An Old Friend

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by Gary Poignant

I’m thinking about reconnecting with an old friend: the marathon.

My first marathon was in 1996, in Victoria. It improved my life in so many ways. I discovered strength and stamina I didn’t know I had. I finished many unforgettable races, including Boston, Chicago and New York City. I became healthier and happier.

And, most importantly, I found true love.

In May 2001, I convinced my partner and best friend, Linda, to join me for the Edmonton Marathon. She had finished a marathon six months earlier and agreed to sign up for the epic journey through Edmonton’s streets, along the same course set for the world-class athletes at the World Championships that summer.

Gary inside Athens’ Panathenaic Stadium after finishing his 30th marathon in Greece in 2016.

Before the race, I tied a couple of laces to an engagement ring and placed it in a shoebox in the trunk of my Honda Civic. After finishing with a personal best time, I jogged outside to my parked car, retrieved the shoebox and hurried back. I found an area just behind the finish line where I could wait. Ten minutes later, Linda arrived, smiling broadly. After she received her finisher’s medal, I strolled up and handed her the shoebox.

Linda said, “What’s this?” as she removed the lid and picked up the ring. I asked: “Will you marry me?”

She answered, “Of course,” and gave me a kiss, as hundreds of other runners milled about in the post-run area.

We were married four months later and ran a charity marathon in Lausanne, Switzerland in October 2001 to support The Arthritis Society. While I continued to compete in one or two marathons a year, Linda maintained her more casual approach to running, only signing up for a marathon at my insistence. In March 2010, we completed the Motatapu Off-Road Marathon, located in spectacular terrain on New Zealand’s South Island. From start to finish, we did it together, taking photos and enjoying the scenery.

Above: Gary and his wife, Linda, make their way through a creek during the 2010 Motatapu Off-Road Marathon in New Zealand.

In 2016, after finishing my 30th marathon in Athens, I decided that it was time to hang up my long-distance running shoes. A lingering knee injury, combined with osteoarthritis, had made running 42.2K a bit too uncomfortable.

Since my self-imposed retirement from marathons, I have kept the arthritis under control with CBD oil and regular stretching. I adopted a walk/jog routine over shorter distances to stay in shape. It seemed that the notion of running marathons was fading like a distant memory.

That is, until I met two super seniors earlier this summer.

I was interviewing Roger Macmillan, 81, and Ken Davison, 73, for an article in a seniors’ publication describing how both men have completed more than 100 marathons and were set to enter the Edmonton Marathon again in August.

Roger, who has finished 112 marathons, heard an off-hand comment about my marathon history and delivered a low-key pep talk.

“You can do it. You don’t even have to run,” said Roger, an easygoing “back of the pack” marathoner who has adopted a trimmed-down version of the Running Room’s 10-and-1 technique: he jogs for three minutes and walks for one. 

His comments have sparked renewed interest for this 62-year-old. I’ve signed up for a 10K run in September where I will walk and jog and take my time to get to the finish line. After that, I’ll aim to complete a marathon next year. My only goal would be to finish, regardless of how long it takes. I admit, it would be a huge rush to be back at a marathon and feel the adrenaline from the runners, the volunteers and the crowd.

So, after three years apart, the event that was once a major part of my life is now back on my radar. I hope to create some new marathon memories in the not-too-distant future. See you soon, my friend.

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