PROFILE--Stefan Fekner has been running for 40 years

(Apr. 2020) Stefan Fekner has been running in and around Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for 40 years. A city planner who doesn't drive a car, he gets around on foot. (And occasionally on bike). Fekner, now 67, has a marathon PR of 2:28, but for many years specialized in ultra-running, particularly the 100K distance. He often used Thoreau and other similar thinkers to inspire him "to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Career-profession? City Planner 1978-2014, Edmonton, Alberta. Awards: Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) 1995. Eric W. Thrift Award of Planning. Excellence Grand Prize; Alberta Association CIP Award of Merit – 2008 and 2009.

Part time employment/activities: University of Alberta Faculty of Extension online instructor in Applied Land Use Planning; elections (municipal, provincial, federal) as registration officer; volunteer at track and field meets. 

When did you start running and why? In high school, we did not have a track, but I managed to run around Victoria Park and one year, a 3-mile run on the streets. I hated it. In 1980, I saw
the City of Fredericton, New Brunswick Planning Director and City Solicitor running together after work. This inspired me to try a mile run on a track. Subsequently, I purchased my first pair of good running shoes and ventured out into a brave new world. Running seemed to come effortlessly and soon I got the competitive bug.

How much did you run in your peak years?
1992 10,810 km
1993 10,265 km
1994 10,105 km
1996 10,345 km
At my peak, when I was running ultras, I would run twice a day and average over 100 miles a week while racing shorter distances on weekends. I would build up to run two
20+ mile runs on the weekends, typically with different running groups.

Top performances or achievements?
# 1988 UltraRunning Magazine’s Male Ultrarunner of the Year
# Canadian National 100 km Champion – 1993, 1994 and 1997
# International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) World 100 km Championships – nine events; 3rd place (1990, only Canadian ever to place) and 5th place (1988);
Canadian National team captain (1994, 1995, 1996, 1997)
# Eleven sub 7-hour 100 km performances
# Alberta Provincial Marathon Champion - 1989
# Alberta Cross Country Team: 2010 (50+, 1 st ), 2011 (50+, 1 st ), 2012 (60+, 1 st ), 2013 (60+, 1 st ) – Athletics Canada National Cross Country Championships
# Marathon: 2:28:06 (1992)

Any estimate of lifetime miles? About 160,000 miles as of January 31, 2020.

Current training? I now average about 400 to 500 km a month running. I have diversified to cycling outdoors and indoor spins with Cycle-Logics; dragon boat
paddling with the Uncivil Serpents; some skating and infrequent swimming; and a lot of walking as I do not drive a car.

In recent years, I stretch religiously twice a day for about 20 minutes each time. I also have a plethora of rollers and muscle stimulation/massage devices. Maintenance of the body is integral to running regularly and racing. I now cycle on rest days and like to read while sitting on a stationary bike.

Any recent race results? Army 10 km – August 18, 2019 Race # 645, 44:32 1 st in 60+. River Valley Park Run 5 km – Oct. 19, 2019 Race # 657 22:30. I've run 671 races as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Does it bother you to be slower now? As soon as I want to complain, someone comes along with a far worse health issue or running injury to remind me that I am indeed blessed to be able to continue being physically active. From the beginning, my decision to run was a lifestyle choice with a
goal of lifetime running. I still compete because I enjoy the ambiance and the fellowship. I’m motivated by people who tell me that I should not run or am not capable of accomplishing some goal. I am inspired by older athletes, especially those who are just battling at the back of the
pack. These runners contribute greatly to running by encouraging others to participate.

Weight or diet changes? My weight has remained quite steady, around 140 pounds since university. I take
some regular supplements of multi vitamins, calcium, vitamin C, and Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM. I have a sweet tooth and chew gum. You need some bad habits as a reward for all of that physical activity.

Injuries or health challenges? 100% of runners get injured. Runners are somewhere between congenitally stupid,
very stupid and stupid. I have improved from somewhere between the first two to somewhere between the latter two.
I have had some back and foot issues but no knee issues, largely due to good biomechanics and running form. I also have a strong immune system, rarely being
sick and off work. On August 11, 2018, I suffered a concussion and various bruises and abrasions from a bike accident. I don’t like to take pills and prefer natural healing over prescription medicines or invasive surgery. Many injuries stealthily creep up over time. Quick cures are not likely and runners have to be smart and patient – an
uncommon virtue.

Any favorite inspirational quotes? 
In university, I started a life long hobby of collecting quotable quotes which I have
used at work, at play and in social occasions. Truly, there are many words to run by. Before my first ultra in Vermilion, Alberta, I quoted for the media, Henry David Thoreau
– “…I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Tips for would-be lifetime runners?
1--Make running a regular habit, a lifestyle choice over competition if you want it to last for a lifetime.
2--Run with a group if you can. Runners are a universal community of kindred spirits.
3--No one forces you to run in races. Enjoy your moment in the sun. Extract whatever pleasure you can from just doing it.

How does running improve your life on a daily basis? Oxygen fuels the body, the mind and the soul. It gets me outdoors even on the coldest, darkest winter days. I can’t contemplate a retirement of sitting in front of a TV,
phone or computer screen all day. That life isn't worth living. You have to make it worth living.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running? It's no secret: Life is about preserving a balance of physical, mental, spiritual and emotional values; leaving a positive contribution to the community, the planet and your fellow human beings; and “being in the (competitive) arena” so that your “place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat” (Theodore