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Tuesday, May. 21, 2019
Renard adds New York City Marathon to his running resume
by Randy Pascal

Pascal Renard can now add New York City to the list of worldwide destinations, sites to which his life-long passion for running has led.

Born in France but having moved to Canada in 1999, the 42 year-old came to Sudbury in 2014 with his wife, his partner accepting an offer of employment with Laurentian University.

By that time, he was already a veteran of the marathon circuit, adding the New York City Marathon as the latest conquest to his list last month.

“I started to think of myself as a runner when I was seventeen,” said Renard, who spent much of his foundation training years in the west central French city of Limoges. “I joined the club then, and I haven’t stopped since. There was not a lot of snow on the ground, so it was actually pretty safe to run around the university. We could train outside all year long.”

While many will forego escalating the length of their runs until their young adult years, Renard amped up his mileage more quickly. “I joined the group, and the group were guys who tended to do longer distances on the road,” he said.

“The road racing circuit there was pretty strong at that time, so we would do 10 kms, 15 kms, or even 21 kms. I would have been 18 or 19 (years old) when I did my first half marathon.” As is the case with so many runners, Renard’s was a voyage into the world of self-discovery, an endless search of his personal athletic growth potential.

“I don’t think of myself as that talented,” he suggested humbly. “I have just always wanted to see how I could explore the sport and continue on that path of wanting to explore my limits, finding new goals and new motivations leading up to a race.”

By the time 2008 rolled around, Renard was prepared to challenge himself with the 26 mile standard that dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks. “I thought I would explore the distance, after having done quite a bit of other things,” he said. “Berlin was becoming a very good race, and a fast race as well, and I’ve always had a connection with Germany.”

“My sister lived in Germany for many, many years, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try it.” Interestingly enough, given the fact that he has chosen to complete the distance, in race conditions, nearly a dozen times, Renard will quickly attest that this is perhaps not his best option, as a runner.

“The marathon has never been a great race for me, meaning the last eight to ten kilometers has always been so hard, a big fade,” he stated. “You’re always after almost an imaginary experience. You want to picture yourself as running well right through that distance.”

“But because it’s so long, so many things can happen, so many things can turn wrong during the race. You hope you can build on the experience of that first race to improve on, which I somewhat did.”

Certainly, there were no illusions of grandeur, no unrealistically lofty expectations from a man who has clearly established himself as an elite Sudbury marathoner, second only to his much younger counterpart, Eric Leishman.

“By the time I started to do marathons, the pressure was much less for me to perform, in a way,” said Renard. “I wasn’t really after something big or competing against anybody. It was just for my own sake. In that way, I was more relaxed.”

Still, he concedes the lure of the adrenaline rush, one that is far more powerful when dealing with events that number in the thousands. “I’ve tended, over the years, to choose bigger races, just as an experience,” he said. “Not only the number of competitors, but also the number of people cheering you on along the sidelines.”

With his sister now State side, living in New Jersey, the 2017 New York City Marathon provided Renard with a compelling mix, a setting which fell very much in line with his vision of the ideal race, as well as a chance to re-connect with family. In the end, it made for another memorable 42 kilometer jaunt.

“You get a sense for the huge size of the city,” he recalled. “That first bridge is so wide, most of the streets are very, very wide, with non-stop crowds. You had the streets to yourself.” In that sense, it very much differed from some of his earlier races.

“Boston is more rural, in a way, until you get near the end. In Ottawa, there is a lot of greenery. With New York, there’s lots of big buildings, lots of things to look at along the way, so no time to get bored.” It was a definite highlight, even if perhaps not at the absolute top of his list.

“I could say my favourite is the one where I ran the fastest, which was the Marathon of Hope in Hamilton, five to six years ago,” said Renard, reminiscing on his personal best time in the neighbourhood of two hours and 34 minutes. “It was a pretty decent race, not too much fading at the end.”

Looking forward, he continues to test his boundaries. He has now competed at the Cross Country national championships in the masters category, a true master given that he has surpassed his 40th birthday. “It’s nice to still keep that strength and speed that you need for shorter distances,” he remarked of the eight kilometer course.

He also foresees a return to the West Coast, the Vancouver Sun Run a must do again after competing in one of the bigger, if not the biggest ten kilometer race in the country on one occasion to date.

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