Cathy MacLean: Hall of Fame marathoner needs to run

The Glengarry News - - Sports In The Glens - Files from the Glen­garry Sports Hall of Fame and Mary Le­duc

It is dif­fi­cult to de­scribe ex­actly what drives Alexan­dria’s Cathy MacLean to run, and maybe this is the beauty of her story.

Non­cha­lantly, Cathy will say that she needs to run. This need sees Cathy achieve elite run­ning re­sults both within and out­side the Glen­garry com­mu­nity. Her run­ning ac­com­plish­ments will be for­mally rec­og­nized dur­ing her in­duc­tion into the Glen­garry Sports Hall of Fame next month.

Cathy grew up on the fam­ily farm in Bainsville and is the daugh­ter of the late Am­brose and Ann (née O’Con­nor) MacLean. Cathy re­calls that af­ter a work day of milk­ing and chores, she would take the time to ex­er­cise on the fam­ily lawn. It wasn’t un­til she was in her late 40s and af­ter her fam­ily had grown up and left home, that she be­gan to run con­sis­tently and par­tic­i­pate in lo­cal road races. She com­pleted her first marathon a month short of her 50th birth­day. Cathy shares that she runs for the plea­sure of the ex­pe­ri­ence and feels very for­tu­nate to have achieved the race re­sults that she has.

Cathy has the in­nate abil­ity to set at­tain­able run­ning goals and a rig­or­ous train­ing pro­gram for her­self. Her story is or­ganic in the sense that she de­vises and ex­e­cutes her own train­ing pro­gram. She en­ters the races of her choos­ing and ex­e­cutes a near-per­fect race strat­egy ev­ery time she com­petes. In or­der to be suc­cess­ful and avoid in­jury, Cathy’s race plan is cal­cu­lated to in­clude im­por­tant fac­tors such as ter­rain and, of course, weather con­di­tions that can change through­out a race.

She maps out her train­ing pro­gram, her diet, her men­tal prepa­ra­tion and the im­por­tant and costly lo­gis­tics in­volved when she trav­els out­side the com­mu­nity to com­pete. De­spite not be­ing part of a large run­ning com­mu­nity as is present in many urban ar­eas, Cathy feels for­tu­nate to be con­nected with some of the best com­pet­i­tive run­ners from the Alexan­dria area.

Great sup­port and car­ma­raderie ex­ist with lo­cal run­ners, Jeff Lapierre, Ja­cob Cameron, Bruce MacGil­livray, John Zowada and Glen Campbell. Even though this group may not have com­pleted a race or marathon to­gether, emails and mes­sages are of­ten ex­changed af­ter a run­ning event to of­fer con­grat­u­la­tions and de­brief about the course and run­ning strat­egy.

Gen­er­ally Cathy trains alone, as do many run­ners who need to jug­gle sched­ules and fam­ily com­mit­ments around their train­ing de­mands. Six months prior to a marathon, Cathy will be­gin a spe­cific train­ing pro­gram. She runs 10 kilo­me­tres daily and grad­u­ally in­creases to marathon dis­tance. She ta­pers off her long dis­tance and per­mits her­self a two-week re­cov­ery pe­riod prior to race day.

These two weeks can be very stress­ful. Even though her per­for­mances have proven oth­er­wise, she can’t help but al­ways won­der if her train­ing and prepa­ra­tion have been suf­fi­cient. Jok­ingly she ad­mits that she is most stressed just prior to a race start. So many things go through her mind but once on the course, her train­ing and fo­cus per­mit her to en­joy her races, take in the views and land­scape, and look for sup­port­ers cheer­ing her and oth­ers along.

Cathy ex­e­cutes a strate­gic race plan and ev­i­dence of this is the fact that she has com­pleted ev­ery race and marathon within a fin­ish time that she has pre­dicted for her­self. When asked about how she has re­sponded to in­juries through­out her run­ning ca­reer, Cathy says that she ex­pe­ri­enced some plan­tar fasci­itis but has been most for­tu­nate and es­caped some com­mon run­ning induced ail­ments.

Lo­cals can set their clocks by Cathy’s run sched­ule as she com­pletes her year- round train­ing through the streets in Alexan­dria, on River Road and other sur­round­ing ru­ral roads. Train­ing for the top marathon events re­quires in­cred­i­ble self-dis­ci­pline, per­se­ver­ance and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Glen Campbell refers to Cathy as an old school run­ner. Whether on her train­ing runs or on the marathon course, Glen rec­og­nizes that Cathy is a re­ally tough com­peti­tor and grinds it out what­ever the weather and route con­di­tions present. Run­ning races in her age group is most gru­elling and to say that she has ex­celled is an un­der­state­ment. Glen also cred­its Cathy with helping him or­ga­nize the Glen­garry Cancer Run which suc­cess­fully ran from 2000 to 2010 and raised over $140,000 for the Canadian Cancer So­ci­ety.

