Chuck Chamberlain London MarathonThe owner of Tomahawk BBQ restaurant, a much-loved institution in North Vancouver, is running in this year’s London Marathon to raise funds for the Crimestoppers program. While that by itself is remarkable, what makes it even more extraordinary is that Chuck is over 70 years old and has never trained or run a marathon before. He shares his thoughts on being inspired, being focused on a goal and being driven to do the unexpected.

What inspired you to sign up?

I happened to be in London last year when the Marathon was happening. They were setting up barriers in Trafalgar Square and, never having watched a marathon before, at first I thought it was a festival or a parade.

As I watched the runners, one fellow in particular came into my line of vision. A soldier in full camouflage gear, on one leg, on crutches. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Two crutches down, swing his leg. Two crutches down, swing his leg. The look of determination on his face, I can see it to this day. I was so awestruck by him that I tried to find out who he was even after I returned home to Canada. I never did find out. But it was the sight of him, and the thought of his courage and determination, that made me decide I was going to run that marathon myself.

Chuck Chamberlain London marathonHad you ever run or trained before in some kind of sport?

No, not really [laughs] … not unless you count the swim classes the Vancouver Sun used to put on at Ambleside in the 50’s.

Was it easy to sign up for the marathon?

Not at all. When I went to register, they told me it was full and the only chance I might have was if one of the charities accepted my application. I’ve since found out it’s quite difficult to get accepted because of the sheer number of applications they get.

I chose Crimestoppers as the charity to run for because we’d supported them here in the lower mainland with donations, food and beverages. I wrote a letter telling them about how seeing that soldier with one leg on crutches made me feel and what an honour it would be to run beside him. The people at Crimestoppers said they were moved by the story and that to them it symbolized what the race was all about. So I got a spot.

So what did you do?

Well, the first thing I did was talk to Anthony Findlay down at Level 10 Fitness. I said to him, “Anthony, have you got a minute, I’ve got a major problem here. I’ve never run a day in my life, but I want to do this marathon next year.” He told me to come back the next morning to get started. That was 38 weeks ago.

How did the training go?

The first day was the worst, where I was supposed to walk for 5 minutes and then walk faster for 30 seconds. That felt like the longest 30 seconds of my life. I think both my lungs came out, said hello to each other and slapped me silly. It was awful.

Chuck Chamberlain London marathonBut I kept at it. I just kept thinking about the infantryman I saw that day.

Now I’m doing seven to fourteen miles per day, five days a week. I had to go for a medical because everyone seemed to be getting a little nervous [laughs] … and the doctor was astounded. He said, “You’re doing a what?” I get that a lot. But he gave me the go ahead and told me to keep it up, that my age wasn’t an indication of what my body was doing.

How long do you think it’ll take you to run the race?

I have no idea. I just know it’s going to get done.

Any correlation between what you’re doing and what it means to run a successful business?

Well, the Tomahawk restaurant will have been in business 90 years this year. And I’m just as passionate about running the business today as I am about running the race. So I guess it’s all about commitment and drive and a desire to succeed.

What do you think you’ll say if you see the man who inspired you?

If I see him in the race this year? I’m honestly not sure what I’d say. But I’d definitely walk beside him. That would be just great.