The Running Whys – Murray Lowery-Simpson

Murray.jpg

The story ran in the July 29 edition of the Daily Gleaner.

It’s been a while since those early runs for Murray Lowery-Simpson, taking part in his elementary school races as a grade school student in Halifax.

And while the results weren’t exactly the greatest, the experience of those first steps formed a formative base, one that assisted his hockey fitness skills as a teenager and subsequently led him to approximately 20 marathons as an adult, all after he moved to Fredericton around the year 2000.

“It is always sort of changing and shifting,” said Murray of his approach to life and physical activity as a 45-year-old software engineer who lives with his wife and three daughters – 13-year-old triplets – in Hanwell.

“Now, for me, it is a devotional practice in a way. Not like prayer but feeling spiritually closer to God perhaps. It is a personal thing, time to be alone and reflect on things. It helps to maintain a healthy body, a healthy mind and a healthy spirit. Running is where it all kind of comes together for me.”

In May, Murray posted a 3:14.55 clocking at the Fredericton Marathon. It was his first full marathon in approximately four seasons but another result in a career that has seen him race twice at the Boston Marathon, including a 3:00.31 result in 2003. Additionally, he was a regular participant at Marathon By The Sea in Saint John, including 2006 when he raced to a 2:50.49 time.

The Halifax native moved from Nova Scotia when he was 18 to study engineering science and aerospace engineering at the University of Toronto. He later switched into software development and eventually landed in Hanwell at Measurand Inc. in 2000, where he writes software for geotechnical sensors.

Those first running strides were as a member of his elementary school’s cross-country team that accepted everyone who showed up and he recalls being ‘pretty terrible…in the bottom 10 per cent’.

“I still enjoyed it and I enjoyed trying to be physically fit,” he said. “Later on, as I was playing competitive hockey as a teenager, I would run in the off season to stay fit. I really just kept at it throughout my life.”

In university, it served as a stress reliever, yet it was not until he moved to Fredericton that he registered for a road race – a 10 km event where he posted a top-10 result that truly lit a competitive spark.

“I didn’t run my first road race until I was 29 as I never really considered it,” he said. “After that 10k, I got a bit more serious training for marathons. It really took off at that point.”

That led to the appearances in Boston, great results throughout New Brunswick and in the region and a sincere appreciation for the benefits of the sport.

“For me, it helps me to stay sane, maintain some balance and sanity in my life as well as a clear outlook on things,” he said.

He will often listen to an audio book during the long runs and his relative short distance from home to work allows him to run during the commute most every day.

Through it all, he prefers the region’s smaller events to the big crowds of Boston. Some of his best memories revolve around overcoming unique challenges, such as 100 km winds and driving rain during one Blue Nose Marathon in Halifax, or the respect he gained for distance training when on one of his first ever long runs, he tackled a 30-km session a bit underprepared and was forced to call for a ride home.

The quirky lessons and novel experiences are part of what keeps him going.

In two weeks, Murray and his brother will take part once again in the Race the Phantom in the McAdam area, an adventure race featuring 40 hours of biking, hiking and canoeing. And if he is not beat up from that, he’ll race the Marathon by the Sea later on in August.

“Running is something I hope I can maintain for as long as I can and just enjoy it,” he said.

Kevin Barrett’s column appears every other Saturday. If you have a suggestion for a feature story, email him at kevinbarrett16@gmail.com or visit barrettkevin.wordpress.com.

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