Last Sunday (Oct. 13) I had the privilege of running the GoodLife Fitness Victoria 8K race with my dad, or as many refer to him, ‘the running legend’ Maurice Tarrant.
At 83, dad is a prime example of how keeping healthy and active can extend your life. A year and a couple months ago, he had heart valve replacement surgery. That took time and strength to recover from, but everyone agrees that his healthy running lifestyle going into that procedure helped him bounce back from it.
After all, dad is not just a casual runner. The January-February 2010 issue of Canadian Running magazine named Maurice Tarrant its Age-Group Champion in the annual Golden Shoe Awards, writing that he had, “… steadily set Canadian age-group records for most of the last 30 years – some 58 of them!!”
Canadian Running reported that in 2010 alone, he set 10 records at various distances, including a world record for 15K (one hour, 13 minutes, 28 seconds). That required a pace of 4:54 per kilometre (7:54 per mile). Age grading would make his time 45:21 using the World Masters Athletics system.
Eight months after his heart surgery, dad ran the TC 10K, a sign he was on the road back to recovery. Then, as if to challenge him more, a couple months later he was affected by gallstones and had to have his gallbladder removed. Another surgery, another story of proof that nothing can keep him down and that being a runner has allowed him many more healthy years.
As dad and I arrived at the awards ceremony following the 8K race on the Sunday, we read the course records board and there was dad’s name five times in a row, for past 8K course records, in age categories from 60-64 up to his present 80-99.
In fact, at 63 he had raced through this 8K with an astounding time of 28:56.
His name was also listed three times under the half marathon age-class records, from 70-74 with a time of 1:33:40, up to his 80-84 division record. Of course he was relieved to find out that all eight course records still stood after this day.
As we stood there reading all this, a man approached dad, introduced himself and shook his hand. I recognized him. It was the legendary Tom Howard, who won the masters class marathon this year and in past won this race as an elite runner.
He now appreciated even more what an amazing runner dad is. Going into the 8K race that day, Tom felt he might be able to beat dad’s record in the 60-64 age class. Yet he finished a substantial three minutes off that time.
As I watched dad accept his first-place medal, I marvelled once again at all his achievements. Yet he continues to be the humblest man I know. His hundreds of medals and trophies are tucked away in stacks of shoeboxes in his storage room.
Everyone in the running world knows him and speaks of him as a kind and gentle man. He is supported by his wife of 63 years – my beautiful mum Phyllis – his five children and 10 grandchildren.
I was honoured to be able to share that day with my dad. How appropriate it happened on Thanksgiving weekend. I am thankful for his returning health and all he represents as a world-class athlete, a husband, dad and granddad. He truly is my hero!
Claire Tarrant-Rowley is the daughter of veteran distance runner Maurice Tarrant. She lives in Saanich, while her father lives in Sidney.