This is the seventh story in a series profiling runners who will compete in the 2oth anniversary running of Emera Marathon By the Sea Marathon in Saint John. The stories are also running on the MBTS Facebook page and MBTS website.
2014 marks an anniversary for Jeff Queen of Saint John. A decade ago, he took on the half marathon distance at Marathon By the Sea and caught the running fever. It led to his first marathon and many more, impressively shaving 90 minutes off his initial marathon time in that span. Jeff is one of the top runners in the area and this year, he is returning to Marathon By the Sea once again, the scene of where his passion for running really kicked into high gear.
I was active in many sports as a kid growing up, but didn’t maintain anything through university. I started running in 2004 to get back into sports, and because, to be honest, I thought it’d be fun to run a marathon.
The first race I ever ran was the half marathon at the 10th anniversary of the Marathon by the Sea in 2004. The feeling I experienced upon crossing the finish line in 1:46 was one of satisfaction, but instantly I knew I wanted to get more out of myself – I wanted to improve my time and I knew I was going to run a full marathon that fall. I signed up for the Valley Harvest Marathon which was two months later, I made every rookie training and racing mistake in the books, and completed what I now know was a seriously substandard amount of training, having only run beyond the half marathon distance twice in training, to a maximum of 24km. Not surprisingly, the final six miles of that marathon were a long, painful slog, but I finished in 4:29.
Despite my inability to do anything but hobble for the next week, I knew that this was far from my only attempt at the marathon. I had every intention of trying to train harder and to improve my time.
Now, 17 marathons later, my personal best is 2:59 and I still have a drive to improve. Now, it is more than that. I have discovered the incredibly friendly and supportive running community. When my wife and I moved to Vancouver in 2005, and once again when we moved back to Saint John in 2010, running became a way for me to meet people and socialize. Many of my best friendships in both cities were developed through long conversations on long runs and by the connection you make after completing a hard tempo or track session with someone.
As running is such an individual sport, and you truly do compete primarily with yourself, you get to share in and enjoy the accomplishments of others. Some of the best moments I’ve experienced in this sport were not my own:
- Being a pace bunny in the Vancouver Marathon allowed me to share in the joy experienced by two strangers who ran the entire distance with me, and achieved their goals of qualifying for Boston for the first time.
- Running together with my friend and training partner Dean through the first half of the final KV Challenge Marathon, then cheering for him as he completed the second half, which he ultimately won in a big new personal best.
- Sharing the excitement of someone who just completed a new distance, or who accomplished a big goal.
- Pride in helping the runner I coach improve his times.
I also run to travel to places I otherwise might never visit. For example, if it wasn’t for the Newport Marathon, my wife and I would likely have never visited the stunning Pacific Coast of Oregon. I have made it a goal to eventually run a marathon in every Canadian province and territory and to date, I have only crossed off three provinces (and four states). The fourth province will come with the Queen City Marathon in Regina, Saskatchewan this September. My racing bucket list is too long to ever accomplish even a small portion of it.
There are many reasons why I want to run the half at this year’s Marathon by the Sea. As I mentioned earlier, my first race was the half marathon at the 10th Marathon by the Sea. So what better way to celebrate 10 years of running than by doing the half again at the 20th Marathon by the Sea?
I want to support MBTS as the marquee race of the city in which I live. I hope to see it grow and improve, and plan to do it every year. Again, races are social events. The long brutal winter meant I didn’t see many of my fellow runners for months. This race brings everyone back out!
In addition, I have a very supportive – and vocal – family in the Saint John area who enjoy coming to races to cheer me on. Doing a local race like MBTS allows them to come.
Ten years of running does not come without challenges. Life is busy! It’s hard to get the dedicated training required to get the most out of yourself! A nagging injury struck in March, and again in May. I hope to be able to get past it without losing too much fitness and precious training time.
Finally, I have set an ambitious time goal for the half marathon this year. My last four half marathons have been either 1:21 or 1:22 and I would love to sneak under that pesky 1:20 barrier at MBTS.