell over when they handed me the slip of paper with my splits, finish and placement! But, I didn’t get the BQ. I did get a lot closer though.

Six of my seven Reggae Marathon medals.

I promise to ease back on talking about every marathon, but I have to say that with progress on the Boston time, I headed into 2011 with fire in my eye and planned a triumphant return to Eugene. Unfortunately, stepping in the most modest of potholes on a training run, I tore some cartilage in my knee, which I didn’t know at the time. It kind of came around a bit as the target race (Eugene) approached so I decided to go ahead and do the marathon, knowing full well the progression of better and better times had come to an end, at least for the time being. Bad decision. It cost me most of the rest of the year of racing. That said, as Fall came on I did have a diagnosis and regimen to deal with the knee and I began the seven-year love affair with the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K that continues to this very moment. (FYI – you can’t run Reggae Marathon and CIM – they are the same weekend, and starting this year, will be the same day.) I was signed up for the actual marathon in Negril, but miscommunication and unfortunate transport arrangements saw me reach the start line nearly 2.5 hrs late. I mean, it IS Jamaica, but even there, ‘soon come‘ just doesn’t cover that amount of time. Lucky for me, I was able to run the 10K and get credit. No marathon though. Not to this day and very unlikely to happen now.

I think somewhere around that point in time, I began to realize marathons just had to be for fun. I joined Marathon Maniacs at Bronze Level, but marathons #17 through #22, moved from the base level to Two Stars or Silver Level, by running 6 marathons in 6 consecutive calendar months. One of them was the Elk-Beaver 50K mentioned before.

Running Down Big Cottonwood Canyon – #gettingair – Racing CAN be fun!

I’ve done some seriously downhill races in hopes that I might trip and roll my way to a BQ, but that hasn’t worked yet either. I traveled to favourite races with favourite people (yes, I’m talking about Eugene and a LOT of Forerunners runners). That is always great fun. I ran the current BMO Vancouver course because it was relatively new and would mean that I had run Vancouver on three distinctly different routes. I’ve ‘Run the Strip at Night‘ in Vegas and through a tunnel (Light at the End of the Tunnel). I’ve run them cold (that would be Napa) and hot (Maui at 90°F, 90% RH and a bit of volcanic smog). I’ve run ’em dry (Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon, near Salt Lake City and ever so wet (Vancouver 2014). I’ve done them BIG (NYCM) and pretty small (Freedom Marathon – #3 in a Maniac Quadzilla four marathon weekend). Some were hard. Some were fun. All were satisfying.

That brings us to 2018 and the 30th Anniversary of the first time I ever ran a marathon or the Vancouver International Marathon. As I mentioned in the preview post, I really wasn’t trained. How I missed the point that it would be the 30th, I don’t know. Couldn’t be my age! Still, having done the Seven Summits of Vancouver Challenge (longer and hillier) in October 2017, I figured I could tough out a marathon on almost the same route, minus 5K and at least three major hills. I had signed up and was in the process of getting ready to train for the half marathon, but switched up to the marathon. I’m so glad I did.

Pre-Race with Walter Downey. You remember him, he was featured not long ago.

Unlike 2014 (wins for wettest ever), it was an absolutely gorgeous day in Vancouver. Spring has been late, so trees were still blossoming, flowers were out in profusion and the sky was largely blue. In theory, it was hot for ideal marathon running, but a high of 21°C is not really THAT hot. I knew a lot of people running and saw many on the course (not to mention before the race started). I guess it was warmer than ideal. While the first half of the race went almost exactly to plan (actually about 2-3 minutes ahead of the theoretical split times I had in mind), I will admit I was only able to run to my training. Funny how that seems to work.

A few steps from the finish! 30th Anniversary Marathon in the books. Coming in for a high-five with photographer, Mary Hinze.

The second half was a grind. That said, it was no surprise and there was no sense that things had gone badly off the rails. I expected most of what I got and in truth was only 10-15 minutes slower then my realistic prediction/plan. (We won’t discuss my optimistic plan.) I can even account for some/most of the extra time in terms of one PP stop, a pause for re-application of sun screen, another for re-application of Body Glide (yes, when it is hot and you keep pouring water over yourself, chafing happens) plus a brief self massage to loosen up a rapidly tightening ITB. None of it mattered except to point out that I got exactly what I expected. I’m not saying the finish line was not a very, very welcome sight. It surely was. So were the people I knew, still there and cheering us stragglers in, not to mention Judi and her friend Ann. The icing on that finish line cake was good friend and co-editor of Running in the Zone, Steve King, calling me home over the last stretch, with his magic commentary.

May 6, 2018: 30th Anniversary Marathon. Done!

Oh, and to save  you the trouble of trying to count them up (’cause I didn’t actually name them all), it was the 29th marathon, and my sixth running of the Vancouver Marathon.




Pacific Road Runners

Although this is not quite ‘news’ to me, it has just become public. The Pacific Road Runners  “First Half” Half Marathon has become part of the RunVan stable of running events. It is no longer a club owned/operated event as it had been from the very first race, back in 1989 and up until the 2018 race. I hope and trust that RunVan will operate it with some consideration of First Half traditions, but once such a decision is taken, the old guard must step away and let what was, rest in peace. As good an event as the First Half WAS, who knows, it may be even better with a larger professionally managed format. There will be advantages and options not available to a club.

In the early days, there were PANCAKES!

I have known for a while that this change was being considered. As has been my custom since about 2004, I was again involved in the staging of the event in 2018. When I saw the complete list of the race team, it was a bit shocking to see that almost all the names were the same as when I was Race Director (2006 – 2010). PRR, like many running clubs, is made up of members who just run and organize as a hobby. Everyone has a job and other responsibilities. Staging races in a major city becomes more and more complicated every year. For a range of reasons, supporters become shorter term partners and then move on. The event still needs the support, so there is often a new crisis in finding the new/replacement partner. The energy required to keep this going is more than most will understand and apparently reached the point where a modestly sized running club could no longer muster what was needed.

We wrote a 20 year history while I was RD, but naturally, there is now almost another 10 years worth to add to that. I hope you will pardon me, while I dig out some of those memories. Some of the biggest names in Vancouver and Canadian running are part of the history of the race. I mentioned sponsors, or as it is more common to say these days – partners. There have been many, and generous partners over the years. That said, there was ONE partner who was with the First Half from the first race to the last: Forerunners. The founders of Forerunners are Peter and Karen Butler. Peter, just coming to the end of his elite running career in 1989, was the first winner of the first First Half.

Rachel Cliff for the WIN and new Record 2018)

Beginning with Peter, you can add an illustrious string of names over the years, women and men, who competed in and won the First Half. Numbered among them are Olympians, world level competitors and record holders; in summary, Canada’s best. There have been multi-year winners and the event records have been somewhat astounding when you realize the race has always been held around mid-February. Although the name of the race has nothing to do with it being the first half marathon of the year, in fact it pretty much is.

