Photos by Justin Van Leeuwen.
Running 21.1 kilometres in a twenty pound shoe roughly the size of a smart car is, believe it or not, a dream come true for Wellington West’s Geordie McConnell.
The triathlon coach and marathon runner spent years living in London, England and always admired the costumed runners that are a big part of the tradition of the London marathon. “I wanted to help introduce that tradition of raising awareness for a cause to Ottawa,” says McConnell. And twenty years later, he has done just that.
“Whenever we’d watch a parade, or see a mascot in a fuzzy costume, my wife would give me a funny look because she knew I was trying to figure out if that was a costume you could run in or not,” laughs McConnell who successfully completed the Ottawa Marathon in 2012 in his Sole Man shoe.
The giant shoe is intended to raise awareness for Sole Responsibility, an organization that collects gently used shoes and donates them to those in need around the world through the guidance of the United Nations High Commission of Refugees. McConnell sits on the board of Sole Responsibility and raises money for the non-profit through the Ottawa Running Club.
When he’s not running in it, the shoe lives in McConnell’s mom’s garage. “The two students in the Carleton Industrial Design program, Kim Thompson and Kevin Spencer, who constructed the shoe for me last year, did an incredible job of making the shoe lightweight and durable,” says McConnell. A backpack frame keeps the shoe balanced on McConnell’s shoulders. And trays inside the shoe’s frame offer spots for a map, gels and other snacks to help him keep his energy up during the run. But after last year’s inaugural marathon, McConnell realised he hadn’t asked for a deconstruction plan and the shoe was too large to fit through the doorway of his Wellington West home.
After carefully rehabilitating a torn meniscus he sustained this winter through a moderate amount of slow running and lots of time on the bike and in the water, McConnell is running the half marathon on May 26 during Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. He expects to cruise down Wellington West between 10:00 and 10:30 am. He’ll have a runner escorting him throughout the race, passing him water and nutrition as he needs it and being there in case there’s anything he needs.
“One of the thrills of last year’s run was sharing the excitement with each of the runners who escorted me 10K on the marathon route,” says McConnell who saved the final 2K for his cobblers, Kevin Spencer and Kim Thompson.
“I’m hoping to see more runners in costume this year,” he says. “It’s fun to run in a costume and I like the athletic challenge.”