Note: With the annual Dave Kaufman race set for Sunday, May 2, BayToday.ca is proud to publish the following article submitted by Tim Uuksulainen on Dave Kaufman. Michel Chartrand is the race director.
By Tim Uuksulainen
Special to baytoday.ca
For many, an awesome adventure may be that one big race vacation, the realization you have just completed your first Boston marathon that you spent years trying to qualify for it.
For others, it’s the journey and not the destination that proves to be one gigantic awesome adventure.
For Dave Kaufman of North Bay, perhaps it was a hybrid of both. Dave’s journey began in 1975 at 64 years of age, when he retired from his job as an air brake machinist with the Ontario Northland Railway. At an age when most people begin to wind down, Dave was off to a running start-literally.
Kaufman first came to my attention in 1990 when I moved to North Bay. I recall driving home on a Sunday morning, when I was held up, so a race could be started.
As a new runner to North Bay, I was interested in knowing more about this race.
It turned out the ‘Dave Kaufman 10km’ was initiated in 1986 by Mike Turner, a name some runners may recognize now, as a race director of several road races in the Toronto area, including the Longboat Island 10km run in Toronto.
At that time Mike had been working with Dave’s daughter Paulette, who inspired Mike with stories of her father’s exploits on the road, and was instrumental in Mike involved in taking up marathoning.
Inspired by this diminutive and energetic athlete Mike determined that a fitting tribute to Dave would be to host a 10km race in his honour. But I digress.
Dave had been active in sports, primarily hockey, golf and cycling most of his life with hockey being his main love until his mid thirties.
“I played hockey through my teens and into my thirties,” he said. “Memorable years included playing senior B in 1934 with the Stratford Indians. I recall winning the Senior Northern hockey Association championship with the Ankerite Porcupines.
“ I finally packed it in my 30’s as I only weighed 150 lbs soaking wet and the guys were getting bigger and bigger. Golfing and cycling were my sources of activity with some inconsistent running in the ensuing years. But I have to say my real athletic life began at 64 when I took up running with more fervor and started competing for the first time.
“When you start running as I discovered, you feel so good, you become addicted. It’s like floating on cloud nine. I started to see life on another level. My routine was simple, 12-15 miles every morning. I ate lots of carbohydrates, raw vegetables, pasta but not too much meat.
“Only problem I had in those days were dogs who didn’t seem to like runners. So I carried a telescope car aerial to tap them on the snout. That usually discouraged them. I didn’t want my wife Martha to become a runner’s widow, so I’m fortunately she was very supportive and I usually did most of my runs before she was even up,” he continued.
“My first race ever was the Canada day 5.2 mile road race in North Bay in 1974. That race gave me the racing bug. So when I retired, I had more time to train. I ran my first major track race at the Ontario Master Championships at the Oshawa Civic Centre in 1976, which turned out to be an epiphany event for me.
I entered four events 800m, 1500m, 5km and 10km. The highlight for me was breaking the Ontario record for the 65-69 age group with a 20.30. As I recall, I also did 800m in 2.51, 1500m 5.56 and the 10km in 43.46. My real love was the roads and the call of the marathon,” he said.
A bit of an understatement, as Dave would go on to run many races, including 18 marathons between 1976 and 1982
One senses that much of Dave’s success comes from a lifestyle grounded in family values consistency, hard work and a love for life.
Dave and his wife Martha recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. Married in Timmins in 1938, they raised four children Barry, Michael, Susan and Paulette.
Dave proudly notes that his children have picked up his love for physical activity and have competed in some road races. Likewise for his five grandchildren.
“Marathons were the big challenge in the 1970’s and became my calling. I ran the Ottawa marathon six times, with my first at age 66 in a time of 4.16. Eventually my best time in Ottawa was 3.44,” he recalled.
In 1978, Dave was featured in Readers Digest that focused on the Ottawa Common Wealth Marathon Trials. While the article focused on the great duel between Paul Bannon and eventual winner Brian Maxwell as the ecstasy of the race, Dave became the focus of the agony.
“My knee really acted up that day. It felt like someone was driving a nail into. I walked in spots and was ready to hop on the meat wagon but I finished in 3.47. It’s a race I was proud for not quitting,” he remembered.
A review of the 1977 world masers rankings showed Dave ranked 11th in the world in the marathon for the 65-69 age category with his 3.56.49. Dave would go on to post his personal best of 3.38.16 in the 1979 Panama City at age 68. Dave’s final race was the Snow Bird Classic in Panama in January 1982 just shy of his 71st birthday.
Osteoarthritis had started to affect his hips.
“I had my first hip replacement in 1985 and the other one in 1989. I continued to run until 1993, despite the protest from my family doctor who insisted hip replacement parts weren’t meant to hold up to running. However, in 1993, I tripped on a garden hose and damaged one of my hips that had to be redone. That ended my running for good. I really don’t believe my running was the prime cause, as arthritis is often set-off by immune system triggers that start the deterioration of the cartilage in your joints. While I couldn’t run anymore I continued swimming and cycling,” he said.
Over the years, the Pope, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and the Premier of Ontario have acknowledged Dave’s achievements. In 1988, Dave was inducted into the North Bay Sports Hall of Fame, a fitting tribute to a man who simply ran for the pure joy of feeling the wind in his face and a spring in his steps in pursuit of personal excellence.
At 92 years young, Dave still adheres to consistency, a love for life and family values. He can still be found doing his regular morning 90-120 minute walk along North Bay’s waterfront every morning between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
“I used to bike but my doctor was concerned about my balance and convinced me to stick to walking. I still follow running news and try to get out and watch the local races. I’m also proud to have a race named in my honour. I’ll keep showing up and firing the starter’s pistol for as long as I can. I’m definitely in it for the long haul. It’s been an adventure,” he said.
Dave’s philosophy is rather straightforward:
‘Don’t worry about finishing first but focus on bettering your time. That way everyone is a winner.’
I recently came across a statement ‘live simply — simply live.’ I think Dave would nod approvingly.