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Canadian Running’s personalities of the year

See who made the list of Canadian Running's personalities of the year for 2016.

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Canadian Running

The past 12 months have been quite the year in international athletics as well as on the Canadian running scene. The highlights include the Rio 2016 Olympics, feel good stories here in Canada, controversies as well as notable race results.

Beyond the medals and international attention, these Canadian personalities have notable stories of their own. Click on each header to read the full backstory behind each of Canadian Running‘s personalities of the year.

Ed Whitlock




Arguably the most intriguing runner in the world, Ed Whitlock continues to run times that many only dream of. The 85-year-old broke numerous world records in 2016 including a remarkable 3:56 marathon in Toronto in October, taking more than 30 minutes off the previous men’s 85-89 world record.

See the full five-page feature on Whitlock in the January/February issue of Canadian Running.

Evan Dunfee

The fourth-place finisher in the 50K race walk at the Olympics was in the conversation for flag bearer for the Rio closing ceremony because of his post-race sportsmanship. He was in a battle with bronze medal winner Hirooki Arai when the two were involved in a mid-race bump causing Dunfee to stumble. After an initial disqualification that moved Dunfee up to the bronze medal position, the result was reverted back to Dunfee being fourth. He didn’t pursue further action.

“I will never allow myself to be defined by the accolades I receive, rather the integrity I carry through life,” he said after the race.

This fall, Dunfee entered a half-marathon in Vancouver and opted to run it rather than walk. He went on to win in an impressive 1:10.

Melissa Bishop

Though Bishop was unable to reach the podium of the women’s 800m at the Rio Olympics, the Eganville, Ont. was purely classy after the race thanking her fans for their support. She ran 1:57.02 to set a new Canadian record and matched the best finish ever by a Canadian with her fourth-place result.

Some competitors openly raised questions regarding the women’s 800m because of controversy surrounding champion Caster Semenya. The South African track star is an intersex athlete and there was confusion over whether or not that meant she also had higher-than-normal testosterone levels. Bishop didn’t take part in that discussion. Rather, she admitted that she simply didn’t run fast enough to earn a medal.

“There is so much controversy right now,” Bishop said. “I’m silent because I literally have zero control over this issue.

Yvette Drapeau

Not many people would consider running their first marathon during their 80s. But Yvette Drapeau, a grandmother of nine, completed the Quebec City Marathon in August running her first-ever marathon at 80. She finished in 5:54:46.

Pacer the dog

Reid Roberts
A special mention goes to Pacer the dog, who is credited with helping save the life of his owner, Reid Roberts. On a trail run near Prince George, B.C., Roberts was attacked by a black bear. Pacer, a border collie, came “barking and biting” and provided a distraction for the bear as Roberts was able to escape, though he was injured quite seriously.

Wild Bruce Chase

A team of 18 runners set a new fastest-known time on the Bruce Trail this summer breaking the previous end-to-end all-women’s relay record by 40 hours. The 18-person team completed the 900-plus-kilometre trek from the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula to Niagara in four days, one hour and 39 minutes.

Peter Eriksson

Reid Coolsaet

Athletics Canada fired Peter Eriksson recently after the nation had its best Olympic medal haul in athletics since the 1930s. The head coach was consistently making headlines because of runners being named or left off of Team Canada for the Olympics, his clash with Lanni Marchant and his interaction with the media.

In the end, Athletics Canada CEO Rob Guy said that the decision was “was necessary to ensure sustainable international success.”

Nick Elson

Nick Elson finished second at the Mount Marathon Race in Alaska this summer, considered one of the toughest races in North America. The Canadian Mountain Running champion covered the 5K course in 43:06, one of the fastest times in the event’s storied history.

The race is known for its 921 metres of elevation gain and involves running 2.5K up to the summit of Mount Marathon and turning around and finishing in Seward, a town of approximately 3,000. Elson also helped save Adam Campbell’s life during a late-summer rock climbing accident.

Lanni Marchant

Lanni Marchant has been in the headlines a number of times in 2016 for speaking out on women’s issues to Canada’s MPs, running the 10,000/marathon double at the Olympics and finishing seventh at the New York City Marathon. The 32-year-old has been one of, if not the, most talked about elite athlete in the Canadian running scene.

Gary Robbins and Rhonda-Marie Avery

Rhonda-Marie Avery Barkley Marathons
Considered somewhat of a legend in the trail running community, Gary Robbins made it farther than any other Canadian in history at the Barkley Marathons. The Tennessee trail race, which regularly has zero finishers because of its difficulty, is held annually in Frozen Head State Park.

Also competing at the Barkley Marathons was Rhonda-Marie Avery, who became the first blind runner to ever attempt the difficult 100-mile (160K) race. Though she did not complete a loop of the course, she was racing for more than 30 hours in the thick brush of Tennessee with guide Christian Griffith.

Louis-Franck Valade

Louis-Franck Valade
After losing his lower right leg in a serious motorcycle crash, Louis-Franck Valade showed what perseverance looks like by completing a 10K one year after surgery. The Carleton-sur-Mer, Que. resident ran 1:01:05 during Marathon Baie-des-Chaleurs race weekend.