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Thursday, May. 24, 2018
Sudbury brigade readies for Boston Marathon on Monday
by Randy Pascal

To the best of my knowledge, seven Sudburians will line up with the masses come Monday at the start line of the running tradition that is the Boston Marathon. Each will enter the race will different goals, having travelled a somewhat unique path, the constant for all being their love of a long-distance jaunt.

In the words of the immortal television series “Law and Order”, these are (some) of their stories.

The overwhelming majority of the athletes next week on this fabled course will be more than content to run for the experience of completing a Boston Marathon. Eric Leishman is not among this majority.

The 26 year old Chapleau native who has called Sudbury home for the past decade is seeded 71st in a field of thousands, once the 100 or so in the “elite” classification have been backed out. Boston will mark his fourth marathon, in total, but first one on this very demanding course.

Yet it was a highly optimistic young man who greeted me just days prior to his departure for Massachusetts, having qualified for Boston by winning the 2016 Sudbury Rocks Marathon in a time of 2:32:00 or so.

“I feel like this race, I definitely prepared better, got up to 200 kilometers a week, and really held that comfortably,” said Leishman. “I’m definitely in a way better place than I was last year. It will depend somewhat on the weather conditions, but at this point, the weather looks pretty good.”

“We’re looking at 10 to 15 degrees, and a slight tail wind. If there is any kind of a tail wind, that’s an advantage, because it’s a point to point course. I’m optimistic.” And he should be. Roughly a year and a half ago, Leishman purchased a “Boston Marathon” treadmill, essentially investing in a model that replicates the 26-mile run that would await him should everything go to plan.

“The treadmill definitely helped, I was able to run the Boston course three times,” he stated. “It follows the course, it goes up and down with the elevation, it definitely gives you an idea of what you’re going to come up against in the race.”

Leishman will travel to Boston with his father, the same fellow who lent a helping hand in Sudbury, providing some much-needed restocking of the nutrients so critical to success in a race of this length.

“That’s another thing that I definitely have improved on in the past few years, learning to take in gels, learning to take in my carbohydrate drinks, which are way more important in the marathon than in the half (marathon).”

Like Leishman, Vale engineer Lindsay Moreau-Verlaan carries a competitive mindset to her first crack at the grand-daddy of all marathons. That will happen when you are the first female, overall, to cross the line at the 2016 Niagara Falls International Marathon in a very impressive time of 3:17:28.

While some gradually weave their way into the world of long-distance running, this 38 year-old graduate of Lasalle Secondary seemed destined to this pursuit, almost from birth. “I’m one of those lifers,” acknowledged Moreau-Verlaan.

“I’ve been running since I was in elementary school. I did it all the way through high school, running competitively.” But come the demands of her studies in engineering at Laurentian University, the local product shifted her focus, continuing to run on her own, but foregoing any attempt to join a varsity team.

Still, the base was set, as she completed her first marathon while still completing her post-secondary degree. “There wasn’t so much speed back then,” she recalled. “I was just really good at “keep going, keep going”. My boyfriend at the time, now my husband, was running with me.”

And as any of the married folk will attest, there is no greater motivator in the world than the person to whom one pledges their undying love. “We ran the Toronto Goodlife Marathon together, I tried to keep up with his pace,” she said.

“I ran what I consider to be a really fast marathon for my first marathon without any serious training (3:33:00).” After running her second event in Rotterdam a few years later (2004 or so), Moreau-Verlaan would retreat from racing for roughly a decade, with family and career demands taking priority.

These days, the competitive drive that would see her blinded to the heels of her boyfriend’s shoes at her first marathon has clearly resurfaced. “I would like to say that it’s just about the experience, the big crowds, running Boston, but honestly, I think in my heart, I want to run sub 3:20:00. Most of my winter training is at a faster pace, in much worse conditions than I will face there.”

If Vale co-worker Helen Francis was fully prepared to cede the faster time to Moreau-Verlaan, it was likely because she knew that even more prolonged distance was on her side. The 42 year-old Sudburian, who first moved from the United Kingdom just over two decades ago, is actually far more focused on her involvement with ultra-marathons, than with the pure vanilla 42 km version.

Competing in Boston for the very first time, Francis looks at Monday’s event as a “training run” of sorts, preparing for a few longer races later this year. In late May, she is off to Burlington/Ancaster, site of the Sulphur Springs Trail Race, looking to tackle the 50 mile distance.

In September, she is right back at it for the Haliburton Forest Trail Race, joining fellow Sudburian Amber Konikow, with the latter eyeing the 100 mile distance while Francis tackles the shorter (relatively speaking) 50 mile route.

Lively native Bruce Pollard will make his second journey to Boston, having last run the race in the scorching heat that was the 2015 Marathon, with thermometers reaching into the eighty degree Fahrenheit range that day.

Qualifying at the Chicago Marathon in the fall of 2015, Pollard will enjoy his seventh 26 km race on Monday, recognizing that this one, in particular, always carries some very special memories. “It’s unlike any other race,” said Pollard. “But at least I know what to expect.”

“The chance to run through several really beautiful New England towns, with crowds that are just insane, you get kind of overwhelmed by all of the support,” he said. Meanwhile, St Charles College physical education teacher and former member of the Laurentian Voyageur women’s basketball team, Chantal Dagostino, is also running Boston for the second time.

The event will mark her 10th crack at this distance, a sequence that began back at the 2008 Ottawa Marathon, at a time when she had much less distance running knowledge at her disposal. “I kind of ran that one blank,” she said. “I didn’t even know how to run properly. I’m still learning to manage the 26 mile monster.”

Rounding out the local contingent are Michael Williams (age 51 – Val Therese) and Norm Lonergan (age 55 – Sudbury).

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