Of course, records are made to be broken, so it only makes sense to cite the current records, but it should not be lost on anyone that a number of the winners were also record breakers/holders at the time. The current men’s record is 1:o4:21, set in 2012 by, Dylan Wykes. The current women’s record is 1:12:21 set just a couple of months ago in 2018 by Rachel Cliff, breaking the 16 year record of Tina Connelly of 1:12:47.

Here are the winning women over the years. They are in chronological order (1989 to 2018) and any given individual is only listed once, but if she won more than once, the number is shown in brackets after the name. Check these amazing runners out:

Isabelle Dittberner (2), Carolyn Hubbard, Sylviane Puntous, Jackie Zwertailo, Lisa Weidenbach, Lucy Smith (2), Tina Connelly (3), Meghan O’Brian, Erin Heffring, Lisa Harvey (4), Janine Mofett, Leah Pells, Kirsty Smith, Cheryl Murphy, Ellie Greenwood, Natasha Wodak (2), Catrin Jones, Dayna Pidhoresky (2), Rachel Cliff.

On the men’s side, the list is also long and illustrious:

Peter Butler, Ashley Dustow, Art Boileau (3), Bruce Deacon (3), Phil Ellis (2), Carey Nelson, Norm Tinkham (2), Neil Holm, Jeremy Deer, Steve Osaduik, Ryan Hayden (2), Richard Mosley, Dylan Wykes (3), Rob Watson (3), Eric Gillis.

Art Boileau 3X winner, is still going in 2018!

There are probably a few asterisks to go with these lists. The biggest is that most of these winners, ran many more times than the winner lists suggest. As an example, Art Boileau won three times, but he was also second  and has run the race many other times, including in 2018. The same can be said of so many of these fine athletes. The Puntous twins were very well known in their time and famous for being right on each other’s heels. When Sylviane won in 1991, Patricia was in second, just 5 seconds back. In 1989, they were second and third (same order) with just one second between.

A little road clearing was needed before we could run in 2007

In 1992 Bruce Deacon set an event record (1:04:45) that stood until 2007 when Ryan Hayden posted a 1:04:44 on a very different course. Not only different, but ‘alternate’. 2007 was the year of the great wind storm that closed the Seawall for almost a year and forced the route to go up and over Prospect Point (on the road) rather than around the Seawall. It was my first year as RD. There was some furious conferencing as to whether or not we would recognize the new event record. The First Half has had a stable route for some time, but followed various routes over the years, so the record has always been an ‘event’ record. Notwithstanding the chaos and turmoil of that race, we knew we had the alternate route measured. (Everyone was also pretty sure it was a LOT more difficult than the normal route.) Calm and wisdom prevailed and the record was recognized and Bruce’s fifteen year reign was done.

If anyone decides to go check for themselves at the PRR race web site (while it is still there), they may notice that in 1989 Peter Butler recorded an event time of 1:04:23 and Isabelle Dittberner had a time of 1:10:45. You would have to ask yourself why those were not the records to be broken. It would be a good question. The answer was a slip-up either in the actual measuring or perhaps in course layout on race day. It was determined that somehow 21.1km had morphed into 20.3km. It was 800m short. Here is the story from Peter, himself:

“………the 1989 Pacific Road Runners “First Half” Half Marathon was effectively my 2nd last competitive run (the last being a 30KM event at UBC several weeks later) where I ran 1:33. The “First Half” race itself was between me and Kiwi, Ashley Dustow, with Ashley setting the pace at approximately 5:00 minutes per mile for the first 10 miles or so. I stayed with him most of the way, finally surging away with 5K remaining. The result (1:04:23) seemed too fast at the time and sure enough, it was discovered afterwards to be 2:30 or about 800 metres short. My personal best for the half, is a 1:03:30 (1985) but that was a few years earlier when I was in 2:10:56 marathon shape. I remember the 1989 race starting at the entrance to Granville Island and doing several loops in the False Creek area before finishing on Granville Island………………..”

I am told by Maurice Wilson (BC Athletics and long-time PRR club member), a fine runner in his own right back at the time of the first First Half, that rather than lead cyclists or police motorcycle escort, there was a lead runner team. I believe there were two runners (Maurice being one) who could go fast enough for up to about 10K, to stay ahead of the lead racer and warn pedestrians that the race was coming. At half way, they switched off. I don’t know how long this method was followed, but you surely don’t see it today!

It isn’t all about the elites! Mid-pack runners enjoying the day on the Seawall.

All of this said, the First Half has long been a race for a wide range of runners. The participation of anyone able to cover 21.1km in under three hours was welcomed and celebrated. As an insider, I can tell you that it has always been a challenge to keep people around post-race for the results and awards, because none of that part of the event was going to start until the last competitor crossed the finish line! Ways were found to speed up the process once awards ceremonies began, but that part of the program never happened until the race was truly over. Every runner was considered to be the same as every other competitor.

My first time assisting with the Variety cheque presentation, in 2007.

On a very personal note, my association with the First Half and the honour of serving as Race Director for a period of time stand out as highlights of my career in running. A big reason for that is the TEAM aspect of staging the event. One of the outstanding aspects of the volunteer team was the continuing presence of former RDs. On race weekend, almost all former race directors could be found doing one job or another (or maybe several). The only exceptions were two of the earliest who no longer lived in BC. PRR has been a group of people second to none that I’ve ever been associated with, where it comes to stepping up and serving. Former club members (people who have either stopped running or live too far away to actively participate in the club) come back each year to volunteer for the First Half. From the smallest to the largest job, there was always someone ready to step up. Sadly, I guess I have to add, until now.

Setting up at the Roundhouse and getting Course gear ready for Sunday morning. The part few see.

As I understand it, collectively, the club had just run out of energy to keep the race going to the current standard, and improving. Make no mistake, one of the hallmarks of the First Half is that it did constantly improve and innovate all through its almost 30 year history. I’m pretty sure the ‘easy’ decision would just have been to continue. I mean, after all these years and so much experience, it is not that difficult to turn the crank one more time. Not difficult, but with each turn, maybe just a little less special. I know the decision to ‘sell’ the race to RunVan and the Vancouver International Marathon Society was not taken easily. It remains to be seen over the longer term if it was the right decision. And, I must say that this is not a comment about RunVan that operates the BMO Vancouver Marathon, the Granville Island Turkey Trot 10K and Fall Classic  (and now the First Half), it’s about the decision itself and the other options that were necessarily rejected in the process. One thing I DO know is that when such a decision is taken, there should be no looking back. The King is dead! Long live the King!  That sort of thing.

The good news is that management has changed, but the race goes on! It will be quite exciting to see what the ‘All New First Half” looks like come February. Naturally, one hopes that the new owner will take the best of the best from the event, and augment with newer better ideas, maybe ones that a modest running club could not entertain. Anyway, that is MY hope. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the ‘new and improved’ event, but right now (and just this one time) please join me in a nostalgic look back at the “First Half”.

