at the races “Having a challenge that scares you a few times a year is...

“Having a challenge that scares you a few times a year is good for you.”

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Rick Shaver is a runner famous for his love or travel, marathons and living large. A competitor and advertising executive, from his time as a college athlete into his years as a business exec, running marathons has fed Shaver’s zest for life. This week, Shaver completed the London Marathon and earned his sixth World Major crown. iRun editor Ben Kaplan caught up with Shaver while he was still enjoying his runner’s high.

Ben Kaplan: How long have you wanted to get that last crown? 

Rick Shaver: My first Abbott World Marathon Majors star was way back in 2006—New York City. After my Berlin marathon in 2011, I saw the unique six star medal and I knew I had to have it. 

BK: What did it feel like to touch down in London?

RS: Relief on several levels. First, my COVID test protocols were almost done. Second, after 24 months since I had been accepted into the London Marathon—finally I knew it was going to happen!

BK: Wow, and so when you crossed that finish line, what did you feel?  

RS: Exhilaration! After the excitement of passing Buckingham Palace, through a forrest of Union Jack flags along the mall and 252.6 km of the six world majors, all I could say was: ‘I did it.’

BK: How has the pandemic impacted your running?

RS: Without the live races, I’ve slowed down a bit (or maybe because I am getting older). Like a lot of the running community, I hit the solo solitary world of virtual races. Done with that. Totally appreciate live races even more now. 

BK: What is it about racing that you love?

RS: The challenge. The training build. The nervous day of the race. The satisfaction of meeting the challenge. 

BK: When did you start running, and why? 

RS: Even though I really have no business participating in distance running (as a former 235-pound defensive end at McGill and the University of Alberta), I learned that I had aerobic abilities when we’d run the stairs at McGill Stadium after every practice. Also, when we’d do our ‘day after game’ two mile runs at Alberta, I’d be out front consistently. Even the coaches and trainers thought it was odd. After 14 years of football I was looking for a new challenge. In 1981, I did a bunch of races of different distances and found that I loved running. My first marathon was Vancouver in 1982. 

BK: All our years being friends I’d never heard that story. What’s kept you with it all these years?

RS: Camaraderie. My good buddy Jeff and I ran together at 5:30am several times a week for 27 years. Also my running club the Southdown Striders—every Saturday since 2003. Also: weight control so I can enjoy food, drink and the occasional cigar. 

BK: Let’s pivot back to the Majors. How are all the majors different, and how are they the same? 

RS: The same in terms of the high quality and standards required of a World Majors-sanctioned event. Unbelievable attention to detail, massive logistics, huge number of race participants, fan support and difficulty of getting a spot in any one of them. Also the same—they offer incredible iconic tours of their cities.

BK: Favourite bits of the world’s best races?   

RS: Berlin: finish through the Brandenburg Gate; New York: starting on the Verrazano Bridge and finishing in Central Park; Boston: ‘Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.’ Chicago: finishing in Grant Park; Tokyo: touring one of the most amazing cities on the planet. London: Running by Buckingham Palace at the finish.

BK: So cool. 

RS: Yet the races are also so different. Boston is the ‘runners race.’ It is the Olympics of our sport. Almost everyone must meet an aggressive qualifying standard. To run there is an honour. On the other hand, London has a much more relaxed vibe. Crazy costumes. Wildly enthusiastic spectators and world-class musicians along the way. 

BK: If, for our readers, you had to recommend one, which would it be?  

RS: Maybe because London is fresh in my mind, little over a day old….it was so fun and exciting the entire 42.1km. Insane costumes! A never-ending series of loud, hilarious Brits welcoming us to their part of the route. Beer drinking in mid morning. I loved listening to and acknowledging their ‘go Canada’ cheers when they spotted my singlet. My favourite signs were: ‘Run like Boris Johnson runs from accountability’ and ‘Hurry up, the Kenyans are drinking all the beer.’

BK: What have you learned about yourself from the sport? 

Not much good happens in life without hard work. 

BK: What have you learned about the sport that you can share with others, what are some racing and training tips? 

RS: The hardest part about a marathon is getting to the starting line, as the saying goes. Do the work. Do the training and believe it or not, running a marathon can be super fun! Try to always keep some level of fitness. It’s easier to gear up for races when you have a good base. Also: choose a race several weeks into the future as a goal. Have a couple drinks in the evening as a bit of liquid courage, go online and simply sign up for a race. Having a challenge that scares you a few times a year is good for you!

BK: I love that and completely agree. So Rick, what’s next?

RS: Of my 23 marathons, 15 have been international, including places like Budapest, Washington, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam & Reykjavik. I always proudly purchase a new Canada singlet for every race. Thinking about Vancouver next year in recognition of my first marathon there 40 years ago.