This ran in the Daily Gleaner on April 15, 2017.
It was five years ago when, somewhat reluctantly, Fredericton’s Marc Gallant took his first steps as a runner, taking part in a group with his wife Tanya to help her tackle a resolution to improve her fitness levels.
Initially, he was not that interested in joining Tanya and one of her friends in a 2012 Running Room clinic. But one week, when Tanya’s friend could not make it, he relented and joined his wife for the weekly run.
He was immediately hooked on the sport and on Monday, he will step to the start line with 61 other New Brunswickers at the 121st Boston Marathon, part of a field of 30,000 celebrating Patriots Day in the Massachusetts city as well as their own individual accomplishments.
“I started getting butterflies last week,” said Marc, a Shediac native who has taught at École Sainte-Anne for the past 14 years. “I am excited and anxious to see what it is about.”
It all caps a swift five-year rise from a beginner on those early 10-minute-run, one-minute-walk plans to the top ranks of the provincial marathon class. And he credits Tanya for that early and constant encouragement.
“She liked the running club and tried to convince me because she said the atmosphere was great, it was a chance to meet a lot of nicepeople and it was not competitive,” he said.
Marc, a former high school hockey player, balked at first but once there, he liked it enough to keep participating.
“So I said ‘OK, I am going to keep going.’ I went on the group runs on Sunday morning and Wednesday nights. Then, I added a run on Saturday on my own, then a fourth day and a fifth. It became a part of my routine.”
He hit some impressive early standards back in 2012. First, he ran the 10 k at the Fredericton Marathon in 54:04 and was enthralled by race-day events, the mass start, the finish line atmosphere and the overall runner’s high he experienced.
“I thought I was at the Olympics,” he recalled of the event, which, to now, ranks as his most memorable run.
“I had never even seen a running event and I had no idea what to expect with the music, the people, the cheering. That was probably my best memory.”
It fuelled his motivation to improve and in August of that year, he took part in the half marathon in Marathon By The Sea in Saint John. That produced a 1:45.45 clocking and gave him added confidence to tackle his first marathon at the Legs for Literacy in Moncton two months later.
He learned a lot about pacing and proper training at that October 2012 event but still came home in 3:49.13, a remarkable eight-month progression. He’s kept at it and with consistent roadwork and positive results at distance events over the next few years in Eastern Passage, N.S., Phoenix and Bar Harbour, Maine, he eventually decided to try and qualify for Boston.
He accomplished his dream goal on his third attempt, with a time of 3:07.38 at the 2016 Fredericton Marathon, 7:22 under the 3:15 time requirement for the age 40-44 men’s division.
“I am never going to win a race, be a top 5 or a top 10 finisher,” Marc said. “For me, running is a race against myself. I always try to set a goal and try to accomplish it and improve on it the next time. That is what keeps me going.”
In addition to distance running, he has taken up triathlons, competing in Fredericton and St. Andrews events as well as the 2016 Mont Tremblant Ironman – a 3.8 km swim, 180-km cycle and full marathon.
As for Boston, Marc will attend the expo Saturday morning with Tanya, tour the city and prepare for his start time at approximately 10 a.m. It’s a mini vacation for the couple, punctuated with the big run Monday.
“Thank God for her,” said Marc. “She supports me so much.”
There are 62 New Brunswickers registered to compete, including two of the best women runners in the province, Shelley Doucet of Quispamsis and Paula Keating of Miramichi. Doucet is aiming to break the provincial women’s marathon record 2:47.26 set by Keating at the 2011 Boston Marathon.
Last year, 23 women from New Brunswick completed the Boston course and some of the other top runners returning this year are Marcie Holland of Saint John and Annie Pellerin of Moncton.
On the men’s side, the top three New Brunswick men from 2016 in Boston are back: Colin McQuade of Riverview and Nathaniel Couture of Fredericton. In addition, Daniel LeBlanc of Dieppe has posted strong results and looking for big things in his Boston debut.
Kevin Barrett’s column appears every other Saturday. If you have a suggestion for a feature story, email him at email@example.com or visit barrettkevin.wordpress.com.