Back in the times when the race was inaugurated, most races were club organized affairs. The Vancouver Marathon was the baby of Lions Gate Road Runners and the Vancouver International Marathon Society. Running clubs indulged in friendly rivalry, but there was also plenty of support and cooperation among the clubs. Basically, if a club was prepared to put on a race for the rest of the community, that community needed to be supportive of the other guy’s race and vice versa. Although I do know some of the people who WERE there, I don’t know precisely what went on behind closed doors. As I understand it, there was agreement that it would be good to have a half marathon prep race leading up to the Vancouver Marathon (run in early May). I believe there was even talk that there should be two half marathons staged prior to the marathon. What emerged was the “First Half” Half Marathon. At least in some people’s minds (and maybe until it was learned how challenging it would be to stage two) there was supposed to be a “Second Half” Half Marathon. Eventually, the First Half became a major and prestigious event in its own right and very much under the management of PRR. However, there always was interaction between PRR and LGRR where it came to staging the First Half and the Vancouver Marathon. Gear was loaned and volunteer teams were swapped over many years.

2009 Lead Pack at 1 Mile on a cool and sunny morning.

For a race run in February, the First Half has had an amazing record of good weather. Even the storm that took down all those trees in Stanley Park (as a special treat and introduction to me as a new RD in 2007), was not on race day and gave us time to organize an alternate route and stage the race. The great snow storm of 2017 resulted in the only weather cancelation in the history of the First Half.

The sun is not guaranteed

There was one other cancelation in 2010 when David Lam Park was ‘ground zero’ for the in town celebration site for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Roundhouse was the Italian HQ and celebration centre. We tried and tried to find a date and location that was not a direct conflict. Unfortunately, for certainty of venues etc., there was a rather large window around the actual dates of the Olympics and Para-Olympics, and while it was even admitted that our race could likely have been accommodated, a policy of NO events was adopted, no exceptions. Rather than push out and impinge on other local races, we eventually gave in and decided to cancel. That was my last year as RD (it was going to be anyway) and I think I may have worked harder NOT putting on that race, than I did as RD of the three we did stage!

Plaza of Nations, 1996.

You can’t write about the First Half and ignore the association with Variety – The Children’s Charity. There has always been a charity component to the race, but the affiliation with and support of Variety commenced in 1995. Arrangements had been made to stage the race out of the newly refurbished Roundhouse Community Centre. Too bad it wasn’t finished. What to do? In those days, Variety was using the Plaza of Nations area (and what became the casino) for its annual Show of Hearts Telethon. Arrangements were quickly made to use the Plaza of Nations and make a donation to Variety in return. From that time on, even though by the next year the Roundhouse was available, the First Half supported Variety with a charitable donation. In the most recent years, that donation has risen to an annual contribution of $50,000. From the very beginning and up to the 2018 First Half, the total donation to Variety has reached $790,000. Because of the generous support of partners, runners and careful management by PRR, not to mention huge volunteer hours, this money is realized directly from the race revenues. Runners were always encouraged to personally support Variety, but the race never took pledges or tried to keep track of such donations. And, while doing all of this, the registration costs were kept reasonable for a half marathon of its size and quality.

Rushing to the computers to register. Oh, no, start crowd 2018.

A big feature of the First Half was the rapid sell-out for races after about 2005 or 2006. Interestingly, the inaugural race in 1989 saw just 380 entrants. It was a different time though and half marathon races or longer were a good deal more ‘hard core’ than today. Still, registration numbers grew steadily until 2001 when they just tipped over 2000 (the permitted limit). For some years, the race sold out, but around 2005, the time involved became about one month after opening registration, then it became a week, a few days, a DAY and then hours. The last year I was RD (2009) for a race that actually happened, we sold out in 3:26 (hours and minutes). Your first challenge, if you wanted to run the First Half, had become getting to your computer and getting registered. For some time the actual hour of opening of registration was kept secret. The first time a decision was taken to reveal the time when registration would go live, the registrar’s computers were swamped!

I could go on (and on). As I have searched for the background photos and info, I have come across so many memories. But, you must stop somewhere. I guess this is it. As one of those who has had the privilege of being the Race Director, I believe I should thank all PRR members who made this race what it became. I want to acknowledge both club members and community volunteers without whom race weekend could not happen. If I have my count right there have been eight RDs who aren’t me. I want to particularly make mention of three. Marco Iucolino (RD for eight years) who preceded me and taught me everything I know about the race, and was singularly responsible for getting the whole thing wrangled into chewable pieces, with an operating manual for each sector. I want to recognize Nicki Decloux who took over from me and gave me the best advice I got as we struggled over the 2010 Olympic impasse: step away from the phone/computer/race, you’ve done all that can be done! Finally, I must recognize the last RD, Terry Bushnell, who probably had the most difficult job of all of us. He was the one who had to be responsible for turning off the lights. I’m glad it wasn’t my job. I’m not sure I could have done it.

To RunVan: we may be gone, but we won’t forget. We wish you all the best with the new RunVan First Half and I’m pretty sure that if you need any help, you won’t have a hard time finding someone.





That is a rhetorical question. Please don’t answer! And naturally, Maniac refers to Marathon Maniac.

The answer to that is: MM #6837, or YES – Level 2/Silver, no less.

‘Why the question?’ might be a better thing to ask, though.

I will tell you. Or, I will tell you why the question is posed and you can decide, but please don’t answer, anyway.

Finishing my very first marathon.

On May 1, 1988 I ran the Asics Vancouver International Marathon. I even wore Asics shoes. But I digress. It was my FIRST marathon. I will admit, number two took a long time to get in the books (Royal Victoria International Marathon, October 2000, to be precise), but I have been busy since then.

My Marathon Maniac count is now at 28. I put it that way because they count anything longer than a marathon for your total, as long as the race meets certain standards for timing, measurement and participation. One of my 28 ‘marathons’ was a 50K Ultra. OK, this is just a bit of bragging since it actually has very little to do with the story. Now, if it was 29 marathons in the book, well, that would be a whole other matter!

In May 2008, I ran the BMO Vancouver Marathon. I also ran in 2004, 2006 and 2014. For anyone having trouble keeping track or not particularly caring at this point, that total is FIVE. I’ve also done the Half Marathon six times for a total of eleven Vancouver Marathon events.

Why did I mention 2008 first? Obviously, it was the 20th Anniversary of my first, in 1988.

Why did I just switch my registration for 2018 from the Half Marathon to the Marathon (even though I am far from trained to actually RUN a marathon)?

Of course!

Because it is the 30th Anniversary of the first one. It is also why, if I had already done 29 marathons, it would be an even bigger deal, as it would create great symmetry by being my 30th marathon, done on the 30th Anniversary of the first. I suppose that mark is still available should I do one more sometime this year, making it 30 in my 30th Anniversary year. I could do another one before Vancouver, too, but that WOULD be crazy!

If you were reading closely in the last paragraph, you would already have figured out why the title asks about being ‘certifiably crazy’.

I will now explain why I don’t actually feel this is crazy. Maniacal perhaps, but not crazy.

I do not intend to RUN this marathon in May. I plan to DO it. The great opportunity here is that Vancouver has a seven hour clock. I intend to train up to at least half marathon distance and to run some of the course and walk some.

Seventh and Final Summit – it wasn’t really that bad!

