Tracing the history of the Fredericton Marathon
By Steve (the old fossil) Scott
It may seem like the Fredericton Marathon has always been a part of the local running scene, but in reality the race is marking 40 years in 2018.
The annual event that so many fondly refer to as the Mother’s Day marathon has a rich and storied past. Steve Scott, a member of the marathon’s volunteer organizing committee, set about researching the annual event and how it grew into the race it is today. What he discovered is being shared in four segments, representing the four decades of the marathon.
The first 10 years – 1979 to 1988
The race so many know and love today actually began as a project led by two students from the physical education faculty at the University of New Brunswick, and became a fundraiser for the New Brunswick Heart and Stroke Foundation in 1980.
The idea for the marathon project was born out of another fundraising event from the 1970s, the Miles for Millions Walkathon, which took participants from Fredericton to Mactaquac and back.
On April 15, 1979, participants set out from the Green on Queen Street and ran to Mactaquac and back for a total of 42.2 kilometers. Among those participating were Garth Cochrane, one of the event originators, and Sam the Wonder Dog. The winners of the inaugural event were Leo Glavine and Lauretta Harris.
By 1984, the Capital City Road Runners were an integral part of the event’s organizing committee, with George Hubbard, Terry Goodlad, George Filliter and Paul Lavoie leading the way.
“The first 10 years saw several course changes. Courses were adjusted for simplicity, safety, concern for traffic interruption and because construction sometimes took priority,” said Paul Lavoie. “We never had the great trails we have today.”
Highlights for the first decade also include Run New Brunswick Hall of Famer Joe McGuire’s four wins and one second place finish in the full marathon. McGuire also won the half marathon in 1984. He might have won more during this time, but strong finishes at the Boston Marathon – also held in April – limited his participation in the NB Heart Marathon to some extent.
In the early years, the marathon events includes a quarter marathon (6.5 miles), a half-marathon (13.1 miles) and a full marathon (26.2 miles). Later the quarter marathon was dropped in favour of a 10k, then a 5k was added as well.
Other notable Run NB Hall of Famers who took part in the NB Heart Marathon during this period were George Gallant of Cape Pele, 18-year-old Scott Hare of Newcastle, Paul Lavoie of New Maryland, and Leo Sheehy of Hopewell Cape.
There were 166 participants in the inaugural event in 1979 and by 1984 – only five years later – this figure had risen to 384. By the end of the first decade, the race had reached just under 400 participants.
One of the challenges that came with holding the event in early spring was that the weather didn’t always cooperate.
In fact, weather issues were many and varied due to the early April dates said Steve Scott.
“At the last water stop around 23 miles that year (1984, I believe), it was so cold that the water in my cup was skimmed over with ice and I had to take off my glove and brake it with my finger before I could take a sip and then brace myself against the cold north wind blowing up the river valley,” he said.
That water stop was located at the Federal Agriculture Research Station beside the Lincoln Road.
Bad weather also meant fewer participants and less funds raised for the NB Heart and Stroke Foundation.
In spite of the challenges, the event grew in its first decade, thanks in part to the burgeoning running boom in North America. Runners in New Brunswick were looking for an event, and the one in Fredericton offered them the challenge they wanted.
The second decade – 1989 to 1998
The 11th Annual New Brunswick Heart Marathon got off to a great start with Hall of Famer Scott Hare (then 24 years of age) winning the marathon in a time of 2:36:15, which proved to be the fastest time for the decade. Paula MacInnis-Wheeler recorded the best time in 1998 (3:20:55) for the women during this 10-year period.
It was during the second decade that the quarter marathon (10.5K) was changed to a 10K. This happened in 1997 in response to the rising popularity of this event throughout North America.
Also, the early April date for the event was moved forward to the first week in May to take advantage of the onset of warmer and more predicable weather. Not that Mother Nature always cooperated with the marathon. Weather-related issues arose in 1989 (very high winds), 1995 (snow) and 1998 (cool, wet conditions).
