Norman Deutscher at the 2022 Queen City Marathon race weekend.

100-plus half marathons down, countless to go

One of the dearest entries in Norman Deutscher’s racing scrapbook is a bib from the 2022 Queen City Marathon half marathon.

The Saskatoon man, who was 77 years old at the time, was awarded bib No. 100 to celebrate the running of his 100th half marathon.

“At my age, you hear a lot of people complaining about their aches, their surgeries, their problems, that aging’s not much fun. But, to tell you the truth, I’m kind of enjoying it,” Deutscher said.

Deutscher picked up running in his mid 60s after major back surgery to address injuries sustained in a motorbike accident decades earlier. His health-care team urged him to walk, so Deutscher — who had done very little physical activity since his early 20s — got on a treadmill and started moving.

Norman Deutscher (right) with his son at the 2022 Queen City Marathon race weekend.
Norman Deutscher (right) with his son at the 2022 Queen City Marathon race weekend.

The walks eventually turned into runs and Deutscher set himself a challenge: to run the 2010 Queen City Marathon half marathon. “I decided ‘I’m retired, I’m now 65 years old, I’ve got no excuses, I have the time, so I’m going to go out there and I’m going to sign up,'” he recalls.

Deutscher “was never so sore, stiff and played out” as when he crossed the finish line in a time of 2:44:53. He had no desire to run another half marathon, but a friend had already made plans for them to run a race together and Deutscher felt he couldn’t back out.

At some point during that second half marathon, Deutscher realized he enjoyed racing, training and being part of the running community. He signed up for more races in Canada and across the United States, where he and his wife spend some of the winter.

Soon, he was running more than a dozen half marathons a year, often on back-to-back weekends. Some races were alone, others with friends or his son. He also signed up to run shorter races with his young grandkids. “That gives me great pleasure, especially at my age,” he says.

Norman Deutscher (right) with his son at the 2022 Queen City Marathon race weekend.

A celebration of Norman Deutscher's 100th half marathon.
A celebration of Norman Deutscher’s 100th half marathon.

After tucking more than 30 half marathon bibs in his race scrapbook, Deutscher decided to shoot for 100.

“Some of the races, time wise, I’ve been really pleased with. Some, as you can imagine, have been not so great,” he says. He ran his personal best time of 1:57:52 at the 2013 BMO Okanagan Marathon half, one of a handful of times he was able to break the two-hour barrier.

By early 2020, when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of in-person races, Deutscher had completed 92 half marathons. When in-person races returned to the calendar and Deutscher recovered from a bout of COVID-19 himself, he began planning his final eight races and arranged to run No. 100 at the Queen City Marathon, where he’d run his first half marathon 12 years earlier.

Organizers “went out of their way to do some extra special things.” Not only did they grant Deutscher bib No. 100, but they presented him with a bouquet of flowers when he crossed the finish line in 2:36:19. Deutscher’s son also ran the half marathon wearing a bib that read “Norman’s son.”

Completing the race was a magical moment and one Deutscher is quick to say was made possible because of the help and encouragement from his family, physiotherapist, coaches, the running community and the numerous volunteers who put on the 100 races he ran.

Medals from Norman Deutscher's many half marathons.
Medals from Norman Deutscher’s many half marathons.

But Deutscher didn’t take much time to celebrate the accomplishment. Just one week after completing his 100th half marathon he was on the start line of the Huffin´ Puffin Half Marathon in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

“It was the hardest race I ever did because I got up that morning and I just didn’t have the energy, didn’t have the mental capacity to go out there and want to run it,” Deutscher recalls. His wife persuaded him to try and he’s glad she did. By the time the Saskatoon First Responders Half Marathon rolled around in October, Deutscher was once again enthusiastic about covering 21.1 kilometres and he already has plans to run half marathon No. 103 in the States this month.

Deutscher no longer has a goal for how many half marathons he’ll run, but for now he’s keen to keep filling up his racing scrapbook.

“Just because I’m getting older doesn’t mean to say I can’t do it or I should stop,” he says. “It’s keeping me healthy and what more can I ask for at my age?”