Les Disher during the latter stages of the Vancouver Marathon. Photo supplied

Marathon man eyes three-hour barrier at 70

When he reaches the 70- to 74-year age group, Les Disher is hoping to join the select few who have run under three hours in the marathon.

“There’s very, very few people on the planet have ever been able to accomplish that,” the 68-year-old Courtenay resident said. “That’s a pretty tough assignment. But it’s possible. It’s just a matter of learning the tricks and getting it right.”

Disher has dipped under three hours on a couple of occasions, at the 2014 Run for Water Marathon in Abbotsford, and later that year at the Chicago Marathon. At the latter, he ran a personal best time of 2:56.31.

In May at the Vancouver Marathon, he was hoping to improve on his time from last year, 3:15, which was the best time for men 65 to 69 years.

“This year I wasn’t as well prepared. I ran 3:19. It wasn’t what I was hoping to do. I’ve got a lot more in me than that.”

Disher, who worked as a forestry consultant before retiring, became a serious runner in his mid- to late-50s. For several years since, he has set national best marathon times in his age division.

“When I got started, I thought anybody that did a marathon was out of their mind. But it’s kind of like eating an elephant one bite at a time. I like the distance. There’s something about the distance. I can get going, pull up alongside somebody, have a conversation with them for a while. There’s certainly lots of difficult and unpleasant parts to it. It’s just a matter of getting used to it enough so that when you get to that point, it’s like renewing an acquaintance with an old friend.”

He is training for the Vancouver Half-Marathon June 23, and a Sept. 8 marathon in Burlington, Wash. — both stepping stones towards the sub-three-hour mark in a couple of years.

“I might be aiming a little high, but that’s what I’m aiming at. So what I’m doing now is going through the preparations over the next couple of years to see if I can get to that point.”

Disher runs at least five days week, at different paces, sometimes slow and comfortable, other times interspersed with harder running — mostly on roads.

“Each day is designed to trigger a certain adaptive response,” he said.

In terms of injuries, he has sustained “just about everything on the list.” But he’s been injury-free since seeking advice from a professional.

“Most people, when they get hurt, they’ll either try to push through it or they’ll give up. What I’ve learned is that if you apply gentle stress, and it’s done repetitively, and allow yourself enough time to heal from each of these stresses, and adapt gradually, then you can get by this. But we oftentimes don’t know how to do that gently.”

His advice to anyone wanting to take up running?

“Run at a pace that you can enjoy it, don’t kill yourself, don’t over-work yourself. Run and enjoy it. That’ll help to keep you healthy. If you can’t run, then get on a bike or get in the pool — anything that gets your heart rate up enough to get an aerobic benefit.”

Aside from running, Disher enjoys astrophotography.

“It’s another passion I have, is taking photographs of things in the night sky.”

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