The 2020 OFSAA Track and Field Championships were scheduled to begin today. In their absence, I…
Colin Fewer interview by Steve Weiler, Saturday, May 16th, 2020
Steve Weiler: Hey Colin, tell me something nice!
Colin Fewer: Hey Steve, thanks first of all for inviting me to do this. So something nice...Look for something nice to recognize every day. My kids helped with this the past couple of days. So I decided to take my son fishing yesterday, he was pretty excited about the adventure as we tried last year twice but were unable to catch anything. So yesterday it was looking like the same result when finally a fish took the bait and he was so excited reeling it in. I was scrambling for my phone to capture the moment, he was so happy. then he examines the fish and noticed the hook was stuck in the mouth. I heard his voice change and as he asked is that hurting the fish? I started scrambling to get the hook out and he was watching intently. He finally announced that the fish was too small and we should help it get back to the pond. Said he wouldn't want to eat it only keep it if he could have it as a pet. It was a nice moment. And I have to share as well a nice picture of a great moment of my daughter's take on how to ride a bike during the covid situation. I could tell the story but a picture is a thousand words. She is priceless.
SW: That's a great story and excellent pictures; your daughter appears to be prepared for a variety of situations! Looking back to your childhood, how did you first get into competitive running?
CF: My story of how I got into competitive running is probably like a lot of us, it started with another sport. In my elementary days I became obsessed with hockey. Wanted to play hockey during my elementary school days but my folks couldn't really afford it, I eventually convinced them by grade 7, I needed to catch up, so I would run to improve my fitness. So in grade 9 I missed my bus after school and had to wait for the late bus that took students home after extra-curricular actives. So I walked to the gym to see what practices where going on and my PE teacher was having a XC practice. He said "you're here, just as well run the practice." So I did. Ran a 5km course he had set up and to my and everyone's else surprise I was about 2 min ahead of everyone else. So I was told I was on the team. I was ended up winning the regional that fall. So it sort of started there. But really it was 1994 when I made the NL Legion Track and Field team, the competition in was in Ottawa that year, that I realized I wanted to run. It changed everything.
SW: Can you give us a few other highlights of your early running years?
CF: I have a couple for sure. One is at the provincial high school xc championships in 1994. I guess I was a favorite to win the race. While I was warming up for the event a coach from another team stopped me to wish me luck but that I better watch out that one his athletes was going to beat me today! I looked at him and said "not today." I was a little worried to be honest. No one really focused on running back then, we were all just athletes from other sports. Essentially all wild cards. So the race starts and there is a couple of guys rolling with me. I see the coach from the other team and he shouts encouragement to his athlete. In my ignorance and bliss I started hammering it. I pulled away and did end up winning the race. But it was the closest anyone had finished to me that year in xc. That guy now is one of my best friends, Trevor O'Brien. More to the story but we laugh about it. My fondness memories are always around the friendships I made.
SW: I'm told that you re-committed to the sport around age 30, allegedly throwing a McDonald's burger at or out of a bus window and vowing to get fit? How does that story go?
CF: Hahaha how did you get privy to the McGriddle story!?
SW: I put a modicum of effort into pre-interview research!
CF: Haha fanstastic! So I ran for Memorial University 1995-2001 (injured in '98). I had some raw talent as I know now, basically a guy who ran enough (maybe 40-50 miles a week, most of that fast). Did not quite understand the science and the process. Was AUS top 5 guy and a best finish at CIAU's at 24th in 2001. Did the same stuff got same results. So running for MUN was huge motivation for my training; when eligibility was done, my focused drifted. I was finishing off my PE and Education degrees. I always ran a bit, but played rec hockey, squash, etc. So jump ahead a year. I have my first replacement job teaching. Incredible amount of work. I was exercising less, eating like crap. My pants getting too tight! . So anyway the McGriddle moment. Myself and another teacher had taken a grade 9 volleyball team across the island for a provincial tournament. We ride a coach bus out. While I'm there for the weekend, I take my running shoes and push myself out the door to struggle with a 30 min easy run. It was a struggle. To which I started asking myself why do I do this. We're returning back home on the bus, 9-10 hour drive. Half way we are going to stop for lunch, kids are shouting out options but myself and other teacher makes the decision after the bus driver says "bus driver and teachers eat at McDonalds for free if we take a bus load of kids." Hahah. Kids are off and I'm in the line up sizing up what to have for Brunch. I boldly order up not one but 2 McGriddles! They have to be 1200 cals each LOL. I sat down and devoured the first one. I'm 2 bites in on the second and I see someone running past outside...I threw the rest down in the wrapper. I spent the next 5 hours on that bus, searching to see if there was a runner still there in me LOL. I made a promise that day to see what I could actually do with this sport. Life changing moment...haven't touched a McGriddle since.
