The iconic race, rooted in history, will look different in the year of the pandemic, with virtual events planned
To get better cellphone reception, Anne Johnston had to walk to higher ground in Exploits on Burnt Island in Notre Dame Bay, where she was on a "staycation" with her family.
“There’s actually whales spraying right off to the side of me right now,” she said. “It’s pretty windy right now, but I have a spectacular view.”
Climbing that small mountain was nothing for last year’s champion of the Annual Tely 10 Mile Road Race, who set a women's record by finishing the course in 54:24.
“The Tely was always that one race on the calendar that was there every year,” she said. “I love the Tely and I love everything about that event.”
Johnston, who was the 37th female to cross the finish line in the 2019 Boston Marathon, said when she was growing up in Torbay she looked forward to getting old enough to compete in the annual run.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Athletics Association (NLAA) — citing an inability to maintain appropriate health and safety measures — cancelled the 2020 in-person event, which normally draws thousands of runners as well as thousands of fans, and has pivoted to a virtual Tely 10.
People are being asked to compete in their own neighbourhoods, parks or even on their treadmill. It begins on Sept. 15 and participants can send their times in to the NLAA by Nov. 15.
Johnston said the cancellation was expected.
“It is disappointing, but I wasn’t surprised,” she said.
Now that it’s finally official, she has mixed emotions about the decision.
“You miss it and it’s something you look forward to every year,” she said. “The hype leading up to it, the training leading up to the Tely... Not having any races this year, you miss that whole atmosphere.”
That atmosphere was notably missing when Mark Hayward from St. John’s decided to run the course from Octagon Pond to Bannerman Road last month four days before what was to have been the date of this year's Tely 10.
“It wasn’t quite the same without all the people and all the fans,” he said. “It’s definitely more fun on the day of (and) hopefully we’ll get back to that soon.”
“It’s just one of those years where things don’t go the way that anyone has planned it. When it comes to our health, it puts things... in perspective. We’re doing what’s most important.” — Defending and 12-time Tely 10 men's champion Colin Fewer
Last year’s male champion was Colin Fewer, who ran the 10 miles in 49:49. It was the latest in a dozen championship trophies he’s won over the years at the Tely 10. That’s more than any other runner in the race’s history.
He wouldn’t have been able to compete this year, regardless, as he’s nursing an injury.
“That’s part of the life of a runner,” he said.
Thinking of the running community as a whole, he says he understands it’s a disappointment, albeit an expected one.
“It’s just one of those years where things don’t go the way that anyone has planned it,” he said. “When it comes to our health, and that kind of stuff, it puts things … in perspective as well. We’re doing what’s most important and we’re lucky to be able to race and run and have the freedoms that we have.”
For Johnston, the addition of a kids’ Tely 10 for this year’s virtual event is a welcome one.
“It might be an opportunity to make more traditions,” she said. “I have three young kids and my oldest is always asking when he’s going to run the Tely. So this year, maybe we’ll make it an event he can participate in and do more of a family affair.”
It will be more about having fun, rather than pushing the limits and trying to beat personal bests.
“(We’ll) take it as it is and seize the opportunity to do something different,” she said.