Special to The Journal
There’s one item Tim Westaway never forgets to pack when running an ultra endurance race.
That vital piece of gear is a picture of his daughter Kelly.
“I bring her with me on every race,” said Westaway, who’s training for the world’s oldest ultra-marathon — a grueling 89-kilometre run in South Africa called the Comrades Marathon.
Kelly passed away in 2004 shortly before her 12th birthday. One of her greatest thrills was having dad push her wheelchair during a training run.
“That was one special bond that we could do together,” said Westaway, stopping to collect his thoughts while describing how his little girl continues to inspire.
Even today, the Sarnia man will pause mid-race to show other competitors “a picture of the prettiest little girl you’ll ever see.
“I guess when she died that inspired me to keep going.”
And at age 60, he has no plans of slowing down.
He’s competing in the Comrades Marathon — from Durban to Pietermaritzburg — on May 29 with four friends in a field of nearly 23,000 participants.
Joining him are area athletes Dick Felton, Fred Unternahrer and Dr. Ken Walker, as well as Doug MacIsaac from Alberta.
Racers have 12 hours to complete the course, something only about half ever accomplish. It was first held in 1921 to commemorate South African soldiers killed in the First World War.
Westaway has completed two Ironmans, more than 30 triathlons and several ultra-marathons. He was also a competitor on the reality TV series Wipeout Canada.
In 2010, he took on the 24-hour Canadian Death Race in Grand Cache, Alberta. The 125-km sprint through the Rocky Mountains features a major river crossing and three mountain summits, with an elevation change of 17,000 feet. He completed the trek in 19 hours and 48 minutes, and was one of about one-third to finish.
The following year he took on the Chimera — a 100-mile run in Lake Elsinore, California that incorporates a dizzying 22,000-foot elevation gain.
And in 2013 he tackled the Ultra Du Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France — a 104-mile course through the French, Italian and Swiss Alps. He ascended more than 32,000 feet in 44 hours.
That’s 44 hours straight without sleeping. Despite being exhausted, the thought of sleep held no appeal, he said.
Along the way he met a French racer named Boris, who promised to be at the finish line with a pitcher of beer.
“The last 10 kilometres was brutal … but sure enough, they had pitchers waiting at the end,” Westaway said of his wife Paula, and newfound mate Boris.
In each of the past two years Westaway has completed the Mohican 100-mile Trail Run.
He’s hit every mental and physical wall imaginable and endured vivid hallucinations. Laughing, he recalls seeing a 30-pound stone with a perfect outline of Buddha as he approached the final stretch of the Mohican.
“I wanted to bring it home and give it to Paula … I looked down and then back at the rock and Buddha was gone.”
His wife said she also looks forward to the races, especially when they come with exotic destinations like the upcoming South African trip. They plan to spend a week with friends at a rental property on the ocean.
Westaway said he plans to complete another 100-mile ultra race in Haliburton in September.
As long as he continues the relentless push forward — a lesson he learned from daughter Kelly — anything can be accomplished, Westaway said.
“There’s nothing in the world like that feeling.”