Barbara McLeod on 16 Years of Ultrarunning
Reported September 24, 2002 by David Blaikie for Ultramarathon World
Barbara McLeod was one of the first women of modern times to run ultras in Canada when she took up the sport in the mid-1980s. She still holds and continues to set numerous national age group records. Next month, on Oct. 10, she officially becomes a "senior citizen" in the eyes of the Canadian government and will begin receiving an "old age" pension. In this article she reflects on some of the people she has met along the way.
By Barbara McLeod
Today I received a letter from the Government to tell me they will begin next month to pay me for being "old". And I began to think back on my wonderful 16 years of running ultras (first one was the Sri Chinmoy 24-hour at Ottawa May 86) and the people who have given me so much encouragement and support along the way. I don't have addresses for all , so hope that this will reach most and be passed on to the others.
The first person is David Blaikie - there wouldn't be ultra running in Canada but for him and David you have always been there for me in the good times and the bad times and I will always be grateful. (Editor's note: much overstated, but very kind.)
Sri Chinmoy and the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team have taught me so much, two words come to mind "determination" and "oneness". There was always so much energy flowing and no matter how many miles I had run, I was encouraged to run further. You taught me "Runners Are Smilers" and somehow after seven days of rain you had me smiling! You picked me up and put me back on my feet so many times and always so cheerfully!
My very good friend Antana Locs, one of the world's greatest multi-day runners. We battled it out so many times and you were always so gracious and then you just took off and went further and further! Your friendship over the years is so precious to me. You also taught me "how to loose and be nice"!
The great "Wally" Herman , when I came on the scene I was so stupid and full of myself and you were so patient and kind. It is always an honour to be in races with you.
Phil Latulippe - The first time I met you was at the half marathon in Quebec City, I was so impressed with you and your accomplishments. You are my hero and over the years you have just got better and better.
Rolly Portelance and the late Norm Patenaude and their families. You put on some great races in the north and I have wonderful memories of the fun we had. Remember Rolly I beat you at the Rainbow Country 48-hour race in Chelmsford!
Ed Alexander - What a great person you are, I always enjoyed being in races with you. Ed, the last time I saw you was in Kingston and you were knee deep in mud on the track - not moving ! Your hard work has certainly kept the sport alive!
Doug Barber - I am always pleased to be in the same race as you - a great runner and a wonderful race director.
The great Stefan Fekner - when we ran the inaugural 100 km World Championship and you were such a great champion you ran so well and I ran so bad - but you encouraged me so much over the years and have kept in touch - I consider you a great friend.
Michel Careau - We haven't always agreed Michael, but you are one of the greatest multi day runners ever and an inspiration to myself and others!
Trishul Cherns - How many races have we run together and you have always encouraged and tried to help at difficult times and made it fun. We were the King and Queen of "blisters".
Al Howie - Al I have lost contact with you - we have shared in so many races. You were one of the first ultra runners I met and you were so wonderful. There is no one that compares to you both as an athlete and helper of your fellow runners - thanks so much.
I especially want to mention the late Brian Smith from CJOH Ottawa who always made me look so good.
Bob Ferguson, Dave Brown and Martin Cleary from the Ottawa Citizen who have written super articles that made me appear much better than I was.
The above is only a few of the people who have helped me - I want to thank every race director for your patience, as you know I am famous for getting lost! I got lost twice in the same race in New York City - no it wasn't on a track! I want to thank all the volunteers and one particular one that comes to mind is Barbara Gehl (Ron Gehl's wife). I laugh at the times after a race that you have picked up after me in the ladies change room and sent me out with all my clothes on correctly. I always meant to say "thank-you" but I never have until now.
I am so encouraged with the new generation taking over both as athletes and race directors and know how much fun you are going to have. I just love hearing from some of you. You all are an inspiration to me!
I want to thank my daughter, Marla, who is one of God's angels and runs in my heart with me all the time. I hope that my daughter, Signe, who still considers my running an embarrassment, may one day understand the joy it brings. My dog, Spot, who sleeps by the track during the multi-days waiting for me to finish. Last, but not least my husband Bill who has to be a "Saint."
I seem to have had every injury that ever was and but somehow got over them, the last five years I have have battled osteoporosis and a back that puts me running somewhat lopsided at the end of the multi-day races. I can't think of any of this coming to an end, to date this year I have run 22 races, doesn't matter what distances I just run them every week-end. Hopefully on October 20 I will be standing on the start line of the Toronto Marathon as a senior citizen and then off to Dallas for the 48 hour and then to Corpus Christi and then to Houston for the 100 km and then to Winnipeg and so it goes on and on.
I can't decide on what to spend my first old age cheque - I am thinking of a tattoo!
I couldn't have done any of this alone. Many thanks to all.