Canadian father of two runs, works full-time, and still sets records

Canadian Calum Neff is a father of two, is on-call seven days a week and continues to race and perform at a high level.

Calum Neff

Goodnight sweet Holland, that was a pretty epic day!

A photo posted by Calum Neff (@calneff) on

Canadian Calum Neff, who made headlines across North America this week for setting a pending world record in the half-marathon with a stroller, is back at it again this weekend running the Skechers Performance L.A. Marathon on Sunday. He’ll be running solo this time around.

Neff ran a (pending) world record with a stroller in the half-marathon (1:11) last weekend in Katy, Texas with his daughter Holland. He broke the previous record by two minutes.

“Holly was my wife’s idea,” said Neff. “Our first daughter’s name is Alessandra and my wife saw the two names together at some point and thought it was a perfect match so Holland Rose it was. She is such a special girl, her grandparents call her the Holly-Lama because of how happy, peaceful, and content she has always been. She wakes up every single morning with a huge smile and carries that through the day, she lights up every room she’s in. We got lucky, twice, that’s for sure.”

Working in the oilfield as an operations manager in Houston, Neff is reachable 24 hours a day, seven days a week and during busy times of the year, all-nighters are not out of the ordinary.

“During a Gulf of Mexico project, I worked most of a regular office day, did a quick mile repeat session on my way to a client’s office where I stayed until 4 a.m., and just barely made it in time to the local running store for the weekly 5 a.m. bagel run,” adds Neff.

With two daughters, an 11-month-old and a three-year-old, family time is the number one priority in the Neff household with hide-and-seek and playful games before dinner, bath and bedtime. Only after the kids are put to bed is Neff able to get out for a run or a session on the Zero Runner elliptical machine, a treadmill-elliptical hybrid.

“Behind it all is my amazing wife who definitely pulls a lot of weight around the house and is very supportive,” says the 31-year-old University of Houston graduate. “It’s rarely easy but we take each day as it comes and if I miss a day or two I don’t worry too much, sleep is always more important to me than trying to fit in more miles.”

Now living in Houston, there are certain Canadian-staples unavailable to those living south of the border. Neff makes his way north to Calgary, where he attended high school, once a year for work and spends a few additional weeks on vacation in Canada.

“We miss our family and friends the most but Tim Hortons and poutine are a close second,” laughs Neff. “I really miss the mountains, nature, adventure, and sometimes winter. Not having a winter season means I’m now running year-round rather than skiing.”

Over the past few years, Neff has been a mountain runner first, and roadracer second competing for Canada at the World Mountain Running Championships. The summer he and his family got transferred to Houston, he went from living next to the Rocky Mountains to residing in flat-Houston.

“The largest hill I found in Houston for training was a grassy seated area of an outdoor amphitheatre.” Despite the lack of elevation, Neff finished in the top-50 and was the second Canadian at the World Mountain Running Championships in Wales in September.

Neff has been busy so far in 2016, racing the Houston Marathon in mid-January and alongside a celebrity no less.

“I ran the first 13 kilometres with Sara Hall before she cut off for the half-marathon, and Ryan Hall (who I had just got to meet that morning) was trying to keep up on this rickety red rental city bike with a huge basket on the front. I couldn’t help but laugh. That image of him in a trucker hat struggling with every pedal is one I will never forget.”

Ryan Hall is the fastest American ever in the marathon and recently announced his retirement from professional running. His wife, Sara, will be in Saturday’s U.S. Olympic trials race in search of a spot on the Rio team.

Since Neff will be in Los Angeles for the Olympic Trials, he offered us his predictions for the nation’s most exclusive race.

Women: Kara Goucher, Sara Hall, and local Houston Becky Wade
Men: Meb Keflezighi, Dathan Ritzenhein, and Luke Puskedra.

Conditions are going to be hot this weekend but Neff says a personal best is not out of the question. He’s run as fast as 2:22:59 in the marathon.

“If I’m feeling good I’ll see if a PB is possible. Racing and placing high is more realistic than a fast time but I secretly like absolutely terrible conditions and tough courses.”

Neff adds that the U.S. Trials has had a huge impact on the sport of running in the United States incorporating excitement and uncertainty in who will make the Olympic team.

“Rather than the encouraging standard I see down here (Olympic/U.S. standard is 2:19) I think the Canadian standard (2:12:50) is a little discouraging for athletes like me who are right on that edge. I wish Canada had a marathon trials like this.”

Cover photo: Julie Neff.