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60 marathons by 60

In the spring of 2020, Saskatoon runner Dave Buchner was training hard and excited about the possibility of running a fast marathon later that year. But after COVID-19 wiped the racing calendar clean, he focussed on a new goal: running 60 marathons or ultramarathons before his 60th birthday.

By the time Saskatchewan detected its first case of COVID-19 in March, Buchner had run 52 marathons or ultras. He was determined to run eight more before turning 60 a mere 11 months later.

“People think you’re crazy, but I’m OK with that,” Buchner says.

In the end, it only took him only nine months to reach his target. Buchner completed his 60th run — the virtual Honolulu Marathon — in mid-December, more than a month before his birthday on Feb. 8.

Dave Buchner’s friends presented him with a certificate of achievement on on his 60th birthday after he completed 60 marathons (or ultramarathons).

Buchner’s accomplishment is all the more impressive because of how late in life he started running. He grew up playing hockey and only started running in his 40s after his longtime team disbanded and he was looking for another physical activity to fill his time. His sister, a runner, encouraged him to train for an event at the Saskatchewan Marathon.

Buchner hopped on board enthusiastically and decided his first road race would be 42.2 kilometres.

“I was just straight into the deep end with both feet, just not knowing really what I was getting myself into,” Buchner said.

After spending the summer training, Buchner ran the Saskatchewan Marathon — which at the time was held in the fall — on Aug. 31, 2003. He crossed the finish line in a little over five hours.

“Once I did it, there was no turning back,” Buchner says.

He signed up for Brainsport run clinics, worked with coaches and started running with the Brainsport and Saskatoon Road Runners Association run clubs.

“Run club has changed my life, definitely for the better,” Buchner says.

He got faster and, a couple years later, qualified for the Boston Marathon, which he ran in 2006. At first, Buchner ran roughly a marathon a year, but he eventually started running two or three a year as his body adjusted to the training.

About five years after he started running, Buchner began exploring trail and ultra running. He ran the SRRA’s first 50-km ultra in 2008 and fell in love with the trails and longer distances.

“Ultra runners are kind of a different group than marathon runners,” Buchner says. “Marathon runners are usually more concerned about their time and putting the pedal to the metal to get it done and a lot of them are trying to qualify for Boston. I did that and so it didn’t really interest me anymore. So you just kind of find a new boundary and see how far you can push yourself.”

Buchner recalls a man who used to show up at the old Mendel Art Gallery every Monday evening for the SRRA’s group run wearing a jacket from a 100-mile (161-km) race. It was the first time Buchner had met anyone who’d run more than 50 km in a race and was determined to try it himself. Though he wanted to sign up for a 100-mile race in 2010, his coach persuaded him to tackle a 100-km event first.

Buchner competed in the Lost Soul 100-kilometre Ultra in Lethbridge, Alta. in 2010 and 2011 and finally tackled the 100-mile race there in 2013. The event, which took him more than 33 hours to complete, remains his most memorable race.

“You kind of go to new places in your mind,” he says. “I was really proud of myself after being able to do that.”

After knocking out eight marathons in nine months, Buchner doesn’t have any marathons on his calendar yet, but is looking forward to taking part in the “Marathon to Marathon Challenge” this spring. The virtual event, hosted by the Saskatoon Road Runners Association and Run Regina, challenges runners to log the distance between the Saskatchewan Marathon start line to the GMS Queen City Marathon finish line between April and May.

As much as he has enjoyed exploring Saskatoon neighbourhoods on both sides of the river in virtual races, he is looking forward to the return of in-person racing and hopes he can qualify for the Boston Marathon again now that he has entered a new age bracket.

Do you know someone in Saskatchewan with an inspiring running story? Email Brainsport Times editor Andrea Hill at andrea@brainsport.ca.