Where does one start to chron­i­cle so many of Cathy’s re­mark­able run­ning achieve­ments? Be­gin­ning in 2002, she com­pleted her first Ottawa Race Week­end marathon record­ing a fin­ish time of 4:03:21. Again in Ottawa at the 2007 marathon, she ran and achieved her per­sonal best time ever of 3:48:02 in the 50 to 54 age cat­e­gory. Cathy has raced and fin­ished the Ottawa marathon 10 times. In three of these marathons, she fin­ished first in her 60 to 64 age group­ing. Later years saw her place sec­ond three times in the 65 to 69 age group­ing.

Cathy ran in the Toronto Wa­ter­front Marathon in 2005 and her re­sult served as a qual­i­fy­ing time to run Bos­ton in 2006. Since, she has com­pleted the Bos­ton Marathon 10 times and has qual­i­fied once again to com­pete in April 2020. The Bos­ton Marathon of 2016 was most spe­cial for a cou­ple of rea­sons. Her son Daryl also qual­i­fied and to­gether they ran while Cathy’s daugh­ter, Rebecca, was able to travel from North Bay and be present to cheer them on. The Bos­ton Marathon is in­deed a favourite of Cathy’s as the course gen­er­ally re­mains the same but the un­pre­dictable weather can play havoc with re­sults. Cathy was only 500 me­tres from the fin­ish in 2013 when race of­fi­cials halted the run­ners due to the bomb­ings at the fin­ish line. That par­tic­u­lar ex­pe­ri­ence haunted Cathy for a long time but did not de­ter her from com­pet­ing in Bos­ton in sub­se­quent years. Cathy qual­i­fied and ran in the New York City Marathon in Novem­ber of 2018. This was an­other in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity and she truly loved rac­ing through the bor­oughs and finishing the last few miles in Cen­tral Park. Again her son Daryl trav­elled and com­pleted this marathon with her. On this day, Cathy fin­ished 28th of 172 run­ners in her age group, and was sec­ond among Canadian run­ners. Wo­ven through­out the 20 plus marathon races, Cathy has com­pleted over 20 half-marathons and too many to count 5 and 10 k races. Since 2011, Cathy has been a reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pant at the Canada Army Run events held in Ottawa in Septem­ber, gen­er­ally run­ning the half marathon event. The army run is an emo­tional event for Cathy as she races along­side many vet­er­ans, some in wheel­chairs, and some with pros­thet­ics. In 2017, she fin­ished first in her age group when she com­pleted the spe­cial 100 Year Vimy An­niver­sary Challenge event.

As an aside from her run­ning ac­com­plish­ments, for the past five years Cathy has par­tic­i­pated in the Glen­garry Sports Hall of Fame Polar Bear Dip. She has great fun par­tic­i­pat­ing and thanks her friends and fam­ily in the com­mu­nity for gen­er­ously spon­sor­ing her for the ini­tia­tive.

Since Cathy has re­tired as man­ager at the LCBO, she now vol­un­teers with the Sum­mer­stown Friends of the Trails. She en­joys tak­ing school groups out on snow­shoes through the trails and re­marks that it is so nice to see kids do­ing some­thing that they may never have an op­por­tu­nity to do oth­er­wise. Cathy will con­tinue to run and adds that per­haps in the fu­ture she would like to train for a triathlon event. Cathy’s run­ning achieve­ments are truly re­mark­able. Her ath­letic abil­ity speaks for it­self, but it is her hu­mil­ity and unas­sum­ing char­ac­ter that are equally as en­dear­ing. Cathy takes in stride her run­ning ac­com­plish­ments, and feels blessed to have the un­wa­ver­ing sup­port from her hus­band, her chil­dren Rebecca, Daryl and Kyra, and com­mu­nity friends. Cathy is one of those ath­letes who ad­mirably doesn’t know how good she is. She doesn’t run for the prize; she runs be­cause, as she qui­etly says, “I need to. It’s what I do.” Cathy is one of five in­ductees to be cel­e­brated at the Glen­garry Sports Hall of Fame In­duc­tion Din­ner to take place at the Char-Lan Recre­ation Cen­tre in Wil­liamstown on Au­gust 21.


TOUGH COM­PETI­TOR: Cathy MacLean is de­scribed as a tough com­peti­tor and an old-school run­ner.

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