Running brings you closer to nature and its creations. You see another side of spirituality that you cannot find sitting in a pew.
I was raised in rural New Brunswick where running brought me closer to my environment. I like to run along the river and through the woods, climbing hills. I’ve never understood people who listen to music when they run; being alone with your thoughts is a more profound experience.
I was born on our family homestead in Charlo, New Brunswick. My parents had little education. My father Donat had to leave school in Grade Three; he worked as a cook in a lumber camp. My mother Victoria would take the children to camp, where we played in the woods. Nobody thought of leading a physically active lifestyle; my family worked.
I ran my first marathon when I was 37. I clocked 42 kilometers in three-and-a-half hours. When I was young I was competitive, and running gave me a high. It was serious business.
I was also a competitive cross-country skier and recreational hockey player. I still play in the Campbellton old timers’ league. Our club is called the Last Chance Hockey Team. I’m not bad on the left wing if I have a good center man. We’re dangerous around the net!
Now I run just for my health. I want to feel good in the morning. I still have the kid in me. Running makes your brain sharper; you focus better. I have fewer sick days than some others my age.
I watch what I eat. Breakfast is organic vegetables, fruits and Greek yogurt in the blender. My favorite dinner is fish. Occasionally I cheat; who doesn’t like chips and a cold beer once in a while? I don’t smoke or drink hard liquor, and have never tried marijuana. In fact, I’ve never met a runner who did.
I still try to run four times a week. This spring I completed both the Toronto and the Ottawa Marathons. The conditions were tough but I managed to complete my 56th and 57th marathons. Following both marathons, the next day I was back in the office as usual.
Exercise has really shaped my life. I enjoy running in the morning, especially on Christmas and New Year’s Day in a soft falling snow. It’s so peaceful and romantic. It inspires me to write poetry:
Running keeps me close to nature
In communication with its creations
Makes me forget
All the bad, evil and violence in this world
Keeps me alive
Happy and healthy
Defines my well-being
Gives a meaning and a sense
To my existence
Running makes me forget how old I am
Remembering only how young I feel
(Editor’s note: the author is now-retired Conservative senator for New Brunswick, an award-winning poet and longtime marathoner)