In honour of the famed athlete, “Al Howie Trail” is the name of a new section of trail linking the Keystone development’s Highland Avenue to the greater Cowichan Valley Trail network.
The legendary ultramarathoner was one of the most recognizable runners on Vancouver Island, across Canada, and around the globe for not just his skills but his character.
“Al was an extraordinary athlete that challenged human endurance and willpower to the limit,” said North Cowichan mayor, Jon Lefebure. “He was also a man that used his talents to raise the awareness and donations for various community causes.”
Born in Scotland in 1945, Howie moved to Victoria in 1978 and took up running as a hobby.
Just a year later he decided to run from Victoria to Prince George to participate in the Prince George marathon.
Inspired by Terry Fox, Howie began to train for longer runs and in 1980, he ran from Edmonton to Victoria to attend the Royal Marathon.
But that was not his longest run.
His longest and most famous run came in 1991 when he ran the length of the Trans-Canada Highway, all 7,295 kilometres of it, from the Mile Zero sign in St. John’s, Nfld., to Mile Zero in Victoria, B.C. It was the equivalent of 2.4 marathons a day for 72 straight days. He raised more than half a million dollars for children’s charities in the process.
A brass plaque honouring the epic feat is embedded into the Mile Zero sign in Victoria beside the Terry Fox statue. The endeavour also earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
His running career continued over the next two decades, where he won more than 50 marathons, ultra marathons and multi-day races, including the Sri Chinmoy, a 1,300-mile race which he entered just two weeks after completing his cross-Canada run. Naturally, he won that in a record time of 16 days, breaking his own record.
In 2005 the famed runner moved to Cowichan. In 2007 he was awarded the City of Duncan’s Perpetual Trophy for Excellence and Sportsmanship. He was also inducted into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
It’s only fitting that a section of Canada’s longest trail is named after him.
Howie died on June 21, 2016.