Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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Douglas J. (Shaggy) Smith, masters running impresario

How does he do it? This is a question I ask myself regularly on the heels of Ontario Masters Athletics (OMA) events for which Doug assumes duties as registrar, volunteer coordinator, webmaster, meet director, photographer and a few other tasks that only those, who have done this work, would know of. And did I mention helping us retrieve lost passwords for our membership login page? I returned to racing in 1996 at an indoor Masters Meet. Doug’s involvement predates this and he has been an ever-present “force” since.

In order to find out a little more about the always-in-motion Doug, I asked him the same questions from my previous post, taken from the article New Years Lessons and Resolutions from Canadian Runners . I also added some questions of my own.

Doug Smith in the Steeplechase, Canadian Outdoor Track Championships

Doug Smith in the Steeplechase, Canadian Outdoor Track Championships

DOUG’S ANSWERS to New Years Lessons and Resolutions from Canadian Runners

What did you learn in 2013 that you want to apply to your training in 2014?
Lack of consistent mileage was a problem I’ll try to work on in 2014.

What was a great moment that you will remember about 2013?
Running at the back of the pack in the Steeplechase at the World Championships in Brazil. So happy to be competing after cracking my tibia in the Steeple three months earlier.

What goals do you have for 2014?
Nothing special….just to keep going.Two resolutions: one running resolution and a non-running one? I never have resolutions. I always try to improve myself – in running, training, and in administration of our events.


1980 Toronto Marathon, Doug's first

1980 Toronto Marathon, Doug’s first

When did you start running?
I ran around the block when I was a little kid, with my Dad timing me, after I saw Abebe Bikila win the Olympic Marathon in ’60. I ran in High School, but just in Phys. Ed. class. There was no track team.

Who got you started?
I started in earnest in ’78, right in the Jim Fixx running boom. We had moved into the house and I was ready to get into it. My wife got me a running log for my birthday and I’ve kept one ever since.

What was your first race?
After running in the neighbourhood for a year and a half, I decided to try the Eaton’s 10K in 1980. I ran 49:00. Then, in September, I paid the $5 entry fee and ran the Toronto Marathon with very little mileage or any idea what I was doing. The last 10K was gruesome and I finished in 4:14

Doug Smith & Paul Osland, Presiden of Canadian Masters Athletics (3rd term)

Doug Smith & Paul Osland, President of Canadian Masters Athletics (3rd term)

Who got you involved with the OMA?
I showed up for a race in Sunnybrook Park in ’88. It happened to be cancelled. I noticed these guys warming up for a Metro Fitness race and I went in that one. They told me there was a Masters cross-country race the next weekend. That was the first time I heard of the Masters.

I went to the OMA Outdoors in’91 in Oshawa. I was looking for a ride home, so I went to the AGM to look for one. They were looking for another Board member, and someone said “What about this guy?”. . . I couldn’t think of a good excuse. Two years later I was President.

How did you get into photography?
I joined the Photography Club in High School. I became the President (I see a trend here!). One of the priests set up a darkroom and I shot all the team photos and developed and printed them, I also worked for the Yearbook. I set up a darkroom when we got the house and then digital came along.

What running accomplishment are you most proud of?
Hmmm . . . I ran the CMA Championships Steeplechase in Montreal in 1990 when they announced it was a M35 Canadian Record. That kind of took me by surprise. I’ve run 23 marathons and well over 500 races and I only dropped out of two – one with a foot injury, and one when I pulled a hamstring in the World’s cross-country meet in Finland.

At my first track meet ever – the OMA Indoor Championships in 1989, I ran 4:36 in the 1500m, then 2:22 in the 800m, then rested a bit on the lunch break and then ran 18:15 in the 5000m. I never ran faster in the 800 and 1500.

What made you decide to compete in the steeplechase?
I guess I saw my first Steeple at the masters meet in ’89 and thought that it looked like fun. I wondered if being taller would be a bit of an advantage. I tried it for the first time at the Ontario Championships the next year.

It became my favourite event. You have to pace yourself so carefully – to save enough energy to get over all the barriers, as well as working harder than any other event in the last laps! I hurdled the barriers until I was about 44, then I started stepping on them. Then, when I was about 56, I started vaulting them. At 60, they were lower, and I started stepping on them again.

Five non-running biographical facts you would like to share.

  • I worked for 30 years as a tech at Bell and retired in 2004.
  • I’ve been married (to the same woman) for 42 years.
  • I’ve been President of the Ontario Masters for 20 years.
  • I played a small part in founding the University of Toronto Masters Track Club 5 years ago.

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Run to the lake and back and back again

Footbridge at Palace Pier

The early Saturday drizzle was not the best set up for a longer run without company.  I got a lot done while in procrastination mode, tidying up, gardening.  My husband offered to run five miles with me however this involved a loop back to the house, and the idea of getting close to home with many miles still to run, seemed mentally challenging.  But once I got bunch of chores done, the mood to run long finally arrived and out the door I ran ready to relax into a two hours or more solo run.

View from Coronation Park foot path

The marathoner in me triumphed as I enjoyed a steady pace through High Park, out to the Palace Pier bridge, then back east along the lake, heavily clothed in fog to just south of the Rogers Centre.  From there I ran northwest, home through the city.

Saturday run by mileage markers

It was our anniversary weekend but different commitments including a party for soon-to-be-parents made it difficult to get away.  Our solution was to travel very close to home and that somewhere was on one of my regular running routes.  A place by the lake of course!

Radisson by the Lake

The only expectation I had of the Radisson Hotel on the lake, just west of Queen’s Quay was that there would be a view.  It was a surprise to find our room nattily attired to a standard one might expect in a NYC boutique hotel.  And then with a little something you might not expect at a NYC boutique hotel, a high powered telescope. Which seemed a bit funny given that the easterly view of our corner room was a wall of condos.

Room with a . . . . telescope!

Coincidentally, the Toronto Goodlife Marathon route passed in front of our hotel, affording the chance to provide a bit of crowd support where none existed. I hope the strong tailwind made up for the drudgery and discomfort of the rain.  It was painful to watch runners slog by, both eastward and westward.  Go, marathoners!  I was impressed at how our cheers, lit up the faces of some.  I’m not sure if I could manage a smile in those conditions.

Brendan Kenny, Toronto Marathon Winner

As for our run, we did a route that took us to the Esplanade, a never run route for us.  This also gave us a chance to see the eventual winner speed by half-marathoners who had started out an hour earlier.

Tourist in Toronto

After our run, we walked over to Terminal Quay for breakfast at the Watermark Pub and an enjoyable browse through the Tilley store. Exiting the hotel parking lot proved easy, in spite of the ongoing stream of marathoners we were delayed barely a minute or so.

All's well that ends with Eggs Benedict

Ah, life by the lake.  I found myself wondering how much space and garden I would be willing to give up to trade in our too-big-for-us fixer upper for a lake view.