Running with a Purpose


By Joel Charron

Five years ago, Darl Sutherland was told he would never race competitively again.

On Sunday morning, Sutherland proved his doctors wrong by being the first runner to cross the finish line in the Run for Heroes 42k Marathon.

After taking a spill in Aug. 2008, Sutherland fractured his patella and tibia. The tough times continued 18 months later when Sutherland tore his meniscus in the same knee.

“It’s been five years of frustration,” said Sutherland. “Since I broke my knee, I’ve had more bad luck than good.”

Sutherland’s luck must have changed.

The Peterborough resident crossed the line 2:48:20, setting a new course record.

Sutherland said he knew he had a shot at placing first when he was amongst the top three half-marathon runners. The Run for Heroes winner added he ran into stomach problems around 14K and had to stop for a two-minute washroom break.

“I was hoping that I didn’t lose too much ground stopping,” said Sutherland.

Darl Sutherland raises his arm in victory as he is the first person to cross the finish line in the Run for Heroes 42K Marathon.

Once he was able to get back on the course, Sutherland said he found a steady pace and pushed to the end. When Sutherland crossed the finish line he needed assistance as his legs were starting to badly cramp, but still had a smile from ear to ear.

“This was everything to me,” he said. “I don’t know if I can actually explain what I’m feeling.”

Sutherland added that he’s been trying to find a race “that suits him” and the fact that he won college track events in the region from 2000-05 was the deciding factor why Sutherland wanted to race in the Run for Heroes Marathon.

“The course was great. It’s a nice flat course,” he said. “I love the people here.”

Local veterans on the course encouraging runners was something he found inspirational.

J  ust a few minutes after Sutherland finished the race, Ashley Kellam of Amherstburg crossed the line to earn the women’s 42K marathon title.

“ It feels incredible,” said Kellam. “ It’s nice just to finish, I didn’t know what to expect.”

Kellam said she was happy with her pace and felt that she was doing well. She said people along the course would tell her that she was the first female marathon run nerthat has crossed their path.

Of course, winning in her hometown is an added bonus. As she walked further down the finishing area, Kellam was met by her grandmother Councilor Diane Pouget, who draped a medal around her granddaughter’s neck.

“It’s kind of nice running and seeing familiar faces in the crowd,” she said.

Race director Chris Uszynski was extremely pleased with how the marathon weekend unfolded.

The number of participants exploded from 600 last year, to approximately 1,900. Uszynski noted that the number of volunteers

General Amherst mascot Jeffery the Bulldog gives high fives to runners during the 5K run on Saturday morning.

drastically jumped as well, stating he had over 400 volunteers this year compared to only 125 last year.

Uszynski said a lot was learned from last year’s marathon and applied to this year. The 5K run was broken off this year and done Saturday with Fort Malden National Historic Site being the start and finish line while Sunday’s events were still based out of the UCCU Complex. A health expo was also held this year at the UCCU Complex, which meant participants had to come through town multiple times over the weekend.

Uszynski said he would like to see the Run for Heroes Marathon to grow as the year’s progress.

“The course can handle about 4,000 runners,” he said.

Uszynski’s family was also involved and the event also raises money for caregiver programs for the Alzheimer Society of Windsor-Essex County. Uszynski’s mother Maria has served as caregiver for his father Edmund as the latter has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for nearly two decades.

“It’s like giving back to the family,” he said. “It’s always been a passion of mine. We’re raising awareness about caregiver support.”

Maurizio Tiberia, development officer with the Alzheimer Society of Windsor-Essex said the Alzheimer’s Society had a fundraising goal of $15,000 and believes they reached it.

Tiberia praised Uszynski’s efforts.

“It’s going to be a world class event. I’m sure of it,” he said.

For the second straight year, John Trojansek of Windsor took home the half-marathon title.

“It was a great race,” he said. “There were a lot of people on the street corners cheering us runners now.”

Sean Ryan of Belle River won the 10K event.

“It’s a nice, flat, fast course,” he said, “I’m glad I came.”

Tecumseh’s Ryan Allison took home the 5K title on Saturday. He ran the 5K as a warm-up to running the half-marathon on Sunday.

Town council were present both days to hand out medals to the finishers. Joining them on Sunday morning was Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis.

“This is another event that serves this community well,” said Hurst. “We are behind it 100 per cent. If you look at the people who came out to help, it says a lot about the type of residents we have in our community.”

Francis said events like the Run For Heroes Marathon are “critical” to communities.

“It’s an opportunity to showcase the community and there is no great proof of that then today,” said Francis.

One response to “Running with a Purpose”

  1. Vicki Burgess says:

    What a wonderful day! I was very impressed with the number of teenagers who were cheering us on. What an encouragement to see our youth involved in community.