A man whose incredible stride and record-breaking runs endeared him to fans throughout the Cowichan Valley has died at age 70. Al Howie, a Scottish-born ultramarathon runner who called Duncan home since 2005, died Tuesday from unknown causes.
Howie first took up running as a hobby in the 1970s after quitting smoking. He moved to Victoria in 1978 and began long-run training between island cities, frequently running around Cowichan Lake where an annual race named in his honour was held in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
In 1980, Howie ran his first marathon in Edmonton, after which he ran from there to Victoria, where he then entered the very first Royal Victoria Marathon.
These events kicked off a decade of incredible feats for Howie. In 1981, he set the Canadian and North American records for 24 hours of continuous running. Held in Ottawa, it was called the Self-Transcendence 24 Hour Race, and Howie took first place each year from 1981 to 1985. In 1987 he broke the record for longest continual run, completing 580 kilometres in 104.5 hours. He also ran the length of Britain in just over 10 days.
Howie was beset with several health conditions during his life. In 1985, a malignant brain tumour was discovered behind his right ear. Ultimately the tumour reversed itself.
He also developed Type 1 diabetes in the 1990s, which he lived with until his death.
In 2007 he received the Perpetual Trophy for Excellence and Sportsmanship from the City of Duncan.