South Surrey teacher runs DIY marathon after Vancouver event cancelled due to COVID-19

Colleagues, family cheer Elgin Park Secondary’s Lindsey Ellett on solo run

Had it not been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, South Surrey teacher Lindsey Ellett would have run the Vancouver BMO Marathon on Sunday.

The race was axed in mid-March, however – one of many sports and community events to fall off the calendar this year as a result of the pandemic.

But not wanting to waste the months of hard work she’d already logged – she started training in January – Ellett decided she’d run a DIY version of a marathon on her own.

No official starting gun, no hordes of fellow runners, no official route lined with spectators…

Well, there were still some spectators.

Unbeknownst to Ellett – a longtime social studies teacher at Elgin Park Secondary – news of her solo run had leaked out to her colleagues, many of whom came out to cheer her on at various points along her journey.

“My colleague, Laura Villeneuve, sent out a sneaky email without me knowing,” Ellett explained.

“I counted 24 co-workers coming out to cheer me on, plus my family and some other friends. My nephews body-painted themselves and stood on the side of the highway, so that was pretty funny. I’m sure they were confusing other people.”

Melissa Bonn, one of Ellett’s colleagues at Elgin Park, told Peace Arch News that “It was really nice to see her do her run, and for the staff to rally behind her. It was very moving.”

• READ ALSO: After Boston Marathon postponed, two runners held own race

Ellett’s 42.2-km route – “One giant lap,” she said – began in the parking lot of the Royal Canadian Legion’s Crescent Beach branch, and took her through South Surrey and Cloverdale, as far north as 64 Avenue, before turning south back to the Ocean Park neighbourhood where she lives.

Official event or not, Sunday was the first marathon-distance run Ellett had done; normally, she runs half-marathons.

Adding to the accomplishment is the fact that she beat her goal by five minutes. She had wanted to complete the circuit in under four hours, and she clocked a time of 3:55.

“It went great – a new personal record,” she said.

Supporters along Lindsay Ellett’s 42.2-km route (Contributed photo)

There were a few hiccups along the way, however.

For starters, the weather proved to be a challenge at certain points – especially about two thirds of the way through her route, when it started to pour rain as she motored along 168 Street.

“That was the only spot where it felt really hard. It started to rain really, really hard, and the wind picked up – it almost blew me over,” Ellett said.

“So there I was, out there by myself getting blown around, just thinking that I was experiencing almost every type of weather, because it started out cloudy, then sunny, then rain – and once I rounded the corner at 32 Avenue to come back home, it got sunny again.

“I thinking, ‘All I need is a little bit of snow or hail and I’ll have had every season.’”

The only other issue came at the proposed end-point of the race, where her family had set up a proper finish line and were preparing to capture Ellett’s final steps on video.

When she approached, however, she wasn’t running, but walking; due to her concerns about social distancing, she had clocked 42.2 km earlier than expected.

“I had zig-zagged a lot (along the route) to give other people a huge berth between us – I was giving them double the space they tell you to – and because I did that, with all that extra looping around, my (running) app told me I’d finished before the finish line,” she said.

“So as I’m walking up that last hill… I could see a bunch of my colleagues and my husband, and they were like, ‘What are you doing?’ I explained to them I was done already, but they wanted me to run through the finish line, so I had to run a little bit extra just for the video.”

Ellett said she took nothing but positives from her run, adding that the support she received was a huge boost.

“I was a little worried about doing it at first, but then I’d see somebody, and then they just kept coming, and it just put a huge smile on my face,” she said. “Every time I’d start to get tired, I’d see somebody again. It’s cool when you’re at the 38-km mark, and there’s your principal across the street, waving at you.

“It was a highlight in a downer of a year, because of everything that’s going on. I’m just really happy that my colleagues were thinking of me.”

This feel-good story is part of the #WereInThisTogether campaign by Black Press Media. Have an uplifting story that you think would bring joy to readers? Email your story, photos and videos to wereinthistogether@blackpress.ca

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