Marathon Priest: Father Gerard Chaisson finds meaning in marathons

Father Gerard Chaisson finds peace when he runs. This Sunday, he will have special inspiration as he runs his 8th marathon in New York City.

Marathon number 8 has special meaning for Island priest

Father Gerard Chaisson says running marathons is a great way to travel. (Submitted by Father Gerard Chaisson)

Twelve years ago, Father Gerard Chaisson could only run for a minute at a time. This Sunday, he will take part in the New York City Marathon, his eight marathon and he will have some very special inspiration.

Chaisson is currently pastor at St. Mary's Parish in Montague, P.E.I., St. Paul's in Sturgeon, P.E.I., and St. Michael's in Iona, P.E.I., He first took up running after hearing his sister Jackie was training for a marathon. 

Chaisson remembers his first time running fifteen minutes without stopping on the Confederation trail — a big step. He kept quiet about it until just before running the P.E.I. Marathon for the first time.

"Nobody really knew I was training, but at mass one weekend I said please pray for me, I'll need your prayers because I'll be running the marathon," he joked.

"People thought it was great, they clapped."

'You don't have to take a taxi'

In 2007, he travelled to Greece to run the original marathon course as a fundraiser for an expansion at St. Pius X. Parishioners donated more than $31,000.

Father Gerard Chaisson at the finish line of the 2007 marathon in Athens, Greece. (Submitted by Father Gerard Chaisson)

After Athens, he did Toronto and Montreal, then the Paris Marathon, where he ran with a fellow priest.

Last year, he competed in Chicago. 

"Running has been good to me," he said. "It's a great way to visit a place and to run through the city, you don't have to take a taxi."

Father Gerard Chaisson ran the Chicago Marathon in 2015. (Submitted by Father Gerard Chaisson)

Spiritual journey

Running has also added to his spiritual life. He often runs in the early morning.

"When I run, I run with myself, my thoughts and with my prayer and it's something very peaceful, and it soothes the mind and the soul," he explained.

"It's a great way to be out with Nature, we know God is part of nature for sure."

Father Gerard Chaisson on the course of the Athens Marathon, which travels the original marathon route. (Submitted by Father Gerard Chaisson)

'A front row seat'

Chaisson will have special inspiration in New York. He will be wearing a photo of his late brother-in-law on his jersey, over his heart. Kevin MacDonald passed away from cancer a few weeks ago. 

Father Gerard has a photo of his late brother-in-law on the shirt he will wear in the New York City Marathon. (Submitted by Gerard Chaisson)

"He said I'd love to be with you in New York because that was his favourite city and I said, Kevin you'll be there," said Chaisson.

"He'll get a front row seat as I run through the five boroughs of New York, a city that he loved so much."

"When the going gets hard during the run, especially towards the end of it," added Chaisson. "I'll be thinking of him and all that he went through and that will get me to the finish."

Bucket list

Chaisson would like to do the London Marathon, though he says his mother would prefer that he hang up his marathon shoes. He said she worries about him running in big cities, or that he will get hurt.

"Visiting her this week, she said "this is it, isn't it?" said Chaisson.

His reply? "No Mom, I'm not finished yet."

Chaisson may also have some good genetics on his side. His cousin, Stan Chaisson, won the P.E.I. Marathon earlier this fall and holds the course record.

Father Gerard Chaisson takes a selfie on the start line of the Chicago Marathon last year. (Submitted by Father Gerard Chaisson)

About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog.