Marathon Man preaches Zen-like experience of distance running

By Katy Peplinskie

Clad in sleek black spandex and running shoes, Dwayne Botchar looks like his name could be Mr. Marathon.

He is the organizer of a trip to the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov. 23.

About 60 Ottawa residents will be making the trek, with many hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Botchar is also an instructor at the Running Room. He helps athletes prepare for marathons like Philadelphia’s by conducting a variety of clinics.

His experience seems to be common knowledge in Centretown’s running community.

During an interview at an O’Connor Street coffee shop, Botchar is interrupted twice for information about Aqua Joggers and cold-weather jogging clothes.

He calmly and confidently answers both questions like someone who knows his stuff.

Still, why did he leave a career as a culinary chef and restaurant owner to devote more time to running?

“There’s no better place to be,” Botchar says. “Running is great and marathon running is even better.”

Both, he says, are physical and mental exercises.

“It’s your time to shut the world out,” he says. “It centres you.”

Botchar pauses a moment, searching for a way to further describe an experience that seems almost religious to him.

“It’s like Zen,” he adds.

Ron Hellard agrees. He has been running for 21 years and has participated in countless marathons and triathalons. Google his name and you’ll discover dozens of entries detailing his athletic endeavors.

“When the endorphins kick in, it’s unbelievable — everything just falls into place,” he says.

“Running is a great way to clear the mind,” adds Jim Robinson, organizer of Ottawa’s National Capital Marathon. “Once you get in the groove, few things can compare to the feeling.”

The Journal of Sports Science reports endorphins can make a mangled accident victim as serene as a Buddhist monk. This explains what makes a runner feel so great, to the point of addiction.

But Botchar says running is a whole other world from marathon running. It’s one thing to run five kilometres. It’s quite another to run 42.

That’s why many people give up marathon running before they even start, he says.

“We live in an instantaneous society,” he says. We want things to be fast, easy and immediately gratifying.

“Marathon running isn’t like that. It can take years to build up the endurance to run a full marathon.”

In fact, only about two per cent of the world’s running community has the physical and mental conditioning to run a marathon, says Botchar.

But, with proper training, marathon running can be a joy for anyone, Hellard says. His tip for beginners is not to do too much too soon. Get started and see where running takes you from there.

Robinson encourages everyone to run at least one marathon in their lifetime.