For the first nine years of this decade, fundraising was the main focus of the New Brunswick Heart Marathon and one fundraising runner stood out. James Tucker of Fredericton ran mostly full marathons, except when he was a bit weary from running the Boston Marathon approximately three weeks before. When that happened, he dropped down to the half-marathon or, once or twice, the quarter marathon. Even when he had to shorten the distances, the fundraising didn’t stop. He was a great fundraiser for the foundation, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars.
The Capital City Road Runners officially took over the Heart Marathon in 1998 and began the task of reshaping the event to be more in line with the overall mandate of the club. CCRR felt that running should be mainly fun, so a 5K was added to entice beginning runners/walkers to take part. This helped to promote running as part of a healthy lifestyle.
The club was community-oriented as well and was committed to including some kind of fundraising concept in the event. Ultimately, fee-for-service for non-profit groups like Safe Grad, safety on the running routes, course marshalling (UNB Cross Country Team), and others met this part of the mandate. It was during this decade that marathon sponsors became central in helping provide extra funding to support these great volunteer groups as well as provide resources essential to give all runners/walkers a high-quality event each year.
The third decade – 1999 to 2008
The dawn of the third decade for the Fredericton Marathon began during the first week of May with Francis Fagan from Prince Edward Island and Kathy Wilson-King of Fredericton winning the full marathon. This was also the year that George Hubbard, one of hardest working race directors/committee members during the previous 20 years left town to further his career in Toronto. George is credited with sometimes almost single-handedly keeping this marathon alive. Everyone involved with the event is grateful for the countless hours of volunteering that he provided. Without his hard work and dedication, the event would never be celebrating 40 years in 2018.
One of the truly great marathoners of this decade was Chris Brake from Saint John who won a total of six times from 2001 until 2007. His best time was 2:41:37. In 2006, Chris “ran out of gas” in the last 200 meters. The next year, however, this great athlete once again came out on top with an excellent time of 2:46:47, which included seven cartwheels that concluded at the finish line. Understandably, the crowd went wild at this spectacular finish.
In 2000, the Fredericton Marathon unofficially became the Mother’s Day marathon. The annual spring flood in Fredericton was a major factor in moving the event to the second Sunday in May. It turned out to be a great decision, as mothers flocked to the event and registrations of female runners/walkers grew very quickly.
The number of people participating in the various events of the Fredericton Marathon during the third decade hovered around 450 or so up until 2005. The following year, the marathon witnessed the beginning of a noticeable surge to 665 participants. The final two years saw the event garner 739 and 824 runners/walkers. This upswing coincided with changes to the routes, which enabled the Fredericton Marathon committee, with considerable help from the City of Fredericton, to take a large portion of the route off the streets and onto the Trans Canada Trail System. In short, runners/walkers loved the new route.
FREDERICTON MARATHON RESULTS 1999 to 2008
|Year||Men’s Race||Time||Women’s Race||Time|
|1999||Francis Fagan||3:10:45||Kathy Wilson-King||3:21:36|
|2000||Francis Fagan||3:09:00||Pam Power-McKenna||3:25:35|
|2001||Chris Brake||3:03:30||Jennifer Hoyt||3:43:40|
|2002||Chris Brake||2:51:06||Bronwyn Tanner||3:28:40|
|2003||Chris Brake||2:48:12||Trisha Groundwater||3:30:57|
|2004||Chris Brake||2:45:40||Pam Power-McKenna||3:30:43|
|2005||Chris Brake||2:41:37||Tara Larkin||3:35:57|
|2006||Len Falkenstein||2:55:14||Margaret Johnson||3:30:15|
|2007||Chris Brake||2:46:47||Margaret Johnson||3:23:06|
|2008||Travis Saunders||2:43:36||Janice Ashworth||3:06:31|
During this decade an Electronic Chip Timing System was introduced by a local runner/entrepreneur. Mike Richard of Fredericton acquired the franchise for the Atlantic Provinces and thus brought the timing of racing events into the 21st Century. This also ensured a bright and vibrant future for not only the Fredericton Marathon, but many, many other events in our Region as well.
