December Runner of the Month: Joe Duvall

If you have been running races in the Ottawa region over the last couple of decades you are sure to have met Joe Duvall at one moment or another. Not only has Joe been the Event Operations Manager at Run Ottawa since 2007, he has also been a member of the running community since he caught the bug in 1978.

“I was only 24 at the time. High school was a few years away but I was getting into a pattern where I smoked and I wasn’t doing much exercise besides playing some rec hockey and it was time to get back into shape,” says Joe. “I always gravitated towards running because it made me feel good instantly. All it took was for you to put some time into it. So I just picked up my sneakers and started running.”

Joe didn’t realise it at the time, but Ottawa’s running community was at the beginning of a boom as the recently established National Capital Marathon (now known as the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon) putting running on the map. In fact, it was the 1978 marathon that inspired Joe to take up running in a very serious way.

“That race featured a photo finish. The first two finishers were going to get to go on to the Commonwealth Games so there was a really big race to be second, and make it on the team,” Joe recalls. “I remember seeing that photo and thinking: What kind of shape am I in if these guys can sprint the final 300 yards of a marathon and I can barely run around the block?”

The 1979 National Capital Marathon was firmly in Joe’s sights. He finished and kept on running. Today, almost 40 years later, he has completed 47 marathons as well as numerous shorter races.

Early on, Joe joined the National Capital Runners Association (now Run Ottawa) for the training and the camaraderie. As a volunteer he helped organise bus trips to races around the province and he helped start some of the region’s most popular running events, such as the Richmond Road Races (which are coming up on January 14, 2018) and the Canada Day Road Races.

For Joe, it is the community that makes running worthwhile and memorable. “It’s the people you meet over the years and the friendships you maintain. That is what running is all about to me.”

Though he doesn’t run marathons anymore, Joe still travels and makes time to participate in some of his favourite races, including the Perth Glen Tay Block Race, the footrace in Williamstown Ontario, as well as several races in New York State.

With nearly four decades of running experience under his belt, we asked Joe what his tips are for runners. Here’s what he had to say.

  1. Remember why you run. “Sometimes we forget why we started in the first place. Many of us started for healthier lifestyle but we sometimes end up getting caught up in distances and times. There is nothing wrong with having goals but the obsessive compulsiveness, the aggressiveness and expectations can take the joy out of the sport. For me it’s about the commitment to being fit. Don’t let that get lost.”
  2. Set a goal that is modest. “Modest goals are great. You can achieve them and get a lot of satisfaction out of that.”
  3. “Do it because you want to do it. Do it because you can.”