Marathon Ma­niac

Wally Her­man is one of Canada’s most pro­lific run­ners. He’s com­pleted 730 marathons, multi-day ul­tras and his own one-man chal­lenges in 99 coun­tries. At 91, he’s re­tir­ing from run­ning

Canadian Running - - GREAT STRIDES - By Martin Cleary

The ex­tra­or­di­nary run­ning ca­reer of Wally Her­man has come to an end with­out any fan­fare. But Her­man, who turned 91 on Nov. 11, is one sat­is­fied road war­rior now that his 40-year crav­ing for marathons and ul­tra­ma­rathons has ceased. “I didn’t con­sciously say the de­sire is out of me. I thought maybe next year, I’ll get back at it,” said the na­tive of Ot­tawa, who closed his run­ning di­ary with 730 marathons and ul­tras in 99 coun­tries. “But at the same time I don’t feel bad it’s done. I’ve had a good run at this and feel OK.”

When he ref lects on his rac­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, it’s a unique trav­el­ogue filled with an eclec­tic mix of ma­jor marathons, solo runs and multi-day ul­tra­ma­rathons. Her­man ran the Bos­ton Marathon 13 times, in­clud­ing his sec­ond-ever marathon back in 1976. The Lon­don Marathon was one of his 25 races in 1986.

He went to the bot­tom of the world in 1995 for the in­au­gu­ral Antarc­tica Ice Marathon, fin­ish­ing in six hours, seven min­utes, 21 sec­onds. Con­versely, he has ap­proached the top of the world three times at the Nu­navut Mid­night Sun race, run­ning the 84-kilo­me­tre ul­tra­ma­rathon in 1980 (10:57:51), the 1986 marathon (4:13:42) and the 100-kilo­me­tre ul­tra in 1998 (19:56:51).

He used one word to de­scribe the first Sa­hara Marathon in south­west Al­ge­ria: “sand.” But he sur­vived the stone- and f lag­marked course of com­pact earth, sand and rock in 7:00:02.

When you’re in a coun­try with no of­fi­cial marathon, you cre­ate your own. In the fall of 1997, Her­man set up and ran a 42.2-kilo­me­tre course along a sea front prom­e­nade in Doha, Qatar, for his 500th marathon.

Two other solo marathons saw Her­man cir­cle a high school track in Cay­man Is­lands and a city track in An­dorra in 2000 and 2001 re­spec­tively. Pope John Paul II may have also seen Her­man run his 537th marathon around St. Peter’s Square in Vat­i­can City over and over for the full 42.2k.

When he liked a race, Her­man was a faith­ful sup­porter. He has run 34 of the 42 Ot­tawa Marathons, and 21 Sri Chin­moy marathons and ul­tras. He also feasted on multi-day races, any­where from two to six days. Dur­ing the in­au­gu­ral Rocky Moun­tain six-day race in Boulder, Colo., in 1984, he logged 560. 4 kilo­me­tres.

Her­man has metic­u­lously logged all 730 races he’s com­pleted on a phys­i­cal spread­sheet in tiny writ­ing and brought each jour­ney to life in his three-cen­time­tre thick, green di­ary. “I was not fast. The marathon hap­pened to be a good race for a slow guy,” of­fered Her­man, whose best time of 3:14:56 was achieved at the 1978 Na­tional Cap­i­tal Marathon.

“I got caught up in it. You’re with this crowd and you feed off them. It in­spired me. You feel a sense of sat­is­fac­tion.”

Run­ning taught Her­man lessons of pa­tience, for­give­ness, thank­ful­ness and be­ing kind to oth­ers, which fur­ther strength­ened his 64-year mar­riage and de­vo­tion to Marie-Therese, who died May 8, 2016.

“It was a won­der­ful jour­ney that helped make me a bet­ter per­son, es­pe­cially in my re­la­tion­ships with oth­ers,” said Her­man, who con­tin­ues to move for­ward by walk­ing 45 min­utes each morn­ing. Martin Cleary has been a jour­nal­ist for over 40 years. He lives in Ot­tawa.

BE­LOW Her­man fin­ishes the Ocala Marathon in Ocala, Fla. on Feb. 5, 2006 in a time of 4:45:59

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