SW: That's awesome! I actually know of a similar story from a sometimes training partner of mine from years back, who threw a fast food burger out of his police car in disgust. So, now that you're back into the sport, how did the training progress from that point and how did the Tely 10 become a meaningful race for you?
CF: It took me a bit of time to get back to where I was. I recall that In 2001 I ran a 32:11 10km, I believe my best attempt after I managed to digest that McGriddle was ~36 min (my first ever 10km was 33:34). So at 26 it taught me to be very humble and also that running to me was much more than winning. I became a student of learning the training process and excercised patience. I think it was 2004 I felt like I was close to where I was in 2000 but obviously not. I decided to go to Canadian XC champs, Toronto, Sunnybrook park. Finished 77th. That lit a fire in me. My goal to was go back in 2005 and crack top 50. I trained my butt off that year, took the training and ran a solo 5km PB on a cold dark wet night. Motivated to run canadian XC champs again. In 2006 I finished 18th.
So, the Tely was always more summer focus and motivation (XC was what I loved doing). Tely 10 is where the history of NL running is, no one is really concerned with how you did at world XC championships here, it's where did you finish in the Tely? The Tely like most races was another measuring stick with how you reach your goals. Historically, seeing names of McCloy, St. Croix, Kelly. You get caught up in the history and what really has made it meaningful is how it is the centerpiece of our running community here in NL . It's everyone supporting everyone elses goals, a celebration at all levels. It's a special event, intimate and joyous. Like Christmas in July!
SW: Somewhat like the impact of the US Olympic marathon trials, I think our sport could benefit greatly from having more people view something like a top-50 pacing at Canadian XC as a meaningful goal during their post-secondary years. Do you have any other favourite memories, or anything at all, that you’d like to share before we get into the Finishing Kick?
CF: I agree, I think post collegiate is an interesting time for athletes. For many it seems to be a means to the end. Our minds are often set on goals that in the short term are out of reach, so why bother, I'm not going to be an Olympian etc. The goals have to be short and meaningful and you have to love the process. You may realize as well you meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends on the journey. Sometimes you have to either not pick up the Griddle or if you did put the thing down and give yourself the opportunity. Ha!
SW: Cue the calls for a 'Put down the Griddle' t-shirts! Okay, here are some quick Q & A's to finish things off. What is your favourite running route?
CF: All time, might be Elk/Beaver Lake in Victoria, BC. Here on this island, Long Pond/Kent's Pond.
SW: Your favourite race distance?
CF: Ohhh...ahhh... Half Marathon.
SW: Complete the song lyrics! 1. All in all you're just
a) having a nice time with your friends
b) another brick in the wall
c) about to get lapped
CF: Another Brink in da wall. Enter solo
SW: 2. Ah, sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I've got one thing I got to do
a) ramble on
b) shamble on
c) get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged
CF: Ramble on!
SW: Yes, Ramble on, which people can do at our May virtual race of the same title!
3. You that hide behind walls, you that hide behind desks; I just want you to know
a) I'm a very good finder
b) my dog has your scent
c) I can see through your masks
CF: I can see through your masks. Deep!
SW: 4. Well now everybody's worried about a good look, but they need to (hint: co-written by Sturgill Simpson and John Prine)
a) be worried about my finishing kick
b) go and read a good book
c) be worried about a good hook
CF: Be worried about a good hook...Sound and Fury...good album
SW: Yes sir, excellent album! Last song:
5. You would not think to look at him, but he was famous long ago
a) for running the first sub-4 minute mile at Iffley Road
b) for playing the electric violin on Desolation Row
c) for retelling the commode story, wherein the sheriffs let him go
CF: For Playing the electric violin on desolation row. One of my favorite songs all time.
SW: And final question, what is the most valuable kind of ship?
CF: Most everyone responds Friendship....I feel the same but maybe Fellowship! For friends running the same paths.
SW: Or, in some cases, going for very, very long walks (to Mordor!) Thanks Colin!
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