Last October, I took on Forerunners‘ Seven Summits of Vancouver Challenge with about the same training as I will have by the time of the Vancouver Marathon. The route for the Seven Summits is amazingly similar to the Vancouver Marathon through quite some portion of the event. The Challenge started at Forerunners on Main and headed up over the top of Queen Elizabeth Park, or as we called it when I was a kid growing up in the neighbourhood, Little Mountain. The Marathon starts by Hillcrest Park at the north-side ‘foot’ of Little Mountain, no more than a mile from Forerunners. Both, using slightly different streets, wind up at the foot of the Camosun Hill (Marine Drive and Camosun). They go up that ugly hill, then over to 16th, out onto the UBC campus and eventually back onto Marine and down the big hill to Spanish Banks. While not exactly the same, both follow along the beaches until they reach and pass over the Burrard Bridge, continuing down Pacific until they get to Stanley Park. At that point the Marathon has only about another 10K to go, mostly on the Stanley Park Seawall. The Seven Summits Challenge heads up OVER Prospect Point, back down and up Pacific for another pass over Burrard Bridge, up and up until reaching “The Crescents” above 16th and Granville and down a little until making the last bit of ascent to the Forerunners store at 23rd and Main. Marathon = 42.2km. Challenge = 47km.

My strategy for the Challenge was to run the downs, walk the ups and decide when I got there, what to do about the flat sections. It worked well and in the end was a lot of fun.

Nearing the finish in 2008 – 20th Anniversary

Backing up a little, I have to say that I have never, ever, approached a marathon this way. I have run every marathon I have ever done, to the best of my ability. More than a few were less than stellar, but they were the best I had at the time. I ran one, Eugene, a bit injured (now that was kind of crazy). I ran a whole sequence a bit off peak, when I was trying to move up to Silver Maniac status (had to do 6 in six calendar months to qualify). But, they were strategic and actually the best I could do under the circumstances. Writing this reminds me that my 20th Anniversary Vancouver Marathon also belongs in this list. For that one, I was well prepared, but about one week prior to the race, I slipped getting out of the shower and wrenched my back. Anyone who reads this blog knows of my long-term back problem. I knew this was strictly muscular and not a serious injury, but it still hurt – a lot. I took it really easy through the week. I lived quite near the start in those days. I woke on Sunday, feeling OK, not great, but OK. I gingerly jogged over to the start. No issues. That was actually the deciding factor between starting and turning around and going home. I won’t say I then ran an amazing race. I didn’t, but it was quite OK and I got my 20th Anniversary Vancouver Marathon done.

So here I sit with my upgraded registration in hand, anticipating doing Vancouver on the 30th Anniversary of my first. More importantly, maybe, is that I am, for the first time, anticipating/planning to do it just to get it done. A few races may have kind of turned out that way, but they did not start with that plan.

My most recent marathon – Light at the End of the Tunnel

This is important on a lot of levels. Last year, I did the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon thinking it was possibly my last. It was a wonderful experience though not a wonderful time. I won’t rehash the story. It is HERE if you want to read it. I did train for it and did have a race plan. A number of things mitigated against the enterprise and I knowingly ‘shut it down’ well before the finish and just kind of enjoyed the day. I knew I would not attain my goal of under five hours, so figured why not just soak it all in and enjoy.

Since then I have been thinking about how much I love marathons. There is just something about that race/distance that is not matched in other events. I ran a bunch of other races since then, even winning a bit of hardware and posting reasonable times, but the marathon is still the love of my running life. What I need to learn from some of my fellow Marathon Maniacs and a couple of personal friends, is how to just DO A MARATHON. No goal other than getting from the start to the finish with a time that up until now, I can’t PERSONALLY feel good about. To be very clear, this is not a comment about others who are happy to take 6 or 7 hours, maybe more if the race allows, to complete a marathon. It is 100% about me and whether or not I can do it.

It is pretty clear that the heavy training essential to doing well is no longer something I can manage particularly well. The rest of the family seems to think I am getting old and decrepit and that marathons are too hard. They might be right where it comes to pushing to the limit of my abilities. BUT, it is so very hard to leave the event behind. I like to race, so maybe the answer is to keep the competitive attitude for shorter distances, but adopt a new approach to the marathon. I know I won’t be alone out there while taking it easy. The only question is, ‘will I be happy?’. The answer to that question may come from doing the BMO Vancouver Marathon slow and easy and just inside the seven hour time allowed. It will satisfy my anniversary race goal. It may also give me the courage to overcome ego and keep enjoying the occasional marathon that still ‘needs’ to be done.



Sick, sick, sick.

Faking that I was feeling good for a Sunday beach run.

You would correctly have expected a Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K summary or wind-up by now. Truth be told, the first three words above, pretty much sum things up. I’ve been running for 33-34 years and have no idea how many destination races I’ve done in that time. Lots. I guess I can’t complain much that this was the first time I truly got ‘struck down’ by some kind of bug. That is a lot of trips and races without incident of the infection kind.

I suppose the good news is I can blame my stupid slow time on ‘the bug’. Somehow it isn’t that satisfying. I was planning to run the Half Marathon in Negril because there is a much better than average chance that I won’t be going next year and if I get back in 2019, I will be less than a month from being 75. Who knows if I’ll still be running half marathons by then. So, I really wanted to do the half marathon this time.

As race day approached and I sank ever deeper into wheezing and coughing, I knew I had to downgrade to the 10K. I did that at package pick-up on Thursday, but it was not obvious that I was even going to be able to do the 10K. By Friday, when the Best Pasta Party in the World happens, I bailed on attending. I drank fluids and scoffed down over the counter meds Friday night. Saturday morning (really, really early Saturday morning) I got up and donned my running gear. In relative terms, I wasn’t feeling too bad. At the very least, I figured I could walk the 10K if that was how it had to be. I mean, after coming all this way, I couldn’t let my other Three Amigos down when it came to our annual photo.

I wandered around more or less alone (in a crowd), just keeping a low profile. I walked from Rondel Village to the start with Chris Morales, met up with Larry and Karen, Navin and Daivati at the start, but pretty much stayed away from anyone and everyone. Precisely at 5:15am the race(s) started. I put myself well back, so it took over two minutes to officially cross the start line. I figured to just do what I could and started out at a slow easy jog. For the first time in all the times, I was able to spot myself in the start-line video. I actually didn’t look as bad as I would have thought!!

Negril River and fishing boats (what I saw for the first time on race morning).

I had planned on a regime of walking and running when intending to do the Half, so I just kind of started with that program. My intent was to walk one minute in every kilometre. That was good for a little while. The morning was pretty warm, but humidity was better than the last couple of years. With no expectations, I was actually feeling not bad and enjoying the morning. I realized when I got to the turn-around in Negril Town, that dawn was well advanced and I was seeing things I don’t usually see at that point (too dark). I’ve written about it in the past because I’ve been there on training runs at around that same time. It is magical to look down onto the Negril River with the fishing boats and white egrets still roosting in the trees along the river bank.

