Gilles Lacasse is 77 years old, originally from Bellechasse and now living in Quebec City. He has been racing for 45 years and is a big booster for his hometown race. We spoke to the running legend on what he’s learned, what scares him and what to make of the world famous hills beckoning runners this September to Quebec. For more information, click here.
iRun: How many marathons have you run and what is it you like about that distance?
Gilles Lacasse: The 24th edition of the Beneva Quebec City Marathon presented by Montellier will be my 102nd marathon.
GL: I always liked doing long distances. I’m not the fastest, but I have a lot of endurance. I learned to run by doing it; there were no running clubs as today when I was younger. I grew up on a dairy farm where I did a lot of manual work, which helped me develop my good endurance (and resistance to heat).
iRun: At 77, can you still run the marathon?
GL: I can still do it—at my own pace. However, I can no longer train six days a week at high intensity and recovery time is longer. In my opinion, you have to get away from the mentality of setting the fastest time, you have to do it for the fun of it and for the atmosphere. On the day of a marathon, you give it your all and the time you set is the maximum you could do that day.
iRun: Do you think running has improved your overall health?
GL: It definitely gives me better health and a better quality of life. At 77, I don’t take any medication.
iRun: Lets talk about the Beneva Quebec City Marathon presented by Montellier. How many times have you run that course?
GL: Every time, including when it was the Marathon des Deux rives. So, I would have run the course for the 24th time.
iRun: Do you think the course is particularly challenging?
GL: For me, the Beneva Quebec City Marathon is an easy marathon, considering I’ve done a hundred of them. In my opinion, alongside marathons I’ve found more difficult, such as Boston and New York, the Quebec City Marathon is a great marathon to do. Every marathon has its own difficulty. The hardest thing in Quebec City is if the weather isn’t good.
iRun: What about the hills?
GL: Hills aren’t hard. You must go at your own pace, which means simply controlling your pace and adapting your rhythm.
iRun: After all your races, what have you learned about how to handle hills?
GL: It all depends on the speed and the gradient, a hill doesn’t really matter. You shouldn’t spend your energy for nothing, it’s not a big deal if you run 30 seconds slower. If you want to keep the same pace, you’ll pay double in the end.
iRun: Everyone thinks about the up hills of a running race, but what about the down hills? What method do you employ for running downhill?
GL: It’s the same as when you’re going uphill: you need to slow down your pace. The weight of the body is accentuated, so you must make sure you don’t have too great an impact on the contraction of the quadriceps. It’s very important to adjust your pace to avoid injury.
iRun: What is your overall impression about the Beneva Quebec City Marathon presented by Montellier?
GL: Exceptional, it’s not monotonous. You can look around all the time, it’s magnificent. The wind direction is never the same, and that’s great. The finish site is simply “wow.” It’s one of the most beautiful finishes in all of racing. The Saint-Charles River and the segment of the marathon before descending Champlain Boulevard are my favourite. I’m proud to run in his city and would like to see the Marathon Beneva de Québec become legendary one day.
iRun: Legendary like you but I have to ask: for how much longer do you plan to run such long distances? Specifically, I’m 49 and have run thirty marathons and I worry about that all the time. When will you hang up your shoes?
GL: There’s no age limit, the important thing is to never stop and to listen to your body: when you can’t tolerate it, you reduce it and adapt. I’m not planning to hang up my shoes any time soon, and I’ll keep going as long as I can.
The Beneva Quebec City Marathon presented by Montellier is September 29 to October 1. For more information, please click here.
Photographs by Nicolas Hallet.