A run with Mike Suminski is equivalent to three doses of a high-energy drink. His arms stretch wide. He lifts his nose to inhale the fresh forest air atop Mount Finlayson as a small group of runners ascend the 419-metre mountain at Goldstream Provincial Park.
With the enthusiasm of a young boy, Suminski asks the runners, how their day is going. He’s intently interested in the response, and as he leaves the mountain top, he jokingly reminds them to be “careful with the bears.”
It’s clear Suminski loves trail running. It’s obvious in the way he runs the trail with bounds of endless energy and always ready with a laugh or quick-witted remark. Ask him of question about running form or where the trail goes, he’s only too happy to offer assistance.
Suminski, 62, has become somewhat of a legend on local trails.
“There’s nobody in town who runs who hasn’t heard of Suminski’s group or run with it,” said Moe Beaulieu, a longtime running mate of Suminski.
The group – loosely called Suminski Runners – has been around for more than 10 years. It started out as a clinic where runners would pay Suminski upwards of $100 to learn how to run the many wooded trails in Greater Victoria.
When the Capital Regional District wanted to start charging Suminski a fee for using the park because he was running a business, he decided to drop the clinic but keep the runs going.
These days, Suminski notifies the runners every week by email where the Sunday where the run will take place. The massive list, Suminski estimates, has more than 200 names. Every run is free.
“The social aspect, at least for me, is a big part of it,” Suminski said in an interview last week. “I love my running, but I really love the social aspect of it.”
Most Sundays between 20 to 30 runner comes out, and run anywhere from two to six hours on the trails. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or seasoned vet, you’re always welcomed.
“A lot of people fear coming out because they feel intimidated, but I always tell them we have five or six different pace groups, so nobody is left out,” Suminski said.
The Suminski Runners have certainly gone through their trials and tribulations.
Three members of the group have fought back throat cancer, and a fourth battled the disease before he joined in on the runs. Another was recent diagnosed with lymphoma.
But still they run.
The group has at least a dozen people who have completed a 50-kilometre ultramarathon, which as Beaulieu points out is “pretty phenomenal” considering the number of runners.
Larry Taylor, 66, is one of those runners.
Last year at the age of 65, he completed his first-ever 50-mile ultramarathon. He backed it up this spring by running a 25-kilometre race one day and a 50-kilometre the next.
“I was hooked the first day (with trail running). It’s like church for me,” Taylor said.
He added though that the one thing that keeps people motivated is Suminski.
For Suminski it is all the positive people around him.
“I found trail running such a positive environment when I discovered it,”he said. “It was so much better than running on the streets.”
A trail of success
So just how successful are the Suminski Runners?
Moe Beaulieu has run 130 ultramarathons and Rob Grant is credited with 81 ultras and 84 marathons.
Larry Taylor who joined the group in 2006 has run a 50-mile ultramarathon, four 50 kilometre races and has climbed both the Golden Hinde and Kusam Mountain.
This year two runners – Dave Small and Gary Anderton – completed the 120-mile Fat Dog in Manning Park.
Others have done just as well including Lori Heron, Torben Lind, Linda Tyrrell and Matt Cecil.
Earlier this year at the Sun Mountain race in Washington State, 52 runners from Victoria competed, most from the Suminski group.
Suminski believes it all comes from the love of trail running and the social aspect.
“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other than to be with each other,” he said.
• WANT TO LEARN MORE? Go online to trailsofthewestcoast.com or contact Mike Suminski at 250-920-0406