If you’re a runner in Toronto, you must have been living under a rock not to recognize Maxine Featherstonhaugh. Last year Maxine was on all the marketing materials and posters for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (pictured left). Having run the event six times, it’s no surprise that she loves it so much — her favourite place to run in the city is near the water. “Running with all the geese, swans, ducks and other birds, is very peaceful and makes me feel very free,” says Maxine. “I usually run first thing in the morning, so I often see the sun rising over the lake, which can be quite incredible. Sometimes I’ll see a beaver swimming in the lake or sitting on the ice when it’s frozen. I even saw a little fox once, feasting on a goose and carrying it away in its mouth.
“As the trail moves through Queens Quay, I love seeing the tourists who are enjoying our city, and going through Cherry Beach takes you into a more forested area where you can breath in the smell of the trees and grasses.”
Maxine first took up running in 1996 with a co-worker. “I can’t even remember why I started,” says Maxine, “I assume it was to improve my heath, but seeing the increasing muscle definition in my legs definitely motivated me to continue running.”
While muscle definition might have kept Maxine going early on, now she says that being able to run is motivation in and of itself. “Running is like breathing, it’s just a part of me,” she says. “I get excited every time I get to go out for a run — ok, maybe not when it’s -23°C with the wind chill, but once I’m out, there is no other place I would rather be.
“Running is my meditation, it’s my time for me. It has brought me strength, both physically and mentally; it takes me from upset to happy; it takes me from happy to happier.”
In 2003, Maxine ran her first marathon at the Burlington Marathon Rock ‘n’ Roll Canada in four hours and 38 minutes. On January 1, Maxine ran the Texas Marathon, bringing her marathon total to an impressive 23. “Some might think that this sounds crazy,” admits Maxine, “but while running in Texas, I came across a lot of people that have run more marathons than I could imagine. One guy has run over 400, and some of the runners have done marathons every weekend, or twice a week. Now that’s crazy!”
Last year, Maxine decided that 2009 would be her year of the marathon, so she ran nine of them. The first seven were between January 1 and May 24 (Texas Marathon, Surfside Beach Marathon, Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon, the Boston Marathon, the Waterloo Marathon, the Mississauga Marathon and the Ottawa Marathon), then she ran the other two in the fall (Scotiabank and the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon). “Three of them were part of the Texas Marathon Triple (Texas, Seabrook Lucky Trail and Surfside Beach),” says Maxine, “where I received a free hat and jacket for completing all three events. How cool is that!” She also ended up running four of the marathons within 35 days – including Boston, Waterloo, Mississauga and Ottawa.
In total, Maxine has run Goodlife three times, Mississauga five times, Scotiabank six times, Texas three times, Seabrook Lucky Trail twice, Surfside Beach once, Boston once, Waterloo once, and Ottawa once.
In case you’re wondering what goals Maxine may still have left after her year of the marathon, you might be surprised: “To win a 5k this summer,” says Maxine. “Another dream goal is to run all five of the marathon majors. I ran Boston last year, and I have applied to the lottery for the New York Marathon for this year, then maybe the Chicago Marathon next year, the London Marathon the year after that, and the Berlin Marathon the year after that.”
In the mean time, Maxine is training for this year’s Around the Bay 30k, Boston and Mississauga marathons. “Around the Bay falls perfectly on a 29k long-run day, so it will be nice to do a long run with a whole bunch of people. Plus it’s a fantastic race that I like to do every year.”
With so many races under her belt, Maxine’s two most memorable running moments have both happened within the last two years. “The first one is the moment I crossed the finish line on September 28, 2008 at Scotiabank, and realized that I’d qualified for Boston,” says Maxine. “I knew that day could have gone on either side of the 3:50:59 I needed. I had said the day before that if all of the stars aligned then I would probably qualify, but you never know how you will feel on race day.” She didn’t take a watch or music with her that day either as she wanted to just run with how she felt, and says she felt fantastic.
“There was a clock at the half-way point, and with my calculations I was about four minutes under Boston Qualifying time. Then at 30K the clock showed that I was bang on if I had kept that pace,” recalls Maxine. “For the last 12.2k I had no idea how I was doing, and then when I reached the finish line and saw that clock my jaw just dropped and tears sprung into my eyes. As cliché as it may sound, it was truly an amazing moment, and I had made it with 2:02 to spare — I finished in 3:48:57.”
Maxine’s other most memorable running moment was actually running the 2009 Boston Marathon. “It was incredible! As a marathoner and a Canadian, it was everything I expected it to be; the history, the people, the scenery — spectacular. I could not have run any faster than I did because I was busy holding back tears of joy with almost every step. I was the ultimate tourist looking up at everything and taking in every single moment.”
Having run marathons all over North America, Maxine says that Toronto is still her favourite place to run. “There is nowhere that I would rather run than in Toronto. I love that you can run in the middle of the city with all of the hustle and bustle, or you can run down the Leslie Spit and feel like you are no where near a city. A long run can take you from Lake Ontario near the CNE all the way up to Canada’s Wonderland where you will go through many different neighbourhoods. It’s amazing and the options are endless.”
Favourite Shoe: ASICS 2140