Wakefield runner completes longest virtual race ever
By Hunter Cresswell
When most people run 1,022 kilometres across Tennessee, they don’t usually end that run in Wakefield, but Dennis Ferris isn’t just any runner and this event wasn’t just any race.
It took Ferris, a 64-year-old insurance adjuster investigator, who was born and raised in Australia but moved from Orleans, Ontario to Riverside Drive 10 years ago, about 75 days to run the thousand plus kilometre distance from one corner of Tennessee to the opposite, as part of the longest virtual race ever.
“And now I’ve signed up for another, which I said I wouldn’t do, but it’s a short one; it’s only 200 kilometres,” Ferris said, who still retains an Australian accent.
The event Ferris ran in is the brainchild of ultramarathon running legend Laz Lake, who directs the famous Barkley Marathons and other ultramarathons. The event allows runners to log their running and walking distances from May 1 to Aug. 31 with the total coming to 1,022 kilometres.
“My dog [Tasha] has benefitted from it because I’ll go on my run in the day and walk her in the evening,” Ferris said, explaining that this helped him finish much quicker than expected despite starting the race a few days late, on May 4.
This wasn’t Ferris’ first running feat. He started out on high school track and cross-country teams at 16 and has run on and off his entire life. He used to focus on shorter sprints, but as he got older, he started taking on longer and longer distances and races.
He’s ran in 13 marathons and lost track of the number of half-marathons he’s completed.
“I think my last one was Boston [Marathon] three or four years ago,” Ferris said.
Over 75 days, he ran between eight to 20 kilometres almost every day, during which time he hurt himself twice falling down stairs while going to his basement office and had to rest and recover in the ‘middle’ of the race.
“As I was getting closer [to the end], I’d double up; do a 5K in the morning and more in the evening,” he said.
He did the entire distance outside on runs that began and ended at his Riverside Drive home near the Church of the Good Shepherd. He’d usually run across the covered bridge then decide whether to run north along River Road, through Wakefield Heights, up to the Wakefield Hospital, or another destination.
He finished 1,023 kilometres on July 19 on Riverside Drive near the intersection with Chemin Rockhurst, and noted that he added an extra kilometre for good measure. He was joined by two of his friends and running partner and ran through an impromptu finish line they had set up.
“That was quite amazing and emotional,” Ferris said. “I was extremely relieved to get it done because the distance was on my mind.”
To celebrate, he invited his running buddies over for social distanced tea and a swim in the river.
Ferris’ next virtual race started July 22.