Soon enough, I passed the 5K point and knew I was half way home. A quick inventory showed I was feeling OK. Not, well let’s sprint a bit OK, but not falling down awful. I kept walking and running as seemed appropriate. It wasn’t long before I passed by Rondel Village and knew about how far I still had to go. I knew then that I would record another finish. The one HARD part of the 10K is that when you get to the ‘finish’ you aren’t finished! You must pass the finish chute and cheering folks, and keep going at least another 4-500m before you get to turn back and truly head for the finish line. Strangely enough, I actually felt like I was running stronger in this section and once I hit the turn-off and started trundling down the true finish chute I think I was smiling. Checking my gps report afterwards, it seems my last 2K was the fastest segment of the race! Not fast, just fastER than the rest. I guess I was feeling a bit better.

What happened next was a bit overwhelming! All my buddies started bringing me stuff. In the able bodied past, I had to get my own, but here I was with water, fresh coconut and lots of support from all these great friends. I managed to finish ahead of Larry who was having a great run in the Half and Lawrence Watson, also doing the Half and winning his age group.

Navin Sadarangani and me as the sun rises over the Finish Area.

The sun was rising over the trees and I was actually feeling pretty good (relative term, but to quote Billy Crystal – “Dahling, It’s better to look good than to feel good……………”). It was about then that I discovered my phone/camera had got drowned during the run. I put it in a plastic zip-lock bag, but I guess the bag leaked – may have ‘zipped’, but apparently it didn’t ‘lock’. I took the poor thing apart and tried to dry it out a bit, but nothing, nada, zilch. The good news was that I did get it dried out later without any further heartache or great effort. There was much talk of rice, but it wasn’t necessary in the end. Still, I got NO photos of my own from the finish party. Fortunately, a few others have shared, so I can show you how it was. The big deal, of course, was that the Four Amigos (Navin, Larry, Chris and Dan) got to take our annual photograph, showing a total this time of THIRTY fingers, representing the 30 events we have run collectively.

Four Amigos ride (run) again for a total of 30 Reggae Marathon events.

I spent more time on the actual beach this year than is my usual practice. It was so nice to just soak up the sun and dabble my toes in the sea. I wasn’t too active, but I felt pretty good. Eventually, Chris and I made our homeward (Rondel Village) trek along the beach at the water’s edge. It is so funny to run this race and wind up back at the resort in time for breakfast (not even a late breakfast) when it already feels like a full day’s work is behind us.

Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy) with a few Reggae Runnerz at Rondel Village

Unfortunately, it was shortly after that when I started to realize the ‘sinking feeling’ that was going to be representative of everything to follow for the next days. I was brave though. Chris does a lot of social media work with a lot of groups, one of which is the Reggae Runnerz. He was invited to their post-race “Green Gold and Black” party and I was invited as his ‘plus one’. I can’t say I was the life of the party, but was still grateful to be included with this vibrant group (a good many of whom were staying at our resort). They long ago outgrew the Treehouse! I mean, there are around 500 of them!!

Sunset from Xtabi Resort, Negril.

Sunday afternoon brought the traditional One Love Bus excursion. I went. I was quiet. I had a couple of beers and got some really great sunset photos. Last year, we had lots of fun, but the sunset was a big nothing (fairly unusual). This year it was spectacular and made up in spades for 2016. However, as the sun set in the West End of Negril, so it did on my remaining energy. I don’t think my run or other activities did me any more harm than if I had done nothing. It is typical (it turns out) of this bug that you think you are OK, then a day later, not so much. I guess I was lucky that one of my ‘better’ days was the day of Reggae Marathon. I won’t say it was like previous years, but it was a kind of quiet fun and a whole lot better than I thought it was going to be on Friday when I bailed on the pasta party.

Not much more to say. I’m still slowly recovering almost a week after getting home. Yesterday was the first time I thought running sounded like a good idea. Not such a good idea that I intend to do it anytime soon, but at least the thought crossed my mind.

Charlie and Grandad ready to run Victoria 8K

Reggae Marathon was always going to be my last race for 2017, so I can at least look back at my year of running and racing. It was an interesting year in that not all my races were meant to be all out efforts. Two of them were with my grandson Charlie and done at his pace. One was as a pacer for a time that was significantly slower than I know I could do. One of the ‘events’ wasn’t a race at all, but rather a ‘challenge’. That was the Seven Summits of Vancouver Challenge (47km), organized by Forerunners. I wrote about that a month or so ago, so won’t be repeating it here. Still, it was a highlight of my 2017. When all was said and done, and all five ‘Challenge’ days had come and gone, a total of 26 people had completed the challenge.

Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon (#27) – DONE

I did manage to do one more marathon in 2017. My last? Maybe, but doing that particular race (Light at the End of the Tunnel) and the Seven Summits, gave me a bit different perspective on what I can maybe do in the future. There are some marathons I’d yet like to do and if the time limit is long enough, I could take all the time I want and just enjoy the experience. That said, I’m still in the middle of a plan (that this flu bug didn’t help much) to let my legs recover and get strong, relative to some serious training in 2018. IF I were to pick out a marathon for a decent time, I would need to truly train for it, no skimping on distance or speed. We’ll see. Marathon or not, I do plan to train to run as well as I can at whatever distance.

A really BIG thrill for me in 2017 has been the Your Run Starts Here – Learn to Run 5K project with Forerunners. We completed two clinic cycles just before the Fall Classic (where I paced 35:00 for the 5K). Several of my clinic folk ran and did really well. We were all thrilled. Somehow, running karma must have kicked in because even though I just did what was asked of me as 35 minute pacer, I managed to win my age group.

The entire family, post-race Victoria 2017

All in all, I ran eight actual races and did the Seven Summits Challenge. One of the races I did with Charlie was the Goodlife Fitness Victoria 8K and I could tell that while he was pushed to do the time he did, it was a six minute PB over the year before and a clear indicator that Grandad may be trying to keep up with the grandson in future races. Victoria is always the family event and 2016 was no different. All branches and members of the extended family were there. Daughter Janna ran the 8K, as did Charlie and I, while Danielle (Charlie’s Mom) ran the half marathon. The only unhappy team member seemed to be the youngest grandson, Jonah, who was pretty sure “I can run!!“. He demonstrated this to all of us. Next year, maybe he can enter the kids run.

2017 Finisher Medals (and a First). Remember when races didn’t DO finisher medals?

I mentioned running Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon and even though my time was quite slow, I was super pleased with the day. If it is my last marathon, it was a good one to be the last. Interestingly, even though three of my eight races were based on a different intention than going as fast as I could, I still managed three podium finishes in 2016, a nice symmetrical first, second and third. Mostly, it is a result of age and attrition, but I’ll take them anyway.

As usual for this time of year, I’ve started laying out potential races for 2018. Probably, I won’t be doing all of them, but it is still good to see them laid out in context. Because my wife and I will be celebrating 50 years of marriage in August of 2018, we have planned a trip to India (and maybe Nepal) to mark the event. While I doubt I can find a race to run (we won’t be sitting still much and you would have to be in just the right place at the right time), I will at least add one, if not two, countries to my total of places where I’ve run. Please don’t tell my wife I’m looking for a race. Aaah, probably doesn’t matter. She likely already suspects I’m poking around for possibilities. I mean, we aren’t talking marathon. A 5K would do fine, but how special would it be to do some kind of race? I’ve run in some 23 separate countries over the years but I’m way down on races (just five countries).

