PEI

How an accident led an Island dairy farmer to competitive ultra-running

Steve Reeves' career as an ultra-runner began the day he was pinned against a wall by a steer on his dairy farm. Years later he is competing — and winning — in some gruelling events.

Steve Reeves ran almost 140 kilometres in a race in July

Steve Reeves, right, says running has improved his physical and mental states. (Submitted by Steve Reeves)

Steve Reeves' career as an ultra-runner began the day he was pinned against a wall by a steer on his dairy farm in Freetown, P.E.I.

His back was so badly injured he wasn't sure if he would be able to work on the farm again. On the advice of a doctor he joined a swimming club in Summerside.

Unexpectedly, he was exposed to the world of competitive running through many of the club's members who were triathletes. Reeves describes it as a "life-altering experience." 

You know that you're going to have those mental ups and downs, and if you can just stay positive, that's the big thing.— Steve Reeves

That's because Reeves is Sport P.E.I.'s masters athlete of the year for his successes in competitive running events in 2018, a long way to come for someone who a decade ago didn't understand the joys of running.

"It's funny how things kind of progress over time," he said.

"I was literally the guy 10 years ago, if I saw somebody running on the side of the road, I was like, 'What is that idiot doing?'" he said with a laugh.

Son of a gun

In July, Reeves competed in the 2018 Salomon Sonofa Gunofa Run, a last-runner-standing race in Nova Scotia's Five Islands Provincial Park. The race starts at 9 a.m. and participants have to complete the course — a 5.8-kilometre loop — before 10 a.m. If they finish within the hour, they get to keep racing. 

Runners continue going through the loop until only one person is left running. Reeves was the last runner standing of about 100, completing the loop 24 times and running 139.2 kilometres — the equivalent of more than three marathons.

He completed his last lap in just 36 minutes, 24 hours after the race began, according to the race's result page.

'Just kind of envision some happier things, because you will be in some pain for sure,' Reeves says of the strength needed to finish physically gruelling races. (Submitted by Steve Reeves)

"It's amazing how the body — especially when we did the long race, the 24-hour one, how you'd think you'd be so low and your legs are cramped and you don't think you can walk any farther, and then two hours later they feel fine again."

He said the unconventional nature of the race is what made him enjoy it so much.

"It's not an all-out race with wide open speed like we're used to in a lot of the events," he said.

"It's a really social event and that's where the enjoyment comes in. Met so many people on that race because you're going a little bit slower."

Running in the mountains

In August, Reeves ran in the Squamish 50, in the 50-kilometre competition, running through the mountains in Squamish, B.C. 

Reeves and his son both ran in the 2018 Salomon Sonofa Gunofa Run. His son ran seven laps of the 5.8 kilometre loop. Reeves ran 24. (Submitted by Steve Reeves)

Reeves finished sixth of the 360 runners that completed the race, with a time of five hours, 47 minutes and 29 seconds.

He said a race that long takes a physical and mental toll.

"You know that you're going to have those mental ups and downs, and if you can just stay positive, that's the big thing," he said. 

"Just kind of envision some happier things, because you will be in some pain for sure."

'A happier person'

On the flip side, Reeves says both his physical and mental state have improved thanks to running.

"I have no doubt in my mind that it's made me a happier person ... When you have a hard day at work or whatever and you get in the woods and for an hour-or-two run … all the blood leaves your head and goes to your legs, and you forget about all your problems, I guess."

'You know that you’re going to have those mental ups and downs, and if you can just stay positive, that’s the big thing,' Reeves says. (Submitted by Steve Reeves)

He credits his wife and children with supporting him — his seven-year-old daughter runs with him on the trails sometimes. He also said some of his employees on the farm have helped cover for him when he is off at an event.

Steve Reeves' daughter goes with him for jogs sometimes. (Submitted by Steve Reeves)

He said he hopes to be running for years to come.

"It's kind of given me a new lease on life."

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With files from Matt Rainnie

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