This story appeared in the Daily Gleaner on Aug. 27.
As a 40th birthday present to himself, Mark Scott adopted a philosophy of go big or go home.
So on Oct. 16, the Fredericton resident will be in Pownal, Maine, with eight of his running friends for the Big Brad Ultra, an 80-kilometre trail run that will test his endurance, commitment to training and reward a running career that has already achieved plenty in just six years.
“I got it in my head that I wanted to do something memorable,” said Scott, who lives in the city with his wife Wendy and two daughters.
“After four marathons in two years, I decided I was ready for a new challenge and this is what I decided on.“
It continues his advancement in the sport that started as a move to stay healthy, a goal that keeps him active as he approaches his milestone celebration in December.
Now 17 years into a provincial civic service career, Scott realized in the fall of 2010 that he needed to make good on some plans to keep fit. After some discussions with a couple of friends, he decided to immediately prepare for the Fredericton Marathon in May, 2011.
All or nothing, right from the beginning.
“At the time, I was starting to realize I cannot sit around and do nothing in terms of exercise,” Scott said.
“A friend of mine said it might be something to run the 10K at the Fredericton Marathon.
“At the time, I could not run to the end of my street. I mentioned this to another friend of mine who was an accomplished athlete and he said if I could run 10K, I could run 21K. With nine months to train, for some reason, it made sense in my head.”
He trained, raced and survived in fine shape and from there, he’d race only a few races each year.
However, in the winter of 2014, he thought he’d step things up again and registered for the full marathon that May in Fredericton.
“I signed up for a running clinic and it kind of snowballed from there,” he said.
He ran that marathon in May, easily his most memorable because he was so pleased he conquered the daunting distance. He then followed with the P.E.I. Marathon in October 2014, came back in 2015 with the Bluenose Marathon in Halifax and then returned to P.E.I. last fall for his fourth marathon finish.
“I caught the bug right away. As soon as I finished that first one, I knew I wanted to do another one.”
He made great progress and gained confidence, particularly in 2015. For example, he shaved almost 46 minutes off his time in P.E.I., dropping to 3:46.44 for the 42.2K route.
He says the social aspects and the group dedication of his running clique have made all the difference.
“Once I joined that marathon running clinic, I met eight or nine people and we have been running together ever since,” Scott said of the group, which meets several times during the week and again on the weekend. “It certainly makes it a lot more enjoyable.”
Several group members are running with Scott in the 80K distance in Maine while the others are going the 50K route. For the majority, it is their first formal ultra-racing experience.
Running has proven to be a major benefit for Scott and his family. Wendy is preparing for her first half marathon later this year and his girls, 12 and 8, are active as well.
“I am healthier now than I ever was,” he said. “I am in better shape at 40 than I was at 20. The friends, the community, these people I run with, we get to know each other because we spend a lot of time together. It is nice to be part of that.”
One area that also enhanced his appreciation came through volunteering, most notably at the Liv9 Fredericton Fall Classic.
The 34th edition of that event is coming up again on Sept. 25 (early registration deadline is Aug. 31) and Scott has fond memories of that event from several perspectives.
In 2015, it served as one of the final tune-ups for his eventual personal best time in the Prince Edward Island Marathon. And in 2014, he volunteered at the finish line.
“Volunteering at a race can be just as rewarding as running a race,” he said. “If you work a water stop or hand out medals, that can be a very rewarding and inspiring experience. You do not have to run it to enjoy the event.”
Kevin Barrett’s column appears every other Saturday. If you have a suggestion for a feature story, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit barrettkevin.wordpress.com.