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Taking the long way home

BELLEVILLE, Ont. - I pull into the Mortrans yard in Belleville, Ont., scanning the lot for my interviewee. The lot is muddied up from a night of rain, with trucks and trailers lined up in rows scatter...


RUNNING MAN: John Dooreleyers, pictured, has competed in the Boston Marathon and other international events.

RUNNING MAN: John Dooreleyers, pictured, has competed in the Boston Marathon and other international events.


BELLEVILLE, Ont. – I pull into the Mortrans yard in Belleville, Ont., scanning the lot for my interviewee. The lot is muddied up from a night of rain, with trucks and trailers lined up in rows scattered about the property. As I pull in closer to the Mortrans office, I’m greeted by one of the company’s rigs bobtailing down the main road with a friendly hand extended out the window.

“Are you Adam?” the driver calls.

“Are you John?” I call back.

He says he is and invites me to follow him around while he attaches his trailer. When I first see him sitting in his cab, I’m still not quite convinced of his apparent talent. But when I see him break into a steady trot to link the truck and trailer, followed by a brisk jog to his car to retrieve his workout gear, I know I’ve got the right guy.

It’s John Dooreleyers: part-time driver, lifelong athlete and recent marathon runner.

The 42-year-old father of four says running is in his blood, picking up the talent from his father who used to run marathons back in his day.

“My Dad could run the marathon in 2:38 and that’s really smoking,” he says.

Though running has come somewhat naturally to him, it wasn’t until a friend suggested they train to run the Toronto Marathon a couple years ago that Dooreleyers started thinking he could be competitive at it.

Ultimately Dooreleyers ran the race, clocking what he calls a “reasonable” time of 3:12. The time was reasonable enough to earn him a place at the Boston Marathon, one of the toughest marathon events to qualify for. Since then, he has run the Prince Edward County Marathon, placing thirteenth out of 450 runners, and most recently running the Fortis Rotterdam International Marathon in the Netherlands in April. At the Rotterdam race he clocked an impressive time of 2:59, placing 361st out of more than 11,000 people and 77th in his age group.

“It’s a hardcore marathon. It’s one of the best in the world,” he says.

In all, Dooreleyers has participated in five marathon races, with no plans of slowing down just yet. But how does one balance the bum-numbing life of a truck driver with the gruelling task of training for a marathon?

Working only part-time with Mortrans helps, he says, but focus and discipline are vital as well.

“You have to commit to yourself. You have to take steps to work for it,” he says. “A lot of people are talkers: ‘I should do this or I should do that.’ But you have to make it a part of your lifestyle. Many drivers make coffee a part of their lifestyle. With most drivers, the first place they head in the morning is Tim Horton’s. It’s the same as saying, ‘Okay, I’ve got to go for a run.’ Running for truck drivers is about the best option they have (for exercise). Running you can do any time, anywhere, even in some industrial park.”

Personally, Dooreleyers likes to do his running at night around 9 or 10 p.m., but admits that the life of a trucker doesn’t always allow for him to be choosey.

“Say I’m going to New York tonight with the truck, I know I’d better get in a run this morning,” he says. “It’s just a matter of disciplining yourself to take the opportunity (to run) when it’s offered.”

But he admits there’s a great difference in intensity between working out and training.

“With training you have to be very focused and disciplined, so you have to make the time whether you want to or not,” he says.

When training close to the marathon date, Dooreleyers says he can run as many as 100 km a week – a difficult task if it weren’t for the helpful dispatchers at Mortrans.

“When I get closer to races, the dispatchers here are very flexible. They’ll shorten up my runs so I can run.”

But Dooreleyers admits that not everyone needs to be a marathon runner to stay in shape. In fact, he acknowledges how hard such hyper-athleticism can be on your body.

“Running’s good for you, but to take it to the level of a marathon really isn’t,” he says. “I know truckers that work out at the YMCA on a regular basis, longhaul drivers, guys that do coast-to-coast. You can just go home and play squash. Not everybody has to run marathons.”

Outside of the truck-driving marathon-running world, there is a marathon runner in his 70s who consistently sets records for his age group. Though Dooreleyers says he doesn’t necessarily want to be that guy, he says it’s something to shoot for.

“I may be in the best shape of my life, but it can’t go on forever,” he says. “I like to keep in shape, but it takes an awful lot of commitment to run in a marathon.”


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