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Neighbour’s 100th marathon an inspiration

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In August 2002, I found myself deep in the woods of Grande Cache, Alta., warming my hands over a fire at 2 a.m.

I was flanked by my husband, Gerald, a friend, Trish Rolfson. Along with other anxious family members and friends, we were all eagerly waiting for a glimpse of a lamp strapped to a runner’s head, ready to greet it with loud cheers of encouragement.

This was my first introduction to my neighbour Len Rolfson’s world of running. The Canadian Death Race (with its slogan ‘It’s a killer’) is a 125-kilometre ultramarathon that begins and ends on a 4,200-foot plateau, passes over three mountain summits and traverses 17,000 feet of elevation.

This may sound crazy to most of us, but not to my friend Len.

This year’s 35th Manitoba Marathon on Sun., June 16, will be his 100th marathon!  

When he finishes, he will be the only person to have completed all the marathons in the event’s history. Len’s personal goal is to have completed 100 marathons by the time he reached 65 years ‘young’.  

When he finishes on June 16, he will also have completed seven half-marathons and eight ultramarathons. He still has one other goal — to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon.

My husband and I have joined Len and Trish on a few of their marathon travels and now each year, around May 15, we find ourselves pulling our trailers out of storage early to begin a road trip to Brookings, S.D.

Once there, we rise and shine at 5 a.m., mount our bikes and begin to follow Len step-by-step as he runs another marathon.  

We have shared many a laugh and cold beer with these friends and I can honestly say that I see the biggest smiles on Len’s face right before and right after he completes a run.

When I wake up each morning here in the city, I look over and see the Rolfsons’ living room light on and I know Len has already finished his ‘little run,’ which is usually 16-20 miles.

This is called part of his training. I call it crazy, but I can’t help but be in awe of the man and his accomplishments.

Now, both of his sons, Scott and Evan, have joined their father in the world of running. They recently returned from a family trip to Hawaii, where, of course, they ran a marathon and now look forward to Boston in 2014. Scott has already qualified.

I’m looking forward to Len’s 100th marathon and I will be up bright and early with the rest of my family and the Rolfsons to cheer my friend along.

But the best part for me will be sharing a celebratory beer with Len on his deck when all is said and done.  

Hey, I never said I was the athlete!

Virginia Sperl is a Silver Heights-based writer.

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