Saturday, October 11, 2008

On the mark
On the mark

The Guardian

Alanna Jankov and her 12-year-old son, Martin Sobey, are training to run the half- marathon next week on P.E.I. The Charlottetown mother-and-son duo plans to run stride for stride and cross the finish line together. Guardian photo by Jim Day
Alanna Jankov and her 12-year-old son, Martin Sobey, are training to run the half- marathon next week on P.E.I. The Charlottetown mother-and-son duo plans to run stride for stride and cross the finish line together. Guardian photo by Jim Day

A 75-year-old man will be stepping up to the starting line.
So, too, will an 11-year-old girl.
A family of six from Nova Scotia is also getting in on the act.
Some will make a real long hike, from places as far away as Denmark and China, to lace up on Prince Edward Island.
Indeed, runners and walkers from all walks of life will take part next weekend in many categories that comprise the BMO Nesbitt Burns P.E.I. Marathon.
Event co-ordinator Myrtle Jenkins-Smith is pleased not only with the diversity of participants, but with the growing numbers as well.
Marathons had been run on the Island for a couple of decades, but never drew much of a crowd, the largest turnout being a mere 173 runners.
That was before local businessmen George Fisher and Danny Murphy coaxed a major expansion of the marathon five years ago into a full weekend event that they hoped would see many people sprinting to Prince Edward Island, cash in hand.
Mission accomplished.
The goal of attracting roughly 400 entrants in the first year of the repackaged event was doubled.
Last year, more than 1,400 people registered. More than 1,500 are expected this year and over half of those will likely be from off-Island.
“We are growing and we are growing quicker than anybody would have thought,’’ said Jenkins-Smith.
To make the event sustainable, more categories were added to attract greater numbers. There are now nine events, including The Guardian-sponsored full marathon, a half-marathon and a 10-kilometre run. There is a half-marathon walk and a 10-K walk and a corporate team event. A Nordic half- marathon walk and a Nordic 10-k walk have been added this year.
Children can again get into the fun with the comparatively short Kids Spud Run.
“We have to make an event that there is something for everyone,’’ said Jenkins-Smith.
This open-to-practically-everyone-with-a-pair-of-sneakers-and-a-decent-heartbeat philosophy is drawing an interesting, diverse and far-reaching crowd.
Here is a snapshot of some of this year’s participants:
n At 75, Joe Lin of Dartmouth, N.S., is the oldest entrant to date. He and his wife, Heather, who turns 70 on Thanksgiving Day, are set for the 10-K walk. The pair walks a couple of kilometres a day, but they have never taken part in a competition. Friends, who get together to do Tai Chi and other activities, convinced the Lins to lace up for Prince Edward Island. “This is strictly for fun,’’ said Joe Lin. “I’m not trying to prove anything.’’
n While friends convinced the Lins to walk in the weekend event, Robert Pinkston of Sherbrooke, Que., was the inspiration for his clan to run on the Island. Sharon Pinkston said the family became motivated to take up running after watching her husband run the Boston Marathon in 2006. Sharon, who ran her first marathon last year in Florida, is set to run the full marathon on P.E.I., while son Zack, 16, will tackle his third half-marathon and 11-year-old daughter Haley will set her sights on completing her first 10-K race. As for Robert, he will be sidelined to look after four-year-old daughter Maleah. Sharon, who will be raising money in her marathon run for a young boy with a rare disease, is pleased by the diversity of categories. “I think it’s great that they have all these events,’’ she said. “I think it will get bigger and bigger every year.’’
n The weekend will certainly be a family affair for the Dessureaults. AndrĂ© Dessureault, 40, of Dartmouth, N.S., plans to run the half- marathon while his wife, Janet Harrison, does the 10-K run, and the couple’s four children — Lauren, 9, Julie, 8, Sarah, 6, and Thomas, 3, tear up the Kids Spud run. AndrĂ©, who completed the half-marathon last year in P.E.I., enjoyed the experience so much he is carting the entire clan back this weekend. “Being my first one last year, I was quite impressed with the whole thing,’’ he said. “It was run very smoothly . . . There’s something for everyone there and that’s the beauty of this weekend.’’
n Not only are there categories catering to runners and walkers of vastly varying abilities, there is even flexibility built in to accommodate special requests. At age 12, Martin Sobey of Charlottetown is technically too young to compete in the half-marathon, but with his mother signing a waiver, he has been given the green light. Mom Alanna Jankov will also be by the boy’s side every step of the way as Martin attempts his first ever half- marathon. Jankov, an accomplished marathon runner, has been training with her son, putting in about three 12-kilometre runs a week.
“It’s nice to do something with Martin that isn’t typical (mother-son fare) and I think it’s important to see at my age — 41 — being physically active, it can take you through your entire life,’’ said Jankov, a professional photographer.
Martin came up with the idea of running the half marathon with his mom.
“I thought it would be a challenge,’’ he said.
Jankov hopes the run leads to the pair taking even lengthier strides together.
“I can picture Martin in a few years time — he and I heading off and doing a full marathon somewhere and he’ll be leaving me in the dust for sure,’’ she says.
n Mike Stapenhurst’s first trip through the Island course this weekend will mark his 28th marathon. His first marathon was in 1985 in New York. The 67-year-old New Brunswick resident, who runs twice a week with the Capital City Road Runners in Fredericton, took a break last year. “I can’t remember why I didn’t do one last year. I probably just didn’t feel like it,’’ he says. But Stapenhurst is eager to make his way next weekend through what he has heard is quite a scenic run on the Island.
n Paul Barton has called P.E.I. home since emigrating to the province from Britain in 2006 to marry. He began running for fitness in May and is set to compete in the half marathon. “Up to now I have only watched marathons on TV such as London and Boston and have always been amazed at the tens of thousands of runners and the huge crowds of onlookers,’’ he says. “I know the Island event may be small in size (by comparison) but I am sure it will be all the more friendly for that.’’
n Erik Verschuren of the Netherlands will hop a plane along with his mother and his sister to visit family on Prince Edward Island. While here, he will add the P.E.I. run to marathons he wracked up at the rate of about one a year between 1987 and 2000 in, among other places, Utrecht, New York, Rotterdam, Boston, Berlin and Capetown.
n Premier Robert Ghiz, who ran the half marathon last year despite nursing an injury, is set to tackle the 21-kilometre route again. He considers the marathon weekend a strong vehicle to promote both exercise and tourism. “For myself, it’s a great way to stay in shape and to burn off some stress,’’ he says. The biggest challenge for the premier is finding the time to put in the training. As for comparing a half marathon to a political race, Ghiz sees similarities. “They’re both very challenging but when you reach the finish line hopefully they both will be very rewarding.’’

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