Campbell River running legend turns 75

If you are a runner in Campbell River then you know Denis Hayes.

Denis Hayes continues to run his favourite distance

If you are a runner in Campbell River then you know Denis Hayes.

Hayes is the wiry, Irishman with the twinkle in his eye who is always out there on the roads and trails.

Hayes moved to Campbell River in 1981 with his wife Bridie and children Denise, Marcella and Tony. The move to Campbell River also marked a change in career for Hayes.

Hayes came to Canada from Ireland in 1953 and joined the army the following year. During his career as an army medic he could be found parachuting to injury sites, training in the Arctic and running to keep in shape.

It was during these years that Hayes realized that he had a talent for running. Running fast “ran” in the family. In 1908 his great uncle Johnny Hayes won the gold medal in the marathon at the London Olympics. Hayes ran his fastest marathon in two hours and 32 minutes.

Hayes’ army days took him to Toronto, Trenton, Victoria and Germany. He left the army in 1981, when he moved to Campbell River with his young family.

Hayes used his medical skills to become an environmental health officer for the federal government on the North Island. He visited remote settlements on the coast like Churchouse and Ahousat.

Hayes was also instrumental in establishing the new First Nations reserve in Gold River, moving it from its original location beside the pulp mill.

Hayes did not stop running when he came to Campbell River. He was a founding member of the first running club in Campbell River called the River Runners in the mid 1980s. He helped to mentor youth runners in the Comets Track and Field club and was constantly introducing runners to the many great running trails in Campbell River. Hayes regularly runs in the Vancouver Island Race Series which consists of races from 5-21km.

He has tackled the Tahsis Great Walk numerous times, placing 16th overall in 2003 in a time of 7 hours 17 minutes. However, his true love is for the marathon distance; 42.2 km. Since turning 65, Hayes has had three second place finishes and one first place finish (in his age group) at the Royal Victoria Marathon with a best time of 3:35:05. This was 45 minutes faster than the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon in his age group.

Hayes is now the proud grandfather to Elena 14, Ailsa 12 and twins Meghan and Miranda who are two. As Hayes turns 75 he shows no sign of slowing down. He lifts weights, runs almost every day and attends the Sportfit classes at the Sportsplex twice a week. He is often to be found regaling the patrons at the Willows Pub with tales of his army days, running exploits and trips back to Ireland.

Happy 75th Denis and may your trails always be long and easy.