It was 1978 and Paul Lavoie had just returned to Fredericton to live after spending several years in Yellowknife in one of his early career postings with the federal government.
Once settled back in the New Brunswick capital in his role as a regional manager for Natural Resources Canada, he was comfortable with administration. But with many long hours at the desk, he realized he needed to get back into shape.
The solution was simple enough – running.
Thus started a long and successful relationship with the activity, one that will be recognized next Saturday when he is inducted into the Run NB Hall of Fame.
“I came back from Yellowknife after being there for a couple of years and I was a bit overweight,” said Lavoie, now 69 and still involved in the sport on many levels in the Fredericton area.
“So I started to run.”
It didn’t take long for Lavoie to gain traction and subsequently, he entered races with many encouraging results. It was enough to motivate him to train longer and harder.
Ultimately, he trained for, qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon in 1990, an accomplishment that tops his personal highlight list.
“I have won a few medals in my age group along the way but the only medal hanging on my wall is the one from the Boston Marathon,” he explained.
After that experience, he was initiated into triathlon and he’s taken part in that sport ever since as well.
While Lavoie’s active involvement reflects the growing trend of participation in the sport, his behind-the-scenes work and administrative leadership in the Fredericton running community is what sets him apart.
For example, he was the first co-chair of the Fredericton Fall Classic, a race he has been involved with each of its 35 years of existence.
He has either competed in or served as a committee member for the Fredericton Scotiabank Marathon for 38 or 39 years, including approximately 15 years as race director.
He’s involved in the Fredericton Duncan Hanley Triathlon, was the YMCA Kids of Steel triathlon’s first race director and is also the race director of the relatively new Harvey Triathlon.
“I am just happy seeing the community come together in a healthy way to enjoy a sport that I have enjoyed over the years,” Lavoie said. “I like working with the people on committees and I get a great deal of satisfaction out of all of it.”
While the most difficult day is race day, when everything starts coming together and he can see things that can be improved upon, the atmosphere at an event and the knowledge his committee has succeeded in another race is a boardroom version of the runner’s high.
“I love the sport and I love to see people getting fit and being healthy,” he said.
Lavoie will be inducted into the RunNB Hall of Fame with Scott Hare of Pointe du Chene. The ceremony will be part of the RunNB Awards banquet to be held Nov. 18 in the Chancellor’s Room of the Wu Conference Centre in Fredericton.
Awards will be presented in nine categories, including event of the year and male and female runner of the year.
Lavoie is not planning on an elaborate speech but will offer his thanks and appreciation to those who made the award possible.
He is pleased and impressed with the development of running since he became involved some four decades ago.
“It is a greater awareness by people in terms of staying healthy,” he said. “Even young people know they are going to get old so they may as well be fit when they are older.
“There was a growth of races through a lot of community activities. They would say let’s have a race and raise some funds and that exploded into getting more people involved. Then those people wanted to go to different races because they have tried them in their hometowns. It is a natural way of staying healthy.”
He’s not one to rest on his laurels. As for next year, expect Lavoie to keep running in events when he can and also playing a major role on the 40th anniversary of the Fredericton Marathon and its expanded three-day format.
“You have to keep moving until you can’t keep moving,” is a philosophy he strives to achieve.
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.