forty years of awesome

Len Rolfson is a Manitoba Marathon legend, but also a great guy to have the pleasure to get to know. Len retired from his work with the Province of Manitoba eight years ago and is enjoying his retirement traveling throughout North America with his wife Trish, running a variety of marathons along the way. But he never misses the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Full Marathon. Like ever. Len is the only person to have completed all forty Manitoba Marathons: a remarkable achievement that we were very pleased to share in celebrating at this year’s race. Len had all of his finisher shirts made into a quilt and he was kind enough to let us display it at the Global News Fit Expo.

When Len isn’t running you can find him cooking, cycling, working out and, of course, developing training plans for upcoming races. Congratulations on all of your achievements so far, Len. We can’t wait to see what you do next.

Why Do You Run?

I enjoy running because it is such a pure and simple sport that provides so many benefits. Running became a lifestyle commitment for me shortly after getting ‘hooked’ on the first Manitoba Marathon in 1979. Besides the obvious physical health benefits attributed to running, I have a great appreciation for the positive mental aspects resulting from an active running lifestyle, such as that general feeling of well-being on an ongoing basis, the sense of gratification after a hard training session or that sense of achievement after a well run race.

What was the most personally challenging race you have ever run & why?

The Canadian Death Race (a 125 km, 24 hour adventure race held in the mountains of Grande Cache, AB) has definitely proven to be the most challenging race in which I’ve participated. I ran it in 2002 in a time of 23:35. The race was particularly demanding in that it was run through very difficult mountainous terrain, in part during the night and with the ever present danger of wildlife encounters. The tough physical demands coupled with the required logistical planning made the entire experience truly exciting.

What is your number one method for injury prevention?

I try to include strength training, stretching and foam rolling into my training program as much as possible. I find this particularly important as I get older, along with incorporating more rest days when necessary.

What is your favourite post-run snack?

A bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, banana and maple syrup along with a cup of coffee.

What goals have you set for yourself in the past year? How have you worked to achieve them?

Throughout all my years of running I have typically laid out a plan for a given year or race season and then trained to achieve certain goals such as a specific time, a fitness level or injury avoidance. For the most part, I have achieved many of my running goals. However, in 2018, to celebrate the 40th Manitoba Marathon, my goal was to have a finish time far better than any in recent years. My training went as planned; I was relatively injury free and felt pumped and ready come race morning. From that point on very little went well and I finished with my second worst Manitoba Marathon time ever. Oh well, the best laid plans!

What does race morning look like to you?

I don’t like to leave anything to chance when it comes to race preparation, so after having laid out all required run gear, nourishment, etc. the night before, I arise early, get dressed, have a small amount to eat and drink, stretch and warm up and then head to the race site. I like to arrive at a race well in advance of the start…some in my family would say it’s excessively early. I prefer to do this to avoid the stress associated with finding parking, washroom lineups and feeling rushed. This puts me in a much better frame of mind and helps to ensure a more relaxed and enjoyable race.

What is your number one “get pumped up for a great run” song?

I don’t have one particular song that motivates me, but any hard driving, fast paced, classic rock & roll tune will get the job done.

If you could travel back in time, what would you tell yourself when you first started running?

When I first started running in the late 70’s there were very few resources available that related to training and racing. It was a fly by the seat of your pants, learn as you go type of environment. I wouldn’t necessarily change any of that because it was a new and exciting adventure, but one thing I would tell myself would be to take part in more races and perhaps push a bit harder in training.

Do you have a running role model or anyone in particular who keeps you going or contributes to your training?

One runner that I’ve always admired is Bill Rogers. I think this stems from the fact that he was in his prime at the time I was getting into the long distance running world in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I also met him a little over 20 years ago at a local Running Room and was very impressed with his friendliness and down to earth demeanor.

My wife Trish is my biggest supporter and although we don’t run together, she has always been there for me to provide encouragement, advice and understanding.