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A 26-mile stroll in the park

Greenwood cruises to silver in Vancouver marathon
Ellie Greenwood
North Vancouver's Ellie Greenwood is all smiles as she cruises the seawall during last weekend's Vancouver Marathon. The ultra-marathon specialist used Vancouver as a tune-up race yet still managed to finish second.

North Vancouver's Ellie Greenwood finished second in last week's BMO Vancouver Marathon, putting up a time of two hours 43 minutes and four seconds. That's pretty good, particularly when you consider that she wasn't really trying all that hard.

Greenwood, a native of Scotland who moved to the North Shore two years ago and is soon to become a Canadian citizen, specializes in ultra-marathons, making Sunday's 42.2-kilometre route a veritable stroll in the park. Greenwood finished second behind Kim Doerkson of Gibsons despite never really putting it into high gear - she's saving her legs for a 90-kilometre ultra in South Africa at the start of June.

Contacted on Monday, Greenwood said she was feeling very little pain despite racing the 26-miler just the day before.

"I am feeling exactly how I wanted to feel, which is I'm not doing the usual hobbling around after a marathon," she said with a laugh. "Definitely I ran harder than if I was on a training run but I held back a little from giving it absolutely 100 per cent."

The race actually panned out exactly how she wanted it to, said Greenwood, with Doerkson opening up such a big lead that there was no chance to catch her with a late-race sprint.

"Kim, who won, is a friend and I really wanted her to have a great race. And she did," said Greenwood. "She was so far ahead that even if I had been racing I wouldn't have been as fast as she was."

Greenwood, in fact, said the race was a lot of "fun" - not a word normally associated with a marathon.

"I did (have fun)" she said with a laugh. "So many people that I knew were racing, which is nice."

And the distance, if taken at a reasonable speed — fast enough, say, to finish second out of 2,117 runners — is one that doesn't really phase Greenwood at all.

"It is totally normal for me to run 40 or 50 kilometres on a weekend as a training run," she said. "Just not that fast."

The 35-year-old is still pretty darn fast though. She won the Vancouver Marathon back in 2012 when she wasn't saving her legs for anything longer. She still, however, is not considering any kind of switch in focus — her main goal is winning the really, really long ultra-marathons with a few regular marathons sprinkled in to keep things lively.

"I don't specialize in marathons," she said. "Sure, if I happen to enter a marathon that I think I can win then yeah, I would love to. But they tend to be races that I use in preparation for other races, rather than target races on their own."

What is on Greenwood's hit list is races like the Comrades Marathon, an approximately 90-km road race in South Africa billed as the world's oldest and largest ultra-marathons. Close to 16,000 runners are expected to turn out for the race.

"It's a very prestigious ultra," Greenwood said. "There's lots of hype around it."

If Greenwood is in top form — and Sunday's result seems to indicate she's pretty close — a victory in South Africa is a real possibility. She finished second there in 2012, the same year she won the prestigious Western States 100 Mile Endurance Race and the JFK 50 Mile Race on her way to earning UltraRunning magazine's 2012 North American female Ultrarunner of the Year award.

By the time this year's race is finished she may be a Canadian citizen, or at least well on her way. Greenwood, who has lived in Canada on-and-off for more than a decade, is scheduled to take the citizenship test this week and, as long as she passes, should have her citizenship ceremony before the end of the year. She seems to know her stuff.

"John A. Macdonald," she says with extreme confidence when asked to name Canada's first prime minister, although that question may have been a bit too easy considering the Scottish roots Greenwood and Macdonald both share. She should be OK on the tougher questions too though.

"I will do some revision," she said. "Some of it is very obvious but there are some bits where you need to read up to truly know what's going on."

What she does know for sure is that she loves living on the North Shore where she has world-class training options right outside her front door.

"I love it here," she said. "Six or seven days of the week I'm out running.... That's what I want to be doing most days of the week."

With the mountains so close — and for a runner like Greenwood, "close" is a relative term — there's no need for her to ever have to drive anywhere to find good trails mountain trails.

"I just run," she said with a laugh. "That's perfect."