Horses take veterinarians for a run

Family affair


CARNDUFF, Sask. — They jointly run an average of 160 kilometres per week and that doesn’t include running to veterinary calls and chasing after three kids.


Dr. Marcel Macfarlane and his wife, Dr. Dawn Pauwelyn, are not only experts on equine colic, feline parasites and bovine prolapse, but they have mastered ultra-marathon running in their spare time.


They have sometimes gone to extreme and unusual lengths to fit lengthy training runs into their schedules. Pauwelyn has run 29 km back to town after dropping off a car at her in-laws’ farm while Macfarlane has jogged 40 km to the U.S. border and back for a parcel. 


Macfarlane can sometimes be found running next to a horse and rider as part of his quest to train for 50 to 162 km races.


“I’m always looking for ways to make training interesting, so I’ll call up my buddy, Jake, and say, ‘you ride, I’ll run,’ ” said Macfarlane, adding that while a horse has more speed, humans can have greater endurance.


Relying on his vast knowledge of equine physiology, Macfarlane said that when the environmental temperatures rise, a horse can’t cool off as quickly and that’s where he can outperform a horse. 


“I’ve done runs with Jake and when we got back in after eight miles, those horses were beat, but I was still OK,” said the 45-year-old vet.


What started out as a plea from Pauwelyn’s brother, Dave, for running partners in the Winnipeg half-marathon 12 years ago has turned into a life-altering pastime.


“It’s just fun to challenge yourself — I know I’m not getting faster, but I know I can always run farther,” said Pauwelyn, 47.


Jointly operating Souris Valley Vet Services in Carnduff, Sask., and caring for children aged eight to 15 are the couple’s primary priorities.


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When they can, they incorporate the kids into their training like last fall when the family helped a local rancher move his cattle 32 km by foot.


“We’re always training,” said Macfarlane. “A low-mileage week for me might be 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 km) and a high-mileage week would be 110 miles (177 km).”


Macfarlane was a volleyball player in high school and university before returning to his hometown area of Carnduff to practise veterinary medicine.


Pauwelyn competed in her high school’s track club, but it wasn’t until her truck-driving brother encouraged her to support him in his effort to lose weight that she began training.


The dedicated couple ran their first 50 km ultra-marathon in Idaho three years ago.


“We were hooked,” said Macfarlane, adding that they trained about 13 weeks for the race, logging approximately 1,290 km of training each.


The veterinarian couple runs for distance, but their times have earned them first-place finishes in a number of races as well. 


In 2009, Pauwelyn won Regina’s Queen City half marathon in a time of 1:29:59 while Macfarlane was recently a first-place finisher at the Spruce Woods Ultra-marathon in Manitoba, logging a time of 22 hours and 44 minutes for the 100-mile (160 km) race.


The pair said placement isn’t as important as running together. They agree that both couple time and family time, when the kids participate, bring the greatest sense of accomplishment.


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“I liked running in (a 50 km ultra-marathon three years ago) because the kids were there and ran the last mile with both of us and we stayed together as a family and even both won our age category,” said Macfarlane.


Macfarlane and Pauwelyn agree that their veterinary backgrounds gives them an insight to the human body that allows them to train better, eat well and reach their maximum running potential. 


They estimate that they burn about 14,000 calories, or one week’s worth of food for most people, in one 100-km race. 


Knowledge of carbohydrate in-take, fat reserves and calorie expenditure is important in both training and races.


“On even the skinniest person, you have about 60,000 calories of fat in reserve so it’s a matter of training your body to mobilize those reserves,” said Macfarlane.


As for future goals, the running vets said they simply want to keep running ultra-marathons.


“I think it’s just fun to challenge yourself,” said Pauwelyn.


Added Macfarlane: “When we’re experiencing activities with the kids, that’s the best.”

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