There are races going on somewhere in the world every weekend. Today, undoubtedly among many others, 3000 runners have gathered in Moncton, New Brunswick for the annual Legs for Literacy races (5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon). As you can guess from its name, it is a charity run for literacy. Being the major city in the Acadian part of our province, everything is fully bilingual in Moncton. The French equivalent for the race name is Courir pour Lire (run to read); I love that.
My husband and I ran the half marathon at Courir pour Lire 5 years ago and it remains one of our happiest running memories. First of all, we had one of the best carbo load dinners imaginable: lobster linguini with pernod sauce. What an inspired way to combine maritime lobster, French cuisine, and the runners’ night-before-race desire for pasta! Secondly, the race started and ended 20 feet from the door of our hotel. Why can’t races always do that?! Thirdly, the route took us on some absolutely beautiful trails right by the downtown area that we hadn’t known existed. Last but not least, I had been training for my first marathon for the entire season and this was my final “training” race before the NYC marathon. Thanks to so much training, this course gave me my PB in a half marathon. It may (or may not) be the only time I finished a half marathon before the fastest marathon runner finished!
But my intention isn’t to reminisce about our 5-year old experience, it is to pay homage to one of today’s marathon runners in Moncton, Richard Holmes. Fellow old(er) runners, this is not intended to make you feel that you should be pushing harder. For most of us, that’s not possible and not advisable. However, for anyone who has ever put on running shoes, the intriguing goals Mr. Holmes has set for himself and then accomplished will leave you astounded. It sure left me astounded. In my most recent post I mentioned Ed Whitlock, who completed last week’s Toronto Waterfront marathon at age 85 in under 4 hours. Incredible. Well, when Richard Holmes completes the Legs for Literacy marathon today, he will have accomplished yet another running goal he has set for himself: to run at least 4 marathons in every province and territory in Canada. Not quite at the same speed as his fellow senior, but this man never stops. In fact, he has so many extraordinary marathon records to his name, it’s hard to process them. Now retired, although consulting in health policy, data systems, and administration, the following running milestones are a mere selection from his web site (www.richardholmes.com/athletics.html):
- Over 570 marathons including more than 59 ultramarathons, ranking 24th among all-time US runners and 116th in the world.
- At least five marathons in every US state and DC.
- At least five marathons on every continent (the second runner to have accomplished this).
- A streak of 2,490 consecutive days without missing a daily run and accumulating 20,744 miles (8.3 miles/day) during the streak.
- At least one marathon in more than 87 different countries, ranking 2nd in the US and 3rd in the world among runners who submit their foreign marathon races for independent verification.
- At least one full marathon on 54 different islands.
- More than 124 marathons and ultramarathons, run off-road through forest, mountain, polar, or desert trails.
- In 2010, he was 2nd in the over-60 category carrying a 35 pound back-pack through the desert sands of the Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon.
- In 2012 he won the 60-and-over category in both the Egyptian Marathon in Luxor and the Hogeye Marathon in Arkansas, and took third in his age group in the world’s most northerly marathon in Spitsbergen on the Svalbard Archipelago north of Norway.
- In 2013, he became the only person to have run a marathon in Antarctica wearing a head-to-foot penguin suit, and completed the “Run with the Horses” marathon in Wyoming wearing a horse suit!
- In an eight day period in 2013, he completed a 100K race (62.1 miles), climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and then ran the Mt. Kilimanjaro marathon, being the oldest finisher in all 3 events.
- In 2014, he completed the Polar Bear Challenge on the ice cap of Greenland wearing ice pitons, the oldest finisher in a half-marathon followed by a full marathon on consecutive days colder than 12 degrees F (-12 C).
- In 2014, he completed the marathon on Ile de Mauritius (Indian Ocean) to complete marathons on islands in each of the five oceans and on all 7 continents in a single year.
- In 2014, he ran 56 marathon races or longer in 28 US states, two Canadian province/territories, and 14 other countries, including 9 ultramarathons of 50K or longer.
- In 2015, he completed his 5th Antarctica marathon, becoming only the second runner to have run five marathons on all seven continents.
OK, so it seems as though Mr. Holmes had some trouble just easing into retirement! And I must admit, I never thought of running in Antarctica wearing a penguin suit, even though I did briefly consider running there. And I seriously do not think that most of us would benefit from trying to duplicate even one of his feats. My body, which is just a few years older than his, is now happier when it has at least two days off between short recreational runs. But, my, what an amazing record. Yet another senior showing us that running can take us on many journeys of discovery, regardless of age. We just each need to decide which journeys to choose. My running partner and I are looking at a few options. We are definitely in need of a goal, and we love combining running with travel, but it’s going to be a goal without a penguin suit!
Photo credits: Legs for Literacy FB page