Harvey Weber (No. 210) races on the track.

After a 26-year hiatus, Harvey Weber is back on track

Harvey Weber is a man on a mission. At age 58 he holds Saskatchewan age group records on the track in the 500m, 600m, 1000m, 1500m and mile. It’s an impressive list — but it’s missing the 800m.

“I want the 800,” Weber says. “In the next two years, I want everything from 500 up to the mile with my name on it.”

Weber’s earliest memories of running are from growing up on a dairy farm in Wadena, about 240 kilometres east of Saskatoon, where his chores included racing around the fields, chasing the cows in for milking. He ran his first cross country race in Hudson Bay, Sask. when he was 13 years old and fell in love with racing.

“When I was young I was very ADHD, which I know most people would find hard to believe,” Weber says sarcastically. “However, running distance was probably the very best way to deal with my hyperactivity.”

Weber’s small rural school offered students opportunities to compete in cross country and track, but there was no formal coaching. Still, Weber excelled and was one of the top-ranked 800m high school runners in the province in Gr. 12. When he moved to Saskatoon the following year to pursue a Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Saskatchewan, he was more excited about the prospect of training with a team than about academics. He remembers one of the first days of classes when a professor asked each new education student to tell the class why they were there. “I said ‘I’m actually here to run’ and everybody started laughing,” Weber recalls.

Harvey Weber at the 2023 Canadian Masters Athletics Outdoor Championships.
Harvey Weber at the 2023 Canadian Masters Athletics Outdoor Championships.

The first couple years training and racing with the Huskies were “quite overwhelming,” Weber admits and it took his body time to adapt to the increased training volume. He started hitting his stride in his third year and had a standout fourth year, running the 1,500m in 3:55, which was the third-fastest clocking over the distance for a Huskie athlete at the time.

After graduating university, Weber moved to Fox Valley to teach and trained on his own with aspirations of making a national age group team. He would regularly drive 400 kilometres to Calgary so he could fly to track meets across Canada and the United States.

It was a hectic lifestyle — and one that came to a crashing halt in 1992. By then, Weber had moved to Tisdale and, on top of running, was playing badminton competitively. During a particularly tense game, Weber pulled his left hamstring. The following weekend, he raced on the track and his right calf, which was compensating for the sore left hamstring, tightened up. The weekend after, Weber was warming up for a 600m race when he felt the calf snap.

Weber took two weeks off, hoping it was just a sprain, but his calf simply didn’t look right, with a gaping hole where muscle had once been. He eventually saw an orthopedic surgeon and was told he had ruptured an extensor muscle and it was too late to do anything. “I was devastated,” Weber said. He didn’t know if he would run again.

Harvey Weber races on the track.
Harvey Weber races on the track.

In the years that followed, Weber threw himself into swimming and mountain bike racing and stayed heavily involved in the track world as a coach, race official and board member for Saskatchewan Athletics. He started the Tisdale track club, which he ran for 28 years before he retired from teaching in 2018, and coached provincial youth teams at national events including the Western Canada Summer Games and Canada Games. “I kind of feel like a builder,” Weber says. “I love getting people involved in the sport.”

In the early 2010s, Weber began to wonder whether a return to running was possible. He lived on an acreage outside Tisdale and there was a beautiful two-kilometre stretch of country road surrounded by trees and frequented by deer. He set himself a goal of running four kilometres to make it to the end of the road and back. Weber started running on the spot and later progressed to running back and forth in his yard. Despite having to manage calf pain and tightness, he worked his way up to running four kilometres — and then started running intervals.

In early 2018, Weber decided to test his fitness (and calf) on the track. He signed up for the 1,000 metre race at the Sled Dog Open and toed the start line with athletes half his age. In fact, one of his competitors was the son of a student he’d once taught. It was his first race in 26 years and Weber ran 3:14 to set a Saskatchewan M50 age group record. “I got lapped by the university guys, but it was still really fun,” Weber recalls. “That was my start.”

Weber’s success in that race made him hungry to take down more records. After retiring from teaching, he moved to Saskatoon and began coaching and training with the Running Wild Athletics Club, surrounding himself with other masters athletes with ambitious goals. “Basically, we work together, we are so complementary to each other,” he says. “We want to see how fast everybody can go and support each other in whatever their track goals happen to be.”

Harvey Weber (second from left) celebrates with his team after setting the Canadian record in the M55 4x800m relay at that 2023 Canadian Masters Indoor Championships.

Weber has broken a number of provincial age group records since 2018 — including bettering his own records — and was honoured this fall with the Saskatchewan Athletics Bob Adams Award for Male Masters Athlete. While chasing individual records has been exciting, Weber says the record that brought him the most joy involved teaming up with three other masters runners to bring down the national M55 4x800m record at the 2023 Canadian Masters Indoor Championships in Toronto. “I was a bit scared because I’d run the 800m the day before, and I’d run my fastest 800m as a master ever, and I’m thinking: I haven’t run back-to-back races on the track since university. How is my calf going to handle this?” But it went picture perfect.”

These days, Weber doesn’t live in constant fear of his calf blowing up — but he focuses on making smart choices. He doesn’t run on pavement and is careful to take time off if he feels his calf tightening up. He’s learned from experience that racing through injury isn’t worth it and he’s not keen to take another 26 years off the sport.

Staying healthy is part of the plan as Weber sets his sights set to bringing down the M55 800m record indoors and outdoors next year and he’s looking forward to travelling to Gothenburg, Sweden in the summer to compete at the World Masters Athletics Championships. “I can’t wait to have a blast, run fast times and meet incredible other athletes from all over the world,” he says. “It’s been an incredible year, but I just plan to run faster.”