Local runner Brent McMillan has emerged as an elite
marathon runner in just a short span of time.
Brent McMillan was no prodigy.
Unlike many of his peers in the running community, the Sault Ste. Marie resident didn’t dominate the local long-distance medal haul as a teenager.
Nor was the Thessalon native a cross-country standout for the Central Algoma Secondary School Huskies.
Less than a decade ago, in fact, he was a regular smoker.
But these days, if you ask the Lock City’s elite runners who their top local competition is, McMillan’s name is bound to come up.
His name came up again on Oct. 11, when the 30-year-old raced his way to first place overall and a course record at the Ottawa Fall Colours Marathon.
McMillan’s time of 2:42:00 was 6:30 faster than defending champion Rick Hellard of Ottawa, who set the previous record of 2:42:21 in 2005.
“It was the first time I’ve done the course,” McMillan said Monday afternoon, during a break between training runs. “It was windy, lonely and cold, but otherwise not too bad.”
Well, maybe not too lonely.
The race was, after all, a chance for McMillan to reconnect with friends in Ottawa, where he received a degree in psychology from Carleton University.
“I went for the easiest degree I could find,” McMillan joked.
He also raced in Bytown on Sept. 20, finishing fifth in the Army Run Half-Marathon.
“I wanted to come back to Ottawa twice this year, because I used to live there and I’m not much of a traveller,” he said. “This is a good motivation to make the trip.”
McMillan became a whole lot more motivated seven years ago.
About a year after giving up cigarettes, he started competing in cycling events in the area of the Nation’s Capital.
“I started after I read Lance Armstrong’s book, ‘It’s Not About the Bike,’ ” McMillan remembered. “I bought a road bike and started riding. I picked up running a little while after.”
Running takes up more time time than cycling lately, but the bike still comes out for events such as this year’s St. Joseph Island Triathlon.
McMillan won that event’s International Distance Duathlon back in August.
“I like having personal challenges, setting goals and achieving them, and also being fit,” McMillan said. “Hopefully I can be a positive role model for kids and encourage them to break some of their own bad habits.”
McMillan has been a Youth Services officer at the Donald Doucet Youth Centre, a youth correctional facility, since March of 2008.
“I try a bit with the kids at work, to get them running, and hopefully some of that will carry over into their lives outside,” McMillan said. “But I guess that part’s up to them.”
McMillan also hopes that through his own accomplishments, and those of his fellow runners, cyclists and swimmers, local endurance athletes will gain more recognition.
“There are so many good ones who fly below the radar,” McMillan said. “They don’t get a lot of recognition.
“Things like the eight-hour mountain bike race, the adventure race and the St. Joseph Island Triathlon, people talk about them for a few days before and after and then they forget about them.
“Maybe if they thought about it more, then more people would be motivated to train.”