For some people just qualifying for the Boston Marathon would be a major victory. But for Captain Dennene Huntley it was just one more race toward achieving one of her ultimate running goals and adventures: representing Canada in the 100 km World’s Ultra-Marathon in Gibraltar on November 7th.
“My big focus right now is the Military International Championships in Greece or what is now known as the 2500th Battle of Marathon on Oct. 31st,” says Huntley, who put on her first pair of runners in hometown Antigonish, Nova Scotia over 30 years ago. “I am hoping to run a strong race there and then as a result of my placing at the ACU (Association of Canadian Ultra Marathoners) National Championship in Edmonton this past June, I will be flying to Gibraltar to race with the Canadian team for the World Championship.”
This year’s run in the Boston Marathon was Huntley’s third and her most successful. She ran almost 15 minutes faster than the last time she competed in the marathon in 2007.
“I finished the race in a time of 3:16:54 which was a personal record by one minute and 20 seconds. This was a lot faster than I expected to run,” says Huntley. “I ran the race smartly. I thrived off the crowds and the energy from them motivated me to push to my finish.”
Huntley placed 322nd in the women’s 18-34 division with the time of 3:16:54.
“The Boston Marathon is such an exciting, fabulous race,” says Huntley. “Everyone has worked very hard to get there. But what fascinates me the most are the crowds! There was not a single spot during the entire 42.2 kms where people weren’t singing, clapping, offering water, oranges, Gatorade, sponges and yes, even hugs and beer!”
Huntley’s recent run in the 100 km Fast Track Ultra-Marathon in Edmonton in June has been the Captain’s most successful and thrilling race so far. She placed second woman overall and first in her age group (30 – 39) with a time of 9 hours and 28 minutes and, more importantly, it qualified her for the World’s.
“It was a fantastic experience,” says Huntley. “I felt great all day during the race. I was expecting to hit the wall but I never did.”
Considering her accomplishments as a marathoner it is somewhat surprising to learn that this former banker and weekend cosmetician only started running seven years ago.
“I have always been an active person, but I caught the running bug in 2003 when the commanding officer of 2 General Support Battalion brought in a rep from the Running Room to run a half-marathon clinic,” says Huntley. “I love running for the adventure. Every run is a new experience. It’s a lot of fun, and when you enjoy the adventure, there are so many other benefits: a healthy lifestyle, the fabulous people you meet at races and seeing new places.”
Before becoming runner extraordinaire, Huntley earned a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from St. Mary’s University in Halifax and worked for a while in banking. She says she didn’t feel challenged and so acting on the advice of a friend, Huntley visited the local Canadian Forces recruiting center and inquired about becoming a Logistics Officer. Huntley has been posted to Edmonton and Petawawa.
She says the military has always been supportive of her running endeavours. She represented her regiment at the CF Championships at the Ottawa Marathon last May. “I came in first place for females in the Marathon,” says Huntley. “It was an awesome race.”
Huntley has run 15 full marathons and seven Ultra-Marathons, which are anything longer than a marathon. Some of the other marathons she has run in include Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Niagara Falls, Chicago, Walt Disney World and Ottawa. Her longest Ultra-Marathon was the Canadian Death Race, which is a 125 km trail race that goes over three mountains.
She says training for an event depends on one’s experience level. A typical marathon training plan is 18 weeks. For this soldier, running is a lifestyle, so that means following a weekly schedule, being disciplined, cross-training twice a week, eating healthy, but most importantly, looking towards the adventure.
“If you are no longer having fun, you need to analyse what you are doing, perhaps change your training or look at something else for a while. I did do something different this year to train for the Boston Marathon. I used it as a training run to prepare for the Ultra-Marathon in Edmonton.”