Driven by the taste of freedom and health, a rising marathon runner from Terrace is aiming to qualify for the Boston Marathon next year.
At age 54, Brent Webb won first overall male in the Cannery Road Race half marathon of 21 kilometres at Port Edward on Sept. 17, finishing in 1:36:42.
With eight other runners in the half marathon that day, Webb said he was excited for the competition.
Ryan Staschck from Prince Rupert took off from the start line to earn an early lead, and Webb said that added an extra thrill.
“It means there is someone to catch,” he said. “I caught him halfway through and passed him, and then I just had to run away from footprints,” he laughed.
Staschck finished just 3.5 minutes after Webb at 1:40:17, and got second overall and first place in the male age 20-39 category. Webb was the only one in the age 40-59 category, but won overall first.
“It’s very exciting. It’s the fastest I have ever run a half,” he said. “To know that I could run it that fast, and feel that strong at the end of it, is significant.”
Webb’s plugged his results into a calculator designed for runners and it has indicated he could run a full marathon in 3:23:31, which is 6.5 minutes under the time he needs to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2017.
“It gives you great confidence and gives you that mental push to know ‘Hey, I can do this,’” he said.
Webb said he got his first taste for running in high school P.E. classes and the cross-country team here in Terrace.
He loved his first 5K race in Grade 12, and was thrilled with the tight competition he had in school running against a 6’ 6’’ classmate Harlin Inkster.
Inkster would blast off into the lead from the start, and Webb, at 5’ 4’’, would slowly catch up and pass him.
As the end came in sight, Webb said they would sprint hard together for the finish.
“I had to get far enough ahead of him before the last sprint to beat him,” Webb said. “We were very close, it was great competition.”
After graduation, he mastered the King of the Mountain race a handful of times, and then got too busy to run when he married and had children.
Then at age 51, Webb took up biking in an effort to stay in shape.
He started running in the 5K All Seasons Races, which used to run every October, and met people who ran in the half marathon.
He thought, “this guy is just crazy. I could never run 21 km, who could ever do that?” Webb recalled. “Then you meet these guys and you realize that you can. So I tried it and it wasn’t very good but it was a good start.”
That first half marathon was an All Seasons Race in 2014, which he ran with his son-in-law Andrew Johnstone, who is a regular runner.
That first time, Webb said he was just glad to survive.
“I made it, I didn’t die,” he said, describing his feelings after the run. But running was fun, he said, so he kept at it. He tackled a BMO half marathon in May 2015 and another half in Vancouver in May 2016 with the Stigma Stompers, a local running group here.
Then in October 2015, he mastered his first full marathon in Kelowna, finishing in 3:37:00.
It was a disappointing result, he said, explaining that his aim was to get under 3:30:00 and qualify for Boston.
He says he was ready to give up, but then he met local marathon runner Joe Pelletier through Facebook, the “Running in Terrace,” page. Pelletier encouraged him to keep at it, and the two have become running buddies.
“I was so lucky to meet Joe,” Webb said. “It’s very difficult to find someone that runs the same pace as you. It’s really hard – almost impossible!”
He says that in the last few years, he has literally pulled his truck over when he saw runners, drilling them on their pace and distance, in his efforts to find someone to run with.
Now, though he loves running, Webb said that what drives him to keep running is the prize of feeling healthy.
“I like walking down the street and climbing a set of stairs, and it’s effortless,” he said. “Your lungs, you just feel so free.”
Now as a competitor, being in the top 10 per cent of runners, makes him feel successful, he said.
“It feeds your ego,” he laughed. “I like that.”
Now his zeal is growing to conquer new distances and destinations, explaining how he and Pelletier mastered the big hill on Queensway. Next on his list is the Zymacord hill.
“It’s hard to run in the beginning, but once you get your fitness up, it’s a lot easier to run these hills and it’s not so overwhelming,” Webb said.
Webb started training in June for the Victoria Goodlife marathon Oct. 9, and he aims to finish in under 3:30:00 to qualify for the Boston Marathon. He trains six days a week, with a routine of one long run over 21K, two days of speed training such as sprints, and slower, easier runs in between.
Webb has inspired his family to start running, with both his wife Alison and daughter Sarah Schritt picking it up in the last two years. Sarah said seeing her dad move to make healthy choices prompted her to do the same. When Webb heads to Victoria for his marathon Oct. 9, both she and Alison plan to travel with him and tackle a half.
When asked how they feel about it, they both laughed.
“This one I plan to just finish,” Sarah said. “The next few I will work on times.” Alison said the same, adding that there are times when she likes running, and other times it’s excruciating.
“I always feel good when I’m done,” she said, adding that she feels vastly better climbing stairs and going through life. “It has made a big difference… I’m definitely more physically fit.”