TRENTON — For 30 years, Charlie MacDonald has run marathons.
MacDonald is on a list of prominent distance runners from Pictou County and plans once again to run the Johnny Miles Marathon on June 18. His first run over the 42.25-kilometre distance was the Johnny Miles Marathon in 1987.
“It was a very hot day,” he said. “Ewen Stewart from P.E.I. saw me walking along the second loop of Abercrombie. I recalled later what happened. They had a water hose to spray the runners and after I went by the second time I cramped up. He ran in with me. I’ll never forget that. He’s an amazing man.”
MacDonald has learned to be a runner who doesn’t hurt himself with a pace that’s too demanding, and he’s still run his share of marathons in less than three hours.
He lives on Little Egypt Road, near Trenton, but he grew up in Kenzieville and began competing in cross-country races while attending East Pictou Rural High School.
Keith Melanson and Fergie MacKay were educators there and coached the team.
“Fergie was a big influence on me,” MacDonald said. “He was one of the first people in Pictou County to start running the Boston Marathon.”
MacDonald eventually moved his family to Trenton and ended up buying a house on Duke Street, across the street from the MacKays.
MacDonald was not running at the time but kept thinking he wanted to run again. He got some help from his wife to spur him on.
“She got me running,” he said. “She came home with a pair of running shoes she bought for about $8. She had enough of me saying how I wanted to get back running.
MacDonald has run 53 marathons, including the Miles every year it has been offered. He’s nearly bowed out of some marathons but has enough training, determination and smarts to finish a race without hurting himself.
“I never start a run I don’t finish,” he said. “If you’re injured, you get out. If you’re tired, get over it. I’ve seen runners who have not finished a road race. They hate themselves afterward.”
MacDonald has run the Boston Marathon nine times. His personal best time on the course was two hours, 56 minutes, but a highlight was when he and two American runners crossed the finish line on Boyleston Street in 2:59:59.
“An announcer was a group of us and said, ‘Some of you will finish in less than three hours. Some of you will not. It’s all up to you.’”
MacDonald can recall many other highlights, like the time he outran Dave MacLennan in the Roy Oliver 10-mile road race when MacLennan was distance running neophyte and before he became Pictou County’s top distance for the past generation.
MacDonald and MacLellan were among local runners who confirmed Pictou County as a distance running force for years.
He was among the group called the Pictou County Road Warriors who completed the famed Cabot Trail Relay. The year after the Warriors combined for second place overall at the relay, 10 of the runners assembled a Master Division team that also did well.
MacLennan, Hugh Munro and MacDonald each ran two legs and Munro ran his two legs back-to-back.
MacDonald also admired the way the late Glenn Chenell knew so much about running, kept statistics on how often and what distances he ran and how much he knew about every other runner around.
“There was a 10-K race in Truro and my best time at the distance was 36 minutes,” he said. “I told Glenn I wanted to crack that and he said I’d need a 17-minute time at the half. I ran a 34:47 time and he ran it in 32 minutes.”
Charlie MacDonald has been a distance runner going on 30 years and is preparing to run the Johnny Miles Marathon on June 18. (File photo)