The Running Whys – Dave Horgan

Dave Horgan, shown after competing the Bluenose Marathon In May, will compete in Marathon by the Sea for the 10th time this summer.

Dave Horgan, shown after competing the Bluenose Marathon In May, will compete in Marathon by the Sea for the 10th time this summer.

This is the second in a series of stories leading up to the 2015 Marathon by the Sea.

Motivation for sport can take many forms but for Dave Horgan, the inspiration of a great Canadian hero played an early role in his first footsteps into longer distance running. Later in life, he returned to the sport, saluting the influence of his late mother and once again adopting a healthy lifestyle that continues to this day. In August, Dave will return to Marathon by the Sea for the 10th time this year. His Running Whys story follows.


by Dave Horgan

I’m fairly certain that I’ve always loved running. Like many kids I participated in annual track and field events for school, but it was in September of 1980 at the age of 12 that I was introduced to longer distances.

Terry Fox had just been hospitalized and forced to end his Marathon of Hope, so my Grade 7 teacher at Grandview Avenue School, Art Comeau, formed a 100-mile club to bring awareness to Terry’s cause and to fitness in general. That school year, I ran 536 miles through the trails of Rockwood Park with Mr. Comeau and a couple of other dedicated students. As fate would have it, Terry Fox died at the end of that school year on June 28th.

I did some running in Junior High and High School, but it would be 23 years before I returned to running in earnest, once again spurred on by cancer. My mother, Doreen Horgan, passed away in Feb of 2003 which caused me to pause and to realize how relatively little time we have to achieve life’s goals. I decided immediately that I wanted to try running again.

On March 22, 2003, my wife Gail and children Laura and Stephen were headed to the Teddy Bear Fair. Everyone was out of the house – it was the perfect time to try a run! If it turned into a spectacular failure, then no one need be the wiser and if it was a success, then I would quite literally be off and running! I ran only 2 miles that day in a time of 21:30 and had to stop at least three times, but I was hooked for the second time in my life!

My running for those first few weeks was largely trial and error until Marta Kelly brought me under her wing and provided direction. I quickly learned not to try and make every run a PB and to mix my training with speed work, recovery runs, tempo, pace, long runs, hills and so on. In the back of my mind, I had the thought of running a marathon, but I also knew I had to put a lot of training in to accomplish that goal.

I signed up for a couple of 10k races to prep for the marathon, but I knew I needed an intermediary goal at a longer distance, so I also signed up for my first half-marathon – Marathon by the Sea.

It was only the fourth race I had ever done and the first “big” race I had ran in with several hundred people participating. I’ll never forget the exhilaration of running down St. Patrick Street to the finish. Long distance running became my calling!

Since that fateful running season of 2003, I have run 19 marathons, 25 half-marathons and numerous races at other distances and have logged almost 28,000 km (I maintain a dizzying spreadsheet of every run I’ve ever done!). I’d like to hit 40,000 km eventually – that’s once around the world!

My favourite Marathon by the Sea was in 2005. I had previously run full marathons in Kentville and in Kennebecasis and I wanted to run the full in the hometown event, but was concerned about how tough the course was. It was exceptionally hot that year and I can remember passing mile 19 and there was a runner ahead of me that was in a bad way and I ended up giving her my water bottle. I finished the course in 3:30:30 and in doing so, took 15 minutes off my previous best and finished the course with a 2 and a half-minute negative split.

When the Canadian mint issued the “Terry Fox” loonie in 2005, I began carrying one with me on my marathons as homage to him and to my running beginnings and to also remind me of Mom and Dad (who passed in 2014). At some point in every race, I can still hear Dad’s advice “that fellow next to you is just as tired, keep going!”

This August will mark my 10th time participating in Marathon by the Sea, having previously run it twice at the marathon distance and seven times as a half-marathon. In recent years, I have settled into a pattern of running a spring and fall marathon and Marathon by the Sea is located at the perfect point in my training to gauge my level of fitness and preparedness for the fall season. It lets me know where I stand and still gives me time to tweak my training for a fall marathon. As a training run, I tend to approach Marathon by the Sea with a lot less stress and a lot more enjoyment!

Running means so many things to me. It’s about the personal accomplishment, it’s about enjoying the outdoors and in particular, it’s about the camaraderie and friendship among runners. I’ve met so many wonderful people through running, that I hesitate to name them and every one of them is so supportive regardless of their running level. Running is about setting goals and sometimes I’ve met them and sometimes I haven’t and when I don’t, then it becomes about digging deeper and trying all the harder!

For me, Marathon by the Sea embodies everything that I love about running. It’s a challenging course that once you are done, you can say “There! That was an accomplishment!”. It’s a beautiful course that effectively mixes parks and city and above all the participants enjoy the support and encouragement that everyone shows for one another.

After a very long winter of running in bitter cold and searching for somewhere outside to run safely, I for one am looking forward to lacing up at Marathon by the Sea for the 10th time with my training partners Chris, Jill, Maura and Donald and encouraging one another along the route!

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