Just writing this is making me feel better. No, not good enough to go for a run, but that time IS coming. So good to actually feel like I want to, and CAN run.



Lawrence Watson and Navin Sadarangani, the first time we all met at Reggae Marathon Pasta Party

I arrived yesterday (Nov 23) in Jamaica and am staying for a couple of days with fellow Reggae running friend, Lawrence Watson at his Castle Vue Bed & Breakfast in Montego Bay. I expect to soon see the guy who introduced us seven years ago, Navin Sadarangani, one of the Four Amigos. Navin and Lawrence know each other from the days when Navin lived in MoBay and they used to run together. Navin is also here for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. This is a great start to the vacation and running adventure that is the Reggae Marathon!

Of course, most of us (except Navin) never actually RUN the actual marathon. This year, that includes the ever intrepid Navin, who broke his leg earlier in the year in a (if you can believe it) non-running accident. 10K this year for Navin. The only other of the Four Amigos to have run the marathon is Chris Morales (That Runnin’ Guy) and it was his first time, nine years ago. I intended to at my first Reggae Marathon, but you’ve heard that story more than enough times.

First run, with Lawrence Watson in Montego Bay

I have started writing this at Castle Vue, but expect I won’t finish it and post until I get to Negril and my home for the remainder of the stay, Rondel Village. The only reason for waiting is largely because I have this personal THING about not really being here until I’m checked in at Rondel Village. Because I can (retired, doncha’ know?) I always lengthen my stay beyond the time needed to attend Reggae Marathon weekend (3-4 days). It is too far to travel, not to stay at least a week. Several times it has been more, including this time.

Sunday sun rising over Norman Manley Blvd

So, I am the ‘advance party’ and like to taunt my friends about getting here hurrying up to join me. I post a few photos like the ones here, just to get them fired up about their trip and the fun of the event. It doesn’t take much! While the “Four Amigos” remain the core, the list of other friends grows every year, and of course the Reggae Marathon ‘family’ of Frano, Diane, Jessica, and Gena is part of it.

This is the last year (it is said) that the race will be on Saturday. For a bunch of reasons, starting next year (2019), the race will happen on Sunday. It won’t much impact me (see above) but should help people who want to run but don’t have the time to take much more than a long weekend.

Quick stop for a ‘selfie’ during the first run in Negril

One of the first orders of business, usually my first morning in Negril, is a run in the early morning. It is both a celebration of being back (as they say here “Welcome Home”) and a bit of a safety measure. Safety? Yes, when you come from The Great White North (aka Canada) it has been some time since you will have experienced the everyday weather conditions of Negril. As hot places go, Negril is really not extreme, but if you can, some acclimatization is highly recommended. I can.

While I love running the beach, my first run is usually along Norman Manley Blvd (the race route). It used to be a bit dodgy running along the shoulder of the road, but a couple of years ago they installed a completely separated pathway that extends almost the whole length of the 10K route. I have been known to run the length of the pathway heading north, then cut over onto the beach for the return ‘home’. Best of both worlds!

That Runnin’ Guy, runnin’ the beach at dawn. Not sure why I didn’t ask him to take my photo too.

Last year, Chris and I went running on the beach one delightful morning and since I had my phone/camera with me, he asked if I would take a few shots of him. I did. Stupidly (IT WAS MY CAMERA!!!) I never thought to say, ‘now you take a couple of me’. Doh. Going to fix that this year, but here is what ‘running the beach’ looks like just around sunrise.

Maybe I’ll get him to capture me going the other way. You know, don’t want to look too copy-cat. One thing I do know is that I won’t run the beach barefoot until the actual race is over. I am a real tender-foot and have more than once worked up an uncomfortable blister from the shifting sand under the toes on some beach or another, including Negril. So, just a word to the wise if you are anything like me, or don’t know for sure.

The locals know all about the Reggae Marathon, but for some my early morning runs are a bit like the first robin of Spring. At least, I like to think of it that way. “Oh man, it be dat time so soon?!” Of course, that is my idea. They may be thinking, “what is that stupid white dude doing running up and down and sweating all over everything?” No, I’m sure that isn’t it. First Robin, for sure. All I know is that I get lots of warm greetings, including a few that really do involve an element of “is it that time again, already?”

Negril River and fishing boats

There is a VERY good chance I won’t come in 2019 and I really want to do the half marathon this time. So, all the more reason to get some acclimatization runs in before race day. The race looks after us very well, probably couldn’t really do better, but it is still hotter here than the running guides suggest you should be out there racing, and especially shooting for PBs. I guess the local runners can go right ahead. For them this is just normal. And, there are getting to be more Jamaicans running distance.

Sunday morning and I have completed all the rituals of the first run, first breakfast of ackee and salt fish (even chatted up my waitress about the care and handling of fresh ackee!). First dip in the sea outside Rondel Village. Sunrise photo and the route of the race. I HAD to take a couple of photos from the bridge over the Negril River (boats and egrets) although most Reggae runners don’t see that early morning view (still dark when you get there). More than a few ‘selfies’ to chronicle the run and from an ‘album’ I’m thinking about from the trip. Take selfies now, decide later.

Egrets on the Negril River

So, I think that is it for ‘starters’. This won’t be my last post before Reggae Marathon, but it makes me feel good to be here and I’m looking forward to seeing all my Reggae Marathon friends as the week goes along. First one I expect to see will be That Runnin’ Guy!

Later in the week, I may even do a short post of Jamaican ‘food porn’, or maybe I’ll just eat what I find and you will have to come and see for yourself!  Soon come, Reggae Marathon!



I promised myself I would write about this right after my last post on getting ready for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. The title says it all. It starts with the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (weekend), rolls through the Seven Summits of Vancouver Challenge put on by Forerunners, and then on into the Fall Classic, just this past Sunday, which also coincided with completion of the second ForerunnersYour Run Starts Here – Learn to Run 5K” clinic. Oh yes, and catching up one more time on our ‘road’ warrior, Walter Downey who has had a busy and amazing YEAR, never mind the last few weeks.

Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon

The entire family, post-race Victoria 2017

I have said before, because it is true, this is the Cumming family ‘go to’ event. While I may have missed counting one or two of our individual races, as a group, we have participated in at least 30 races at this event since 2000. Daughter Janna and I ran the marathon that year. It was my second and her first. In a way, it was my first too. The actual ‘first’ was the Vancouver Marathon in 1988, but that was more than 12 years earlier, not to mention one spinal surgery (something about a ruptured disk). I had made a couple of false starts after the surgery in 1990, but #2 marathon happened October, 2000. Since then, I have a personal total of 13 appearances at the Victoria Marathon weekend, including all three events, marathon, half marathon and 8K. The last two years I have run the 8K with grandson, Charlie. His Mom, daughter Danielle, specializes in the Victoria Half. I think registering is now part of her New Year tradition. Janna has run the marathon a couple of times and the half, several more, and joined us boys for the 8K this year. I have five marathons, six half marathons and the two 8Ks with Charlie. Throw in a son-in-law in the Half (Janna’s husband) and it all adds up to 30.

