At the 2009 BMO Vancouver Marathon, I had the honour to run nearly the entire race with Doug Alward, a very competitive masters marathoner from Port Coquitlam who also happened to be Terry Fox's best friend. We were alone for the entire second half of the race but for the occasional accompaniment of former Olympian, Nancy Tinari, who was following along on her bicycle to keep an eye on Doug and a few other members of the Phoenix Running Club.
I was aiming to crack 2:45 for the first time and Doug, who had run a 2:45:46 at the Peach City Marathon in Penticton in 2005, was hoping to have a good run and get in under 2:50 in what he told me at the elite reception the day before, would be his last competitive marathon.
After the pack we’d been running in seemingly exploded at the halfway point, Doug pulled alongside and we pushed each other to the limit for the next 12 miles. I pulled away on the final climb up the Burrard Bridge and crossed the line in 2:44:55, with Doug a few seconds later in 2:45:10, both were personal bests. When I went to shake Doug’s hand as he crossed the finish line, he gave me a big hug instead and thanked me for “carrying” him to that PB. “Friends for life,” he said. High praise from the man who accompanied Terry Fox on the Marathon of Hope. It was a very special moment and I’m glad the MarathonFoto photographer got a shot of it.
I got a bit of good-natured ribbing from the guys over that photo of Doug and me embracing after the finish. I’m taller than Doug and for some reason I seem to be cradling his head like I would have held my children when they were younger, so I had to chuckle months later when I stumbled upon this photo of the much taller Ryan Hall hugging and cradling the head of Meb Keflezighi in much the same way after the 2009 ING New York City Marathon. What more can I say? Post race hugs. They’re the new high-five.