As a single mother of three, it goes without saying that Denise Robson does plenty of running around.
But Robson is not just a single mother of three; she’s also the fastest 40-and-older marathoner in Canadian history. And for her, running around involves a lot more than the traditional duties of parenthood.
The 40-year-old fits in training whenever she can: shorter runs on her lunch breaks; longer 12-kilometre runs from her office near the Armdale Rotary to her home in Cole Harbour after she’s done work.
“I shake my head all the time,” Robson groans, at how she manages training with girls aged eight, 10 and 12.
“I have to balance things because it’s important my running time isn’t taking away from my time with my kids.”
Robson was a cross-country runner during her university days at Dalhousie, but quit “cold turkey” 19 years ago.
It wasn’t until five years ago that she took it back up.
She had no grand visions of running a 42.2-kilometre marathon. She was going through a separation and just wanted to relieve some stress.
“A co-worker asked me to join them for a lunch-time run,” she recalls.
“I thought, ‘Hmm, why not? Some time away from my desk, some fresh air? It would do me good.’”
Five months later, Robson entered the Prince Edward Island Marathon “just to say I’d done it.”
“It was totally as a lark,” she says.
It turned out to be a lot more than that. She was the fastest woman in the P.E.I. Marathon with a time of three hours, 13 minutes, and qualified for the Boston Marathon — something that usually takes years of training — by more than 30 minutes.
“Everyone was like, ‘OK, wait a minute, you’ve got something here, Denise,’” she says.
“It’s been an addiction ever since.”
By the time she ran Boston less than a year later, she was 10 minutes faster than in her P.E.I. debut.
Her times improved continuously, and last month, she smashed the country’s 17-year-old masters record (and her personal best) by more than three minutes, running the California International Marathon in Sacramento in 2:41:12.
To put that time in perspective, only one man, David MacLennan, has ever recorded a time that fast in Halifax’s Blue Nose International Marathon.
Robson was taken aback when she was informed a week after the marathon that she had made history.
“I was like, ‘You’ve got the wrong person here. Are you kidding me, 2:41 is the record? Great, but I’m gonna be faster next year,” says Robson.
Her goal is to crack the two-hour, 40-minute barrier this year, and says the key to her success might be the 14-year break she took from running.
Many elite marathoners her age have run more miles and suffered more wear and tear.
Now, she wants to make up for lost time.
“I’m living a dream at 40 that I should have been living at 20,” she says.
“I missed that opportunity at 20, so now I’m going to run with it as far as I can, no pun intended.”