This year we had four runners (Janna, Charlie and me in the 8K, with Danielle running the half marathon). It was a fabulous day to run and 100% of the family was present, even if some didn’t run this time. Charlie had a PB by over six minutes! Danielle had her best time in years. That was especially sweet, after preparing in 2016, getting injured just before race day, trying to run and making it to the first turn when discretion became the better part of valour and she wisely shut it down! It was that kind of injury – straight ahead, semi-OK, anything else, not so much.

Biggest disappointment prize for 2017 went to the other grandson, Jonah. He is deemed to be too young to run yet (not quite 3 years). I use the term ‘deemed’ because Jonah does NOT concur. Maybe next year for him in the kids run.

Final note on Victoria, I also had another ‘family’ to run with. Two of the participants from the first Forerunners Learn to Run 5K clinic stepped up to 8K and apparently used me as an unofficial ‘pacer’. Both did great and we all four of us finished within seconds of each other.


PM Justin Trudeau in White Rock

So, as I was working on this blog piece I learned that PM Justin Trudeau was making a brief stop in town to support his candidate in a bye-election we are having here. Well, when your Prime Minister is coming to a place a few blocks from where you live, you just naturally go to greet him! There was a great crowd there and regardless of anyone’s political leanings the nearby schools did the right thing and brought the kids out to see the PM of Canada. What fun! I truly think that the PM was having as much fun as the kids and probably high-fived every last one of them. Selfies were taken (that was what was happening in this photo). I was as close as the photo implies and a nearby woman handed me her phone so I could take her and her child with the PM, just a moment after I took this shot. That was the kind of day it was. (Oh, and he is a runner, so I guess he belongs here on that basis too, although I don’t think that is why people came out to see him.)

OK, back to blogging!

Seven Summits of Vancouver Challenge

You are forgiven if you’ve never heard of the Seven Summits Challenge. It is brand new this year and thus far just 22 people have met that challenge. The next and final chance is Sunday November 19. At this point, it isn’t clear how many will take it on, but I’m guessing that the final total won’t be far off 30.

What IS the Seven Summits of Vancouver?

Seven Summits Finishers – October, 2017

Since opening their new store on Main Street, Forerunners has been doing all sorts of fun based running activities to get people motivated. The Seven Summits, being a 47km route, is not exactly for the beginner. On the other hand, it is NOT a race, but rather an activity to be completed. There is a practical time limit that ensures everyone gets out and back in a reasonable time, but that is more than nine hours, almost ten, for completion. If you do the math and make very few stops, you could argue that the Challenge could be done by walking. To my knowledge nobody did actually walk it and the quickest ‘Challenger’, thus far, finished just around four hours. I don’t want to even know exactly what the time was, because there is NO recognition for speed, just doing. If you were cynical, you might harken back to the tried and true saying, “My parents went to XXX and all I got was this T-shirt!”. Yep. That is the reward for completing this Challenge, a T-shirt (and some awesome bragging rights). But, it is one VERY unique and EXCLUSIVE garment. The only way to get one is to start and finish the Seven Summits. As noted, so far there are just 22 of us can make that claim.

There were 5 opportunities, spaced roughly a month apart, with the final one for 2017 happening November 19. I took ‘the Challenge’ on October 22. I was not seriously trained (I’d done about half the distance, twice, in preparation and to try out my strategy). I never planned to try to run the whole thing, but had carefully considered how I would go 5K over the standard marathon distance of 42.2K. I was confident of my ability to finish, which is all that is required. How sore I’d be the next day was something to be discovered later.

Summit #1 – Top of Queen Elizabeth Park

Vancouver is kind of bumpy, so the ‘Summits’ were certainly high places in the landscape, but just possibly a little arbitrary. SEVEN became a key aspect of the whole thing: 7 summits, start at 7:07am, entry fee $7.70 (proceeds to Firemen’s Burn Fund), etc, etc. Thankfully, nobody got the idea the duration should be seven hours! The new store is located at 23rd Ave and Main Street. Not terribly far away is Queen Elizabeth Park, or as we called it when I was kid growing up in the neighbourhood, “Little Mountain“. Naturally, that was the First Summit. From there the route made its way to 37th Ave and a long easy downhill trend to 41st Ave and SW Marine Drive. That is just where Marine Drive starts through Pacific Spirit Park and the UBC Endowment Lands. This spot is also on the BMO Vancouver Marathon route. What is most significant about this location is that it is the bottom of the Camosun Street hill. And oh yes, a hill it is! When you reach to top of Camosun at 29th Ave, you have achieved the Second Summit. It is a little known fact, but when you reach 29th, you really haven’t reached the highest ground in the area. Nope. So continuing on around the edge of Pacific Spirit Park to 16th Ave and then West on 16th into the heart of the UBC campus, you turn North on East Mall to what is the Third Summit, somewhere near East Mall and University Blvd. (I realize none of this means anything to anyone who isn’t a local, so feel free to skip ahead, or just read on to get the general feel of how long and difficult the route is.) From that point the route slowly and then rather quickly heads down (you are actually back on Marine Drive again) to the beaches of Spanish Banks, Locarno, Jericho. All of this is pretty flat until you leave Jericho Beach. Eventually, traversing West Point Grey Road which morphs into Cornwall Street, you find yourself at the Fourth Summit, the Burrard Bridge. Immediately upon crossing over the bridge, you hang a hard left and continue down to the beach area of English Bay and into Stanley Park. This is where I would say ‘ignorance is bliss’ really kicks in for this Challenge. Following Park Drive, you make your way up and up and up (not the steepest but certainly the longest most gruelling climb of the Challenge) until you reach Prospect Point and the Fifth Summit. The down side is actually much shorter and sharper than the up side and when you hit the bottom of that hill, the route mercifully cuts through the middle of Stanley Park on Pipeline Road. Around the North side of Lost Lagoon and along the English Bay Beach Path until you are under that old Burrard Bridge again. You head up the stairs to Pacific and Burrard, back right and over the bridge again. Sorry, but there is only one ‘credit’ for the Burrard Bridge. Pretty much upon reaching solid ground on the West side, it is up Cypress to 16th, East to Granville and then a short sharp ‘up’ to the The Crescent, and the Sixth Summit. There is a quick whip around Crescent and back out onto 16th Ave headed for Main Street. Yessir! Main Street. At that point it is a mere 8 blocks UP Main to 23rd, the Forerunners store and the FINISH of the Seven Summits of Vancouver.

Summit #5 Prospect Point (I stopped for coffee!)

