Runner Keith Parks, 60, crosses the finish with his daughter Victoria Parks (left) and his niece, Justina Parks, holding up the finish-line banner on Sunday. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Runners complete Boston Marathon in South Surrey

Global pandemic caused the event to go virtual, but the reward of completing it is all the same

Of all the excuses to skip participating in a marathon event, a global pandemic, combined with a smoke-filled sky, is as valid as any.

But a group of runners, including South Surrey’s Keith Parks, didn’t allow anything to get in the way of completing the Boston Marathon virtual event Sunday morning.

It was pitch-dark at 5 a.m. when Parks, Dr. Janet Green from Courtenay, Rick Cooney from Sechelt, and Sherry Mahoney and her husband Jon from Vancouver, kicked off a 106-lap journey at the South Surrey Athletic Park track as part of the event.

Earlier this year, the Boston Athletic Association cancelled the in-person event, and instead presented a virtual run. Participants who registered and paid to enter the virtual event received an official number and were given one week to complete the 26-mile run.

A heavy cloud of smoke on the Semiahmoo Peninsula from Washington State and Oregon wildfires threatened the marathon, but the group agreed that Sunday was the day.

VIDEO: Smoky skies from U.S. wildfires continue to cast a pall over Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley

“I try to go to the Boston Marathon every year because after my first Boston, it was the most awesome, wonderful, special event in the world. I actually said I will keep doing this until the day I die,” Parks said, who has participated in 16 Boston Marathons.

With his daughter Victoria and niece Justina holding the finish-line banner, Parks threw his arms in celebration as he crossed with a time of 3:46:35.

His elated reaction demonstrated that it didn’t matter if only a few family members were in attendance, rather than the usual crowd of 500,000 people who line the route at the annual Boston event.

That level of elation, Parks explained to Peace Arch News shortly after he completed the run, can be experienced by anyone.

“The thing about marathons, when I started running I was given a statistic back in 1996, which was of everybody who runs in the world, one per cent will do a marathon… I’m getting emotional,” Parks said, still catching his breath. “Of that one per cent, one to two per cent will do a second. Most people say they will never, ever do that again, or they will say I can do anything now.”

“You learn that the body is an incredible machine, and if you just train it and treat it right, it will do great things for you.”

The runners he participated with are from an international group called Marathon Maniacs.

In total, Parks has completed 152 marathons, while Jon has completed 559, Sherry 290, and Cooney 181. Green holds the Canadian record for the most marathons completed by a woman with 444 under her belt.

While Parks finished with a time of 3:46:35, Cooney finished with a time of 4:31:15, Green with 4:45:02, Jon with 5:12:32 and Sherry with 4:58:29.

When asked how the smoke from Sunday’s run affected him, Parks said “I’ll find out tomorrow.”

Peninsula Runners

A day prior to the Marathon Maniacs run, a group of athletes from Peninsula Runners held their own virtual Boston Marathon event in the Semiahmoo Peninsula. Some of those runners were at the track early Sunday morning cheering on the Marathon Maniacs.

Starting at Ocean Park, the loop course – which had to be completed four times – took seven runners through Amble Green Drive and back west down 16 Avenue, ending in Kwomais Park.

South Surrey’s John Martin finished with a time of 3:56, Mark Mori finished at 4:04, Cathy Giles 3:32, Norm Dods 3:27, Brian Whitehead 3:41, and Bill Li with 4:14. White Rock’s Janet Weber finished with a time of 4:10. The race was directed by Anna Matheson from Delta.

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