Posted on the Ultralist:
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2016 10:58:28 -0400
Subject: RIP: Al Howie (16 Sep 1945 – 21 Jun 2016)
I am sorry to share the following announcement from Canadian Ultra
Historian David Blaikie. I hope one some of the List greybeards can share
more about Al.
Al Howie (16 Sep 1945 – 21 Jun 2016)
Al Howie, Canada’s greatest ultramarathon runner, died Tuesday night in
Duncan, B.C., the Vancouver Island community where he has lived for many
years. He was 70 and had been been in declining health for a number of
years. His death occurred 25 years to the day from the start of his
greatest achievement – an epic run across Canada in which he averaged 101.7
kilometres a day (62.6 miles a day). He left St. John’s, Nfld., on June 21,
1991, and arrived in Victoria, B.C., on Sept. 1, 1991, covering 7,295.5
kilometres (4,533.2 miles) in 72 days, 10 hours and 23 minutes – the
equivalent of nearly 2/12 marathons daily – every day the entire way. The
following is from a newsletter I published at the time for long distance
runners. Of all the ultramarathon athletes I knew, Al was unique. He set
many records. Some have since been broken but no one has come close to
equalling what he accomplished in that amazing run.
Only Al Howie knows what it was like to run across Canada at the pace he
did in the summer of 1991. Others have gone before, and others will follow.
But it may be years before anyone matches what he accomplished in the wavy,
wilting heat of the Trans-Canada Highway between the 21st day of June and
the first day of September. Howie’s run was an epic, one that stands with
the greatest endurance feats of any age. He did not touch Canadians as did
Terry Fox or Rick Hansen, or even Steve Fonyo. But that’s a poor measure of
his achievement. It’s not Howie’s fault that the public will heap acclaim
on handicapped athletes who give their all in self imposed endurance
trials, yet take only mild notice of able-bodied athletes who do likewise
and, arguably, achieve even more.
Howie is a fascinating man, one deserving of more acclaim and support than
he is likely to receive. He is not a perfect being. Like all of us, he has
his share of shortcomings. But unlike most, he is a genius, a genius in the
world of human endurance, a man who somehow, in some way, has gotten far to
the front in demonstrating what can happen when sinew and willpower are
powerfully fused. As a society, we do not appreciate Howie’s gift to the
world. We are like the early explorers who stood on America’s shore and,
seeing no gold or spices, pronounced it worthless. We pay millions – in
support of professional sports – to watch agile men throw footballs, or
gifted women whack tennis balls. But Al Howie can run 2 1/2 marathons daily
for 72 days and it makes only the vaguest impression.
I was struck, when I saw him in July, not only by his daring and courage,
but by the effort of the crew members who were with him: Claudia Cole, his
wife; Judy Pakulak, Sol Ruff (and later Sandy Lougheed), Ray and Mila
Anderson, and Jesse Dale Riley, who functioned as a tireless pacer and
companion. The run was hard on everyone and the strains took their toll.
None would likely submit to such an ordeal again. But they all did it once,
and a great athlete was able to achieve a great deed. One scene – at a
mid-day rest stop west of Ottawa – lingers in mind. Howie was asleep in his
vehicle, and Jesse on a blanket in the shade. Claudia and Judy were
preparing food and the Elks (his sponsors) were dozing in vehicles nearby.
It was the flip side of all that motion on the road.
Yet even their rest was intense, as though everything had to be jammed into
place in as little time as possible. In the end everything was. And a small
man with a heroic heart wrote a shining new chapter in the history of human
endurance. (David Blaikie)
Some more bio and stats here: