I don’t like to mix my politics with running.
My neurotic ramblings tend to get me into trouble when I delve into the thorny issues. I stick to the running basics – racing, training and eating.
Think separation of church and state.
But that didn’t stop me from asking Blaine Calkins, the MP for Red Deer-Lacombe, about his adventures in running.
I have noticed Blaine at the odd run over the last few years in Red Deer and Lacombe. I was curious about how he got into running.
Blaine grew up on the family farm north of Lacombe. He was one of those natural athletes who played just about every sport in high school. Coaches had always tried to recruit him for the track teams or distance events.
But it wasn’t until decades later that he began running after making a lifestyle change.
It took a picture with colleagues to spur the change.
“I looked at the picture and I realized I was the fat guy in the picture,” said Blaine, 47. “I was 243 pounds. It was the heaviest I had been in my life. I thought I don’t like the way I look.”
That year Blaine gave up drinking pop and alcohol for Lent and went on a very calorie restricted diet. Around the same time, he was accepted to walk the Four Day Marches Nijmegen with the Canadian Forces in Holland in July 2011 as long as he met the conditioning requirements.
Promoting health and exercise, the event is four days of marching while wearing standard combat clothing and carrying a military rucksack weighing at least 10 kg. Walkers often cover the same terrain where many Canadians died during the Second World War.
Blaine’s training schedule consisted of walking 15 to 20 km a day with a 13.6 kg (30-lb) pack on his back. Coupled with a clean diet, Blaine’s hard work eventually paid off.
He was down to 97 kg (215 lbs).
“I thought let’s see how far this can go,” said the father of three.
“I maintained the healthy diet and I made sure I wasn’t eating too many calories and I started running. It was easy. There were different times when I tried half-heartedly to get back in shape but you know how things go. I signed up for a new run and the rest is history.”
Today Blaine says he is not in “perfect” health nor is he a “champion runner by any stretch of the imagination” but he feels more mentally alert and has more stamina to work or play.
“I find on days when I don’t run I am not the same as on days that I do,” he said.
When asked if running has made him a better politician, Blaine said it has definitely helped with his self-confidence and he is much happier with the way he looks.
“In my kind of work confidence is very much an important thing,” he said.
Next month Blaine will run Woody’s half-marathon and likely will run a half-marathon in Barrie and Ottawa later this year.
“I find if you sign up for these things, you have a goal.” he said. “If you don’t sign up for these races, you don’t have a goal and it’s hard to stay motivated. I enjoy having these goals. They keep me motivated and I meet some new and interesting people.”
Blaine said he is not sure he will run a personal best (just over two hours) but he will push enough to see “what this old body” can do.
But don’t expect Blaine to be running any marathons anytime soon. He likes to stick to the 10K or the half-marathon distances.
“I am a jogger,” he laughed. “I am under no illusions that I am ever going to have the time to train and be a competitive runner. The notion of some day of doing a little more and doing a marathon would be nice at some point but it’s going to take a little more discipline on my part.”
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