At 55, David MacLennan is one of the Maritimes’ best runners. He also may have the highest winning percentage of any marathon in the country.
MacLennan started running when he was 15. “My first race was the Run for the lobster 10K,” he says, looking back on hundreds of races. MacLennan focused solely on shorter distances for his younger running years, but eventually moved up to the half-marathon. In the late 80’s, he took on the marathon for the first time. “After that point, I was hooked on the marathon distance,” he says.
He started getting better, and also started winning.
His first victory came in 1996 at the Valley Harvest Marathon, in Wolfville, N.S. He finished in an impressive 2:36, but his marathon PB would come in 2000 at the Johnny Miles Marathon, in New Glasgow N.S., when he ran 2:33:35, making him one of the fastest Nova Scotians ever.
“Of all this marathons, he’s won an astonishing 31 of them, or a perfect 50% winning rate.”
To date, Maclennan has run an impressive 62 marathons, and ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon for the first time in 2018. But what’s most jaw-dropping about MacLennan is his winning percentage. Of all this marathons, he’s won an astonishing 31 of them, or a perfect 50% winning rate. In Toronto, he finished in 2:40:17, making him the seventh fastest masters runner overall, with all athletes ahead of him in the World Masters Marathon Championship held at STWM between 10-14 years younger than MacLennan. One age-grading tool puts that performance at a 2:15:20, which is nearing Ed Whitlock or Gene Dykes territory.
When asked about his two personal favourites from the 31 times that he’s broken the tape, MacLennan says two memories immediately come to mind: “My first win in ’96 because I wasn’t expecting the win or the time,” he says. “The other is at the Johnny Miles Marathon, when I tied the record for most wins there at nine, with local marathon legend Bob Russell.” MacLennan went on to bring his Johnny Miles win total to 12 since then.
For this STWM build, MacLennan, now one of the better masters marathoners in the country and a top 50+ age group runner, put in some mega workout weeks. “My highest mileage week was 214 kilometres,” he says, fit around his work as a non-food manager at the grocery story giant Sobeys . When asked about one of the defining workouts of this training cycle, he refers to a complex effort involving both hill strength and long pace effort. “During my training for Toronto one of my workouts consisted of a 3K warmup, 5 x 1K hill repeats, trying to be consistent on all climbs, finishing with 8K of tempo.”
“My advice for this marathon is even pacing—know what pace you want to run at—because the course is mostly flat, making it easy to get a rhythm going.”
For MacLennan, two memories stand out from his STWM experience. “First, the way the course is laid out, you get a front row seat as you meet the frontrunners during the first and second half of the marathon,” he says of the pair of out-and-back sections on both the extreme west and east ends of the citywide course. “Another high point was when I crossed the line and heard that Cam Levins had broken the 43-year-old Canadian record.”
As for advice MacLennan would like to impart to anyone thinking of running STWM for the first time in 2019? It’s about being even. “My advice for this marathon is even pacing—know what pace you want to run at—because the course is mostly flat, making it easy to get a rhythm going.”
And when asked which race he’d recommend visitors to the Maritimes bucket list for something a special to the region, his pick is fitting (and one he’s, unsurprisingly won in the past). “My favourite run would have to be the Antigonish Highland Games 5 Miler. It brings out some of the area’s best runners. I have been fortunate to win the race that has been won by other local runners like Eric Gillis and Mike Tate, to name but two.”