FREETOWN – Steve Reeves has accomplished something not many runners have – or ever will have – on their resumé.
The dairy farmer from Freetown emerged victorious in the 2018 Saloman Sonofa Gunofa Run at Five Islands Provincial Park in Nova Scotia last weekend.
“It’s a fairly reasonably technical single track trail,” explained Reeves, 42. “The race is organized by a couple of friends of mine, Jodi and Karine Isenor. They have been putting it on for a few years, and what it consists of is you do a 5.8-kilometre loop, and you have one hour to complete that loop.
“Basically, anybody who is back in the starting corral at the start of the next hour is eligible to start the next loop again. It’s the last-man standing type of event.
“You go as many hours as you can. You have to be inside that starting corral (to start the next loop), and there were actually two people DQed (disqualified) because they were two feet from the square at the start of the next round. All of this gets harder and harder as you get sleep deprived and tired.”
This year’s sold-out race featured approximately 100 runners. Reeves clinched the victory by successfully completing the course 24 times, which is a new course record. Yes, that’s correct – he was on the course for over 24 hours straight either running or preparing for the next loop!
“There is a lot of strategy in this race,” said Reeves. “If you run the lap faster you have more rest, but if you run too fast you will wear yourself out.”
Reeves felt between “eight and 10 minutes rest was the right amount” between loops.
“I usually got back so I would have eight minutes to get some food, use the washroom and just get ready to get out on the next lap again,” he continued. “Everybody had a different strategy. There were a lot of mind games going on when you get closer to the end.
“Everybody is pretending they are feeling really good because they want the other guys to drop out.”
The previous record of 18 hours was set by Jean-Marc Boudreau of Moncton, N.B., in 2017. Boudreau was this year’s second-place finisher after completing 23 laps.
“It was a real fun battle with Jean-Marc this year,” said Reeves. “He’s an extremely tough competitor, both physically and mentally, and it was a real pleasure to spend time with him on the trail.
“We had a lot of good talks out there. Even though it was a race, it was a friendly rivalry.”
Overall, Reeves ran 139.2 kilometres over the two-day event, which started on July 14 at 9 a.m.
“It’s not a flat course by any means, it’s just a little under 14,000 feet of climbing in the event as well,” Reeves said. “You are gaining a lot of elevation with each loop, and that wears on you over time as well.”
Reeves admitted darkness came into play.
“Once you got into the night time that’s when it got hard,” continued Reeves. “There were five of us left for quite a while it seemed. It just seemed like nobody was going to give. . . Everybody was kind of thinking everybody was going to gut it out to the end, but slowly they started to drop off until it was just Jean Marc and I on the final loop.
“He indicated about a few hundred metres into the last loop (23), he said, ‘I’m done. If I can get to the end, time out, you can win and run the next loop yourself.’
“I just slowed down, we ran together and had a great final loop, and got to know each other really well. It was a pleasure to race against him for sure.”
Q and A
Steve Reeves questioned about Sonofa Gunofa Run:
JP: What makes a runner want to do a race like this?
SR: “It wasn’t very many years ago I would see someone running outside along the road, and I thought they were nuts. It’s funny how things change. I had some back issues from the farm, was having real problems with my back and the doctors recommended swimming. I started to swim a bit, and it just happened there were a whole lot of people at the pool I was swimming with who were doing some of this stuff. It kind of started in triathlon.”
JP: How were the conditions, and were they a factor?
SR: “Conditions were really good. It got a little warm in the afternoon (on July 14), but not scorching hot like we’ve had lately. I think it only got down to about 17 degrees (Celsius) at night, so you were still in a T-shirt and didn’t have to get warm clothes on.”
JP: How did you feel at the end of the race, and did you feel you still had some gas left in the tank?
SR: “I felt pretty good. It’s one of those things where everything has to fall into place. People dropped out for stomach problems, tiredness, blisters and everything just went right for me this year. It’s the first time I ever done the event, and I felt really good actually. We finished Sunday (July 15) around lunch time and Monday morning (July 16) I was back in the barn and worked all day. It worked out better than I thought it would.”
JP: Can you talk about the strong camaraderie that exists within the running community?
SR: “The type of people who tend to participate in these events are happy, positive people. They always have a good attitude, and enjoy getting out, being healthy and seeing what they can do.”