The whole thing was waaaaay more fun than I expected it would be (or it maybe sounds). Having just spent forever, talking you through the route, I am not going to talk you through MY experience of that route. What I do want to say is that because there was no pace requirement or hard finish goal, as you would have in a race, or even a training run, it was possible to look around and see what was happening. I even ran into one of my Learn to Run clinic members and stopped for a chat! I stopped for coffee (as do many, including the seven other people who ran the day I did). You could even stop for a quick lunch (as did the others). I had a kind of rolling lunch as I knew I had to keep moving if I was to finish comfortably. The others were much younger and much faster than me, so they took more and longer breaks, but we kept encountering each other along the way and funny enough, three passed me with just a few blocks left to the finish, while the rest finished just a few minutes behind me. As it happened, it was an amazing day. My strategy was to run easily on all down-hills and walk the ups. Flats would depend on how I was feeling at the time. Some were run. Some were walked.

Summit #7 – Forerunners on Main – I MADE IT!

You are to be self-supported with gels, your own water, and enough money to take a taxi if required. Completion was to be proved by logging the run into Strava and showing ‘selfies’ at the various Summits. I KNOW I wasn’t the fastest, but also not the slowest to complete. I also know how much satisfaction I got from doing it and how much fun it was to go that far with the only goal being to finish. Meeting my fellow ‘runners’ along the route was also fun. I guess the one unique claim I can make is that I am probably, by some years, the oldest to complete the Challenge! Would I do it again? Not for me, but I was intending to do it with one of my runner friends from the Forerunners clinics. It didn’t work out for her due to work demands (limiting training), but she wants to try it next year. We’ll see. Never say never!

Your Run Starts Here – Learn to Run 5K

I have written about this before and mentioned it previously, and will again. The Learn to Run (LTR) Clinic has been a general success and personal thrill this summer. We had two groups complete the whole program, the first starting in May at the time of the official opening of the Forerunners Main Street store. I wrote the manual and built the training program, then became the ‘Head Coach’ for the clinics. The biggest thing for me was the satisfaction of seeing people show up, very unsure that they could do this thing of running 5K, but ready to try, and then DOING it.

We start out very gently, but soon increase the amount of actual run time and eventually even pace. The process or system is set up so the individual is only asked to run at their own comfortable pace. Everything is based on time. So, in the first session there is a warm-up and cool-down walking segment, but sandwiched in the middle are 10 reps of run one minute, walk one minute. Some found that quite challenging. A bunch of weeks later, the same people ran 30 minutes without a break. Nobody is more amazed than they, themselves. The looks on those faces is what turns my crank. What happens next is up to them, but a significant number from each of the first two groups have seamlessly moved on into other run groups and are continuing. We specifically stress that it is a Learn to RUN, not Learn to RACE clinic, but several have actually taken on 5K, 8K and 10K events since the first two clinics ended.

We are taking a break now until the New Year, but will be picking it up again on January 6 for the next 12 week Learn to Run 5K clinic. It should be a great challenge for all those New Year’s Resolutions to be played out!

Fall Classic 5K

2:30 Pace Group – Fall Classic Half Marathon

The Fall Classic has been around for a good many years. It has been under various organizers and has had a range of formats. The core race is the Half Marathon. However, at various times there have been 10K and 5K races too, which is the current format. As far as I know, it has always been located on the UBC campus. It has always been in November. It hasn’t always been nice weather, but maybe that is part of the charm and challenge! 2016 was definitely NOT nice. I know. I was the 2:30 Pacer for the Half Marathon. It was cold and wet. A picture, being worth a thousand words, I will just let the accompanying photo stand on its own.

When I was asked if I would pace again this year, I begged for the 5K and the time of 35 minutes. Partly, that was because I took a considered decision after the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in early June, to really cut back on long runs and try to get the constant fatigue out of my legs. It seemed I was never truly recovered from my last run. When I raced, even much shorter distances, my times were nothing like what I thought possible. So, come November 2017 I was in no condition to pace a half marathon – no training. There was also a further method in my madness, because 35:00 for 5K was just about what my clinic runners were trained to do. If I paced that particular group, I could provide a friendly and familiar leadership for anyone who decided to give it at try. There were FOUR such people. It all worked a charm, with me coming in at 34:26 and all those following my lead as the pacer, being pushed in front, to finish just ahead of me. I had done a practice run on the route, finishing in 33:38 (was supposed to be 35:00), so I knew a) I could hit the pace and b) run much faster than 35:00, even if that was not the intention. I’m still competitive at heart!

Well, perhaps my good intentions and good deed of pacing and hitting my pace, was rewarded by what I call ‘running karma’. I wound up actually winning my Age Group! That is one of the prettiest gold medals I’ve earned (yes, they gave all age groups in all races, medals for their podium finishes). I don’t kid myself that it was a fabulous time for me or the age division, but as I now like to say (OK, maybe cling to) is that you can only race those who show up!

A couple of old winners celebrate Age Group golds (Rod and Dan)

Speaking of racing those who show up, the Forerunners gang had a fabulous day across the three races. Coach Tony from 4th Ave, WON the half marathon. Coach Carey from Main Street won his age group. Rod Waterlow (M80-89) and I won our divisions in the 5K, while Walter Downey took on the ‘double’ and came second in his age division in both the 10K and 5K. There were many more and I think the final total was around 11 podium finishes. Not a bad day’s work, I would say!

One final note on 5K clinic runners, in addition to the four in the 5K, three from the first clinic group (I call them The Graduates) decided to take on the 10K and did great!

Catching Up With Walter

Walter’s Year at the Races!

Readers may recall a blog piece I devoted to Walter Downey and his decision to dig down and go for it, entitled “Where There’s a Will…………….” If you don’t recall, well the link is there for you to check it out. The story was partly about his accomplishments, the biggest of which was the changes he made and determination he applied to his goal. The whole story of him getting podium finishes began with the Fall Classic in 2016. He scored a 3rd place age division win (the first proof of success in his quest). On November 12th, Walter scored two Silver Medals in the M50-59 division making those the 14th and 15th podium placings in a row. If you look at it as an annual cycle, he has to drop one race (last year’s Fall Classic Half Marathon) and the only 3rd Place in the bunch. All others have been Golds and Silvers with very high Overall placements and one or two outright wins. Walter is a speedy ‘senior’ (if you consider 55+ to be a senior!). Seriously though, his performances are not just a matter of showing up, which happens the older you get. I never kid myself about being First out of One, or as with this most recent ‘win’ First out of Two. However, I do stand firmly behind the claim that you can only compete against those who come to race. All the faster people who stayed home don’t count. Walter though, is a mere stripling in the world of us Senior runners and his fields are quite competitive. The main reason for emphasizing his accomplishments is to stress what you can do if you put your mind to it.

And Now, On To Negril and The Reggae Marathon

The next big thing and truly final running adventure for me for 2017 is the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K. My last blog post was all about that, so I won’t repeat all of that. You’re welcome.

Funny enough, while writing this post, I got a call from the host of the BnB I’m staying at in Montego Bay (also a fellow runner, who I met the first time I went for Reggae Marathon) confirming arrangements, then upon getting off the phone, I checked e-mails and had a final confirmation from Rondel Village for my stay in Negril. Boom! Everything is in place. Now, I just need to patiently wait for ‘wheels up’ in less than one week. As the kids used to count down to Christmas – FOUR Sleeps! Soon Come!

Negril beach view. No worries here.