Ben Brown has never been one to back away from a challenge.
The Cambridge wheelchair racer admittedly entered the Berwick Gala Days Road Race Aug. 31 looking to break the course record – not only his own record for wheelchair competitors, but the course record for able-bodied runners as well.
Brown was given the customary five-minute head start for the five-mile race, to ensure there weren’t any collisions, but it only made things easier for him.
Not surprisingly, Brown was first across the finish line – after all, as one of the timers pointed out, in his racing wheelchair “he’s faster than most runners.”
More surprisingly, to probably anyone but him, his time of 22:43 did indeed break the existing overall course record, and by more than a minute. His winning time also broke the course record for the former 8km distance.
“I’ve finished off my summer the way I wanted to,” Brown, whose goal is to represent Canada at the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil, said following the race.
“After I cool down, I’ll probably do some sprints for the Gala Days crowd, but after that, I’m taking two weeks off” for a well-earned vacation after a busy year.
Bryan Hipson, 48, of Yarmouth, was the first runner across the finish line to place second overall, almost five minutes behind Brown.
“I usually win my age group, these days anyway,” Hipson said after the race. “I’m 48.” He explained, “ I try to set a fast pace. I know I can run faster than I did today (28:38), but everything has to come together.”
He acknowledged, “it felt good, but it felt tough, too, so I was pushing myself, but I got a little lazy at the end. I had a good lead, but (third-place finisher) Patrick White ran a good race.”
Hipson ran the Run Nova Scotia road race series this summer and qualified as a Masters runner to compete at the ‘Zoo Run’, the 10K Canadian championship later this month in Toronto, which takes place in and around the Toronto Zoo.
White, who is from Halifax, was third overall in a time of 29:55. He was followed across the finish line by Dave Nevitt of Dartmouth in 30:41. Fifth overall was 13-year-old Berwick resident Jaden Perry, who completed the course in 31:06.
Rounding out the top-10 were Cory Richards of Bedford (31:36), Noah Shankel of Berwick (32:27), Joshua Stewart, also of Berwick (32:30), Robin Meister of New Ross (32:36) and Alan Miner of Falmouth (32:53).
One of the youngest, if not the youngest, finisher was 11-year-old Ben Campbell of Berwick,, 37th overall in a time of 39:02. One of the oldest was soon-to-be-77-year-old John Rideout of Halifax, 117th overall in a time of 57:04.
Also in the field was Kings West MLA and provincial Minister of Health Leo Glavine, 65, a Gala Days Road Race veteran who placed 59th overall in a time of 42:35.
Glavine confirmed this was “my 35th time doing this race, which I first did in 1976.”
He added, “I started running for fitness. It seemed easier to fit into my schedule that organized team sports.”
Eventually, he said, “I realized I had trained enough to run long distances.” At that time, “people were just starting to talk about running marathons.
“I thought it sounded like an amazing challenge,” and he has since run several full and half marathons. As Health Minister, he is setting a great example of active living for all Nova Scotians, but that’s not why Glavine does it.
Running, he said, “energizes my day. It’s become part of my lifestyle. I’ve had to reduce the distances as I’ve gotten older, but I’m in it for the health and fitness.”
The Berwick Gala Days five-miler, he said, “is a great run, at a great time, right at the end of the summer. I always run with friends. It’s become a fixture for me.”
Carol Boylan Hartling, one of the local organizers of the event, said there were 109 runners pre-registered. “We were shooting for 150,” she said before the race.
Later, she confirmed there had been a final registration of 135, including several members of the Valley junior A Wildcats hockey team who were doing the run as part of their pre-season dryland training.
“I love this event,” Boylan Hartling said. “I’m not a runner myself, but I love the organization. I always find the start so exhilarating, andI find I’m often in tears as the runners finish.”