By John Devine
When most people in Barrie are sound asleep, Don Campbell is busy keeping the halls of commerce neat and tidy with his commercial cleaning business. When the sun is up, he’s helping people work on their backswing through his day job as a golf professional.
So what, you might ask, did this busy man do during his ‘down’ time, between working and tending to the needs of a young family? He tied up the laces and went running to prepare for the Boston Marathon, the famous race he ran on Monday.
When he qualified for the race, he put an exclamation point to that day, Nov. 4, 2012, in Hamilton when he ran the 42 kilometre Road to Hope Marathon in 2:49:35, placing him eighth in his age class, 21st overall, and fastest time of the day among runners from Barrie, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, and Aurora. His time was one of the fastest ever recorded by a runner from Simcoe County.
“Due to me qualifying late in the season, I was not eligible to race in the 2013 run, which ended up being cancelled due to the tragic events of that day. However, I was able to enter the 2014 Boston Marathon,” relates Campbell, 45.
Running is a passion that has been driving him since he ran his first marathon, with partner Alison, in Florida, back in 2000. Not even a fractured tibia stopped him from competing, crossing the finish line with a time of four hours.
“We’re so proud of him for all his hard work and determination, and very happy he is realizing a dream,” says Alison, speaking for sons Ryan, 9, and Luke, 5. To celebrate and recognize the achievement, Alison presented him with a personalized license plate as a Christmas gift: BOSTNQFR.
Campbell’s schedule would seem to need the support of family. During training he’d be working seven days a week, 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. on the cleaning business. Then, he’d teach golf at Simoro Golf links, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. With both boys in soccer, the oldest one playing rep, and other family commitments like snowboarding and skiing, one wonders where he found the time to train.
“It helps if you have a passion for what you want to accomplish. After the Florida race I never ran seriously again until 2011, but I always felt some kind of a void because I never got to run a marathon to my full potential.”
When he resumed training, he had one goal in mind: the granddaddy of them all – the Boston Marathon.
He knew it wouldn’t be easy. Qualifying for Boston would mean new, stricter standards. The elite runners, 18-34, would require a time of 3:05 to qualify. Runners in his age (then) group, 40-44, needed a time of 3:15 or better. Running 2:49:35 in the Hamilton race actually placed him with the elite runners, and guaranteed his entry into the 2014 marathon.
There have been a couple of setbacks along the way. In 2011, knee surgery was required, but Campbell was lucky enough to get a speedy MRI and surgery, and training resumed soon after recovery. In November 2011, he hired a trainer, Kevin Smith of Marathon Dynamics, a Toronto-based running clinic. Massage therapist Lisa Moore also arrived to help him prepare for the long runs. Nutritional advice came from Nutrition Plus, based in Barrie. Finally, a chiropractor, Dr. Brittany Labatt, rounded out the ‘team’ to keep him free of injuries and on track.
Other aids included “getting the best shoe to match my strides” and loading music onto his iPod to “assist my tempo and pace.” While preparing for the Hamilton race, he visited the course day and night, taking training runs following the pace car. He trained throughout the year, regardless of weather conditions. His training route varied slightly day to day, and he never pushed himself to run the full distance during training, wanting to peak on race day.
“Mental power is what propels you to completion in the final few kilometres – focus on the goal not the pain and suffering. Your body is looking to stop, but quitting is not an option.”
Competing in the Boston Marathon was the culmination of a cherished dream – a celebration run, but also one to honour and respect the victims of the 2013 bombing, and their families, he says.
“It’s a very special race to me – the fact I have earned the right to compete against the best runners in the world at the biggest marathon event in the world. I couldn’t have done this without the support and encouragement of my family – and to my boys, I want to be able to say … ‘at 45, look what Dad did’.”