The fourth decade – 2009 to 2018
Decade four of the Fredericton Marathon opened with Alex Coffin from Saint John and Hazel Caldwell from Nova Scotia claiming victory in the full marathon.
So far in the fourth decade, two marathon course records have been set: Chris Brake in 2010 with a time of 2:34:47 and Paula Keating in 2014 with a time of 2:53:57. Chris won the marathon in 2011 as well. Chuck Dixon of New Brunswick won the marathon three years in a row and Ryan O’Shea from New Maryland has won the last two marathons. It will be exciting to see who wins this year.
Participation in all events was close to 1,000 runners, hitting 936, a healthy rise over the previous year. Growth for the first five years of this decade was over 52 per cent as runners and walkers enjoyed the many events that the Fredericton Marathon offered. So far this decade, participation has climbed by nearly 111 per cent and if numbers for 2018 continue to rise, we will see a healthy increase for this year as well.
The success of the Fredericton Marathon is due to all the people who love to run or walk it every year because this event truly has something for everyone.
As the Fredericton Marathon has grown in size, so has the magnitude of responsibility which was within the mandate of the Capital City Road Runners of Fredericton. The club, then under the guidance of Reverend John Cathcart as president, decided to remove the marathon committee from its responsibilities. Mike McKendy, an executive committee member of CCRR, was tasked with proposing that the Fredericton Marathon committee seek incorporation to better accommodate its growth. His proposal was accepted and the Fredericton Marathon was incorporated several years ago.
One of the best additions to the Fredericton Marathon during this decade has been the move to make the event a “Race Weekend”. The inclusion of the childrens’ runs on Saturday was a good first step. A sub-committee was formed and they put together a great fun event for children, with all participants getting a T-shirt and finisher medal. Parents and their children have really supported this endeavour and the numbers have grown each year, with several hundred taking part. Trites Orthodontic of Fredericton has been a willing partner and sponsor since the beginning.
In honour of the Fredericton Marathon’s 40th year, the volunteer organizing committee has added two extra events, extending marathon weekend by a day. On Friday evening, there is a one-mile run and on Saturday morning there is a 3K run. The Youth Fun Run will offer 500 metre and 1K events on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday will include the traditional 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon events.
This year is a special one for the Fredericton Marathon and everyone is invited to be a part of it, as a participant, a volunteer, or cheering on the runners and walkers as they make their way through the city.
And while four decades is indeed something to be proud of, everyone who is part of the event hopes it is just the beginning.
FREDERICTON MARATHON RESULTS 2009 to 2018
|Year||Men’s Race||Time||Women’s Race||Time|
|2009||Alex Coffin||2:47:34||Hazel Caldwell||3:17:38|
|2010||Chris Brake||2:34:47||Margaret Johnson||3:16:04|
|2011||Chris Brake||2:35:42||Susan Carbyn||3:11:43|
|2012||Chuck Dixon||2:42:10||Rayleen Hill||3:00:18|
|2013||Chuck Dixon||2:45:33||Kathy Jeffrey||3:12:46|
|2014||Chuck Dixon||2:44:40||Paula Keating||2:53:57|
|2015||Dave MacLennan||2:47:31||Chantelle Grenier||3:04:04|
|2016||Ryan O’Shea||2:39:23||Maura Wieczorek||3:07:49|
|2017||Ryan O’Shea||2:37:59||Heather O’Donnell||3:03:39|
|2018||Jean-Marc Doiron||2:33:45||Heather O’Donnell||2:59:56|
Record Fastest Times for the Full Marathon were recorded by Jean-Marc Doiron in 2018 with 2:33:45 and by Paula Keating in 2014 with 2:53:57. Since the early 2000’s the Marathon Committee has provided Cash awards for Marathon winners and also during this time frame one of our sponsors has offered a cash bonus when the Marathon time record is lowered