Duncan Farthing-Nichol is about to run the Boston Marathon – in Haliburton.

When organizers of the iconic footrace were forced to cancel this year’s event due to COVID-19, they instead offered qualifiers an option of running a marathon in a place of their choosing.

Farthing-Nichol chose a 42.195 km route in his adopted home of Haliburton. He’ll run it Sept. 12.

The 31-year-old said he wasn’t surprised by the Boston cancellation.

“It was mid-March and it looked as if the world might not last much longer,” he said.


The marathon was originally scheduled for April 20. It was rescheduled to Sept. 14 before being called off entirely.

“I couldn’t grieve too much over it. And, to tell the whole truth, I was a little relieved because the delay meant I could take a break from my training regime,” Farthing-Nichol said.

He is back at it now, though. He runs four times a week. Monday is a steady eight or nine-kilometre run, Wednesday is hill repeats (run fast up the hill and slowly down, five or six times), Friday is kilometre repeats (run a kilometre fast, stop and rest a minute or two, then do it again), Saturday is a long run, up to 32 kilometres.

While naturally disappointed he’s not headed to arguably the most famous marathon in the world, Farthing-Nichol said he loves the virtual option.

“Even if I’d prefer Boston, I’d much rather run at home than shelve the whole thing and try again another year. Plus, this way, no travel, no worries, finish at your front door, couldn’t be easier. And the race organizers have done a wonderful job making sure we’ve the things we need to make it special – a custom audio track for the race, a website to design your own finish line, a medal in the mail.”

Farthing-Nichol qualified for Boston during the 2019 Ottawa Marathon. He ran track and cross-country in high school and started again a few years ago “because I can’t press a bench to save my life and being a skinny dude at the gym is no fun.”

He decided to run his first marathon because he was planning to run a halfmarathon and then thought, “in for a penny, in for a pound.”

This marathon will be his third. He has chosen a route that begins and ends at his girlfriend Jessica Slade’s house.

“I tried to avoid the highways, taking quiet, picturesque roads like Wigamog and Caribou instead. I may have erred in choosing the brutal hills of Pine and Harburn for my next-to-last stretch, but it’s too late now and maybe I’ll catch a second wind on the decline. I find the stretch near Fleming College among the most relaxed in Haliburton; I thought it’d work its pleasing magic as I make my way home.”

He ran his last marathon in 2:56:14. He doesn’t think he’ll make that same time due to the hills but thinks he’ll clock 3:15 and hopefully faster.

He said he loves running in the Highlands.

“People around here are lovely. Twice now I’ve gotten lost and needed to make a phone call (I don’t carry my phone while running), and neither time was it difficult to flag down a stranger to help me out.”

Sue Shikaze to run fourth time

Meanwhile, Sue Shikaze is planning to run her fourth Boston Marathon at home Sept. 12.

She ran in 2004, 2008 and 2015, each time in a different age group since they go in five-year increments.

“I made it a goal to run in another consecutive age group (55-59) in 2020,” she said.

She qualified at the Hamilton Marathon in 2018, receiving confirmation in September, 2019 that she was in for 2020.

Initially, when it was announced the Boston race had been shelved but she could run at home, she said she wasn’t all that keen.

“Training for and running a marathon is hard enough when it’s a big event, never mind running one alone. But I finally did register. It is only open to runners who were scheduled to run in April 2020, and instead of thinking of it as just a solo marathon, I reframed it to this being the Boston Marathon in 2020. It’s a unique experience.”

She said more than 17,000 people have registered worldwide.

“It has actually been more motivating than I thought it would be, and good to have an event and goal to be training for. I haven’t done quite as much mileage as I normally would for a marathon, but I’ve definitely been consistent and done some long runs that make me pretty confident that I’ll be able to finish in a reasonable time,” Shikaze said.

With Boston organizers bringing the marathon to the world, Shikaze said there is an app that all runners have access to, which has printable start and finish lines, signs for each town, sounds of cheering crowds and tracking, as well as the leaderboard. There’s also a medal, T-shirt and program.

She’ll start at 8 a.m. from her place on Gelert Road (south of Donald), to Lochlin Church Rd., Tom Bolton Rd, Kash Road and back home. It’s about 15.5 miles. She’ll do the remaining distance out and back on the rail trail towards Haliburton. She anticipates it will take about 4.5 hours and said, “spectators welcome!”

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