Spring Fling a tune-up for two

John MacNeil
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Joan Jeffery, Brenda Urton sandwich P.A. run between Boston, Saskatchewan marathons

The finish line was much like the start line for at least a couple of veteran runners who ran the Spring Fling road race last Saturday just outside Prince Albert.

The finish line was much like the start line for at least a couple of veteran runners who ran the Spring Fling road race last Saturday just outside Prince Albert.

Running in concert for the entire 12-mile distance, Joan Jeffery of Shellbrook and Brenda Urton of Duck Lake finished at the same time to win their women's division in the 34th annual Prince Albert Daily Herald race at Little Red River Park.

They practise a simple race strategy that's symbolic of the camaraderie common among runners.

"For the first eight miles, we talk and enjoy the scenery, and we get to work on the last four miles," said Jeffery, 59. "We were able to pick up the pace in the last couple of miles, pass a few people, and manage to cross (the finish line)."

Their winning time was one hour, 41 minutes and 44 seconds. But those numbers are secondary, say the longtime running mates.

"The times don't change much from year to year, but we're getting older, so that's OK," said Urton, 53.

"It felt really good today."

She estimated both women have run the Prince Albert race about 20 times. This year, it came just a couple of weeks after they completed their first Boston Marathon, and a few weeks before the Saskatchewan Marathon on May 24 in Saskatoon.

Regardless of the stature of the race, the tag-team running approach has served Jeffery and Urton well.

"It's important," Jeffery said. "It really gets us through the rough spots. I mean, this (Prince Albert event) is a fairly short race for us. It's only half the distance that we would normally go. But when we're talking something like Boston, or even Saskatoon, it really helps to have a running companion.

"You need the support when things get hard."

Sunny and dry conditions greeted about 65 runners and walkers in the Prince Albert event.

"It was a nice, calm day," Urton said. "It was lovely. And the road was nice and level and not too sandy, so it was easier to run. Great conditions."

Urton and Jeffery have run at least a dozen marathons, but last month marked the first time they tackled the prestigious Boston Marathon. They qualified last fall and trained for much of the winter.

"It was a wonderful experience," Urton said. "I mean, about 25,000 runners - it's just an amazing experience.

"We're cross-country skiers, so we train all year-round, anyway. We just did a bit more running this winter."

She's already looking beyond Boston.

"I'd like to try other places, because the marathon is only a small part of the trip," Urton said. "You just go to see the city and the sights. It would be nice to check out a different place."

Jeffery has a similar attitude about the added benefits of running and travelling.

"The whole Boston experience was just marvelous," she said. "We were there for a week, we did all the touristy things, and we met lots of interesting runners from Europe."

They always seem to meet new people, even at smaller races like the Spring Fling.

"That's why we come to these events, too," Jeffery said. "This is the first major run of the season here in Saskatchewan, so for people who don't ski, we only see these people now, during the summer at the runs. So, that's an important part. We've got our winter friends and our summer friends, and some of them cross over."

The women sampled cross-training this past winter as they readied for the April 20 marathon in Boston.

"We ski, but we had to get out and get our runs in, starting in January," Jeffery said. "It was minus 34 lots of days and very cold, so whether we were out skiing or running, we got out there and got the training done.

"We survived Boston, and actually did quite better than we expected, just because of the crowds and all the hype and all the distractions. It's amazing."


Organizations: Prince Albert, Boston Marathon, Saskatchewan Marathon

Geographic location: Boston, Saskatchewan, Duck Lake Saskatoon Little Red River Park Europe

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