Distance running in Pictou County merits celebration when the opportunity arises.
So it was on Labour Day that friends, family, organizers and runners observed the 40th anniversary of the road races in honour of Jimmie Hawboldt. The race distances changed to the more recent combination of one-mile and five-mile races that have started and finished beside Victoria Park on Queen Street.
This year, a fun run of five miles was offered without registration or times recorded. The result was more than 50 runners of various ages taking part.
The races originally honoured Hawboldt while he lived in quiet retirement and later were also run in memory of Fred Lays upon his passing in 2002. Monday’s program also saluted Joe Horne for his dedication to the event – as well as Andrea and Bill MacEachern for their contributions.
Hawboldt became Nova Scotia’s top five-mile runner in the 1920s. He was joined by fellow Pictou County runner Roy Oliver, who set the pace at 10 miles, and Cape Bretoner Johnny Miles who twice won the Boston Marathon. All three were inducted at the same time in 1980 into the Nova Scotia Sport Heritage Hall of Fame.
Andrea MacEachern addressed the gathering in her capacity as a race organizer at a reception after the run. She paid special tribute to Hawboldt, his electrifying five-mile win against Miles on Sept. 10, 1926 while putting in for a day’s pay in a local coal pit.
All the above mentioned have been unique contributors to the Westville races.
Hawboldt and Lays set an example for humility that is still remembered. Lays excelled at numerous sports that included curling, running, cycling and swimming – the latter three disciplines comprising the triathlon challenge he welcomed.
Andrea MacEachern feels it’s time to back away from the event after nearly 30 years, while Bill MacEachern hopes he can overcome the health issues that have halted his running this year.
Not mentioned is Dave MacLennan, who regularly won the one-mile and five-mile races to the point where he was awarded permanent possession of the five-mile trophy. As Andrea noted, there was no more room for winners’ names on it.
Cheryl Lays, Fred’s wife, made an interesting suggestion on Monday. Why not have a race to honour all the living and deceased runners? There once was a fall 10-mile race in honour of Oliver. It’s an ideal distance to blend the elements of speed and endurance and there could be room made on the fall calendar if there is interest in organizing it.
Anniversaries like this one inspire other things. Let’s hope it’s true this time.
Let’s also hope for a solid group to continue organizing future one- and five-mile road races in Westville.