Doing the full 26.2 miles of the Cayman Islands Intertrust Marathon is a pretty daunting task, especially if you are in your mid-forties and running the classic distance for the first time, yet Bill Fleury seems to be taking the prospect, eh, in his stride.
The great run, organised by Kelly Holding, is on 2 December and over 1.200 entrants are expected in the full marathon, half and four-person relay categories. Game Fleury has chosen to go the whole hog as one of those challenges people love to set themselves.
“I ran last year’s 2011 Cayman half in 1 hour 53 minutes and the only other time I can remember is my first half in Toronto about 18 years ago which I think was 1:51, so I haven’t progressed a lot time-wise,” he says.
“The closest thing I had done to a marathon before is that I have completed two half Ironman triathlons, which each took me over six hours to complete, so I’m not a stranger to the pain and dehydration involved. Yes, a marathon is on my bucket list – I’d better do it while I’m healthy enough.”
Fleury, 46, began his competitive running season with the three two-mile Fidelity races last month and is mentally prepared for the rapid distance increase even if he is not physically ready yet for the big one.
“The Fidelity Fun Runs are always a great event and a good wake up call to the body. The other events which I consider are a ‘must do’ are the Pirates Week 5K on 9 November which is a nice social run alongside several hundred people on a Friday evening before the fireworks.
“Pirates 10k the following weekend is always well attended and you start to see the competitive energy more. For the marathon, every year more of my friends are getting involved, whether in the relay, half or full. I absolutely relished being at the start line last year alongside about 1,000 starters.
“Last year there was another nice 10k shortly after the marathon, the Jingle Bell Run where you can do a 10k to keep the momentum in your legs.”
After that Fleury enters the Cross Island Relay in January which is one of his favourites because of the camaraderie, the weather being cool and everyone usually having a great anecdote.
“Their stories can be running in torrential rain, dropping the baton, the trouble you had getting to the start in East End and so on. Virtually everyone on the course is cheering not only their own team-mates but pretty much every other team as well.
“Finally, I’m hoping to participate in the Off The Beaten Track in late February, which I helped to organise a few years back.
“There are lots of other great runs in the year, but my serious running starts with the Fidelity series and ends around February. After that I put the weight back on!”
Married with two kids, he is the general manager of Chamber of Commerce Pension Plan and lives in picturesque South Sound which is part of the course. “It provides a breathtaking view for running and never gets old to me. Living in Cayman is great for runners.”
Fleury admits he is not really a conventional runner. “I don’t recommend anybody follow my lead in training. I only signed up for the marathon at the end of August and then downloaded my first training schedule a couple of weeks later.
“To my disappointment, by then I had already missed the first seven weeks of the Hal Higgdon Novice 2 plan. I’m just working now to try to catch up as best I can. I’m not worrying at this point, because I am generally a resilient runner and I only hope to make it to the finish line, not in any particular speed or style.
“I won’t be disappointed even if I have to walk a few miles, although I will try to run every step. The last several weeks I will be ‘tapering’ pretty much to the Higgdon plan, with the goal to heal all strains and blisters that I have developed in training. The most important thing for me will be to make it to the starting line healthy.”
He is grateful for having an understanding family. “They are totally supportive, which helps with training when it gets heavy, but one of the nice things about running is it isn’t a huge burden on those around you.
“It’s not like I need a garage full of equipment, the duration is rarely more than one or two hours and the workout starts and ends at home, so the family prefers this to when I play football or squash and follow up a 75 minute workout by sharing a few beers for an hour or two.
“My friends are roughly half actually involved in running as well and half unaffected, so overall everyone is happy.”
Many runners do it for a worthy cause to help them stay focused and motivated in training. Fleury may do that in the future. “I have no experience, nor spare time this year, to raise funds for charity personally and as it’s my first attempt I’m just doing this for my own health and recreation.
“Many of the fitness events on Island result in donations, either of your entrance fee, fixed donations by the organisers, or by one corporate donor, so at that level our general participation in the event leads to some donation.
“I also tend to kick in extra out of my own pocket when I can. I admire the guys like Derek Haines and Ken Krys who have been able to raise significant amounts through their individual efforts. This year I’ll be happy if I can just get to the starting line and happier if I can finish.”
Fleury started running in high school as a teenager. “I never gave a lot of thought to getting into running or why I started, but went with a friend and I felt physically great after. Maybe it was the endorphins.
“Psychologically it gave me the feeling of doing something a bit challenging and different in the small town where I grew up. It isn’t about trying to be competitive for me, just pushing against my own limits.
“One of the reasons I do fitness activities (running, cycling, a bit of weights) is that I’m not very good at team sports or anything requiring great coordination like golf.
“I do occasionally go out and make a fool of myself on the football pitch, squash court, or tennis court. Despite growing up in Canada I’m a terrible skater as well as being too small to play hockey seriously.”
Although training can be hazardous on the roads here, Fleury is grateful to considerate drivers. “I want to thank all the drivers who do what they can to give us runners a couple of extra feet of clearance.
“Since we don’t have sidewalks or even smooth surfaces along many of the long stretches that are good for running such as South Sound, we generally have to run along the edge of the road. The drivers here are very courteous about passing at a safe distance and it is greatly appreciated.”