Canada's Longest Running Marathon
On August 10, 1963 nineteen men lined up at Glenmore Stadium to run the first Calgary Marathon, and what was also the first marathon ever to be run in Western Canada. Only twelve men finished the race that day, which took them on an out-and-back course aside traffic along Macleod Trail. Thirty-one-year-old Doug Kyle was the victor in a time of 2:45:54. The rest of the pack ranged in age from 17 years to a spry 38 year old. The course had been measured by Bill Wyllie, using his car's odometer to determine the distance of 26 miles, 385 yards. A mere five "refreshment" stations, offering only water, lined the course, making for 10 water stops in the out-and-back. For the most part the runners were on their own, after being given instructions and brief directions at the starting line. Charles Hanna of the Canadian Legion fired the gun, as the official starter.
Before they even got to the starting line, however, there was a medical doctor on hand whose task was to examine all of the athletes. One of the runners, Gordie Dixon, was nearly disqualified because the doctor, not being a sports specialist nor familiar with distance runners, declared that Gordie's pulse was just too low. Despite his "medical condition of a low heart rate," Gordie went on to win the race the following year.
The marathon was the brainchild of Calgarian Doug Kyle. At that time Doug was Canada's fastest runner, having competed for Canada in both the 1956 and the 1960 Olympics in both the 5,000 and 10,000-meter distances. He was nearing the end of his competitive career and was looking for new challenges, so he looked to the marathon. At the 1959 Pan American Games, after competing in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter events, he decided to enter and run his first marathon: he placed seventh! Upon returning to Calgary, he somehow convinced a good-natured Bill Wyllie to join him in his efforts to hold a marathon in Calgary; after all, how difficult could it be? In Bill Wyllie's words, "the two of us 'beat the bushes' to come up with our 19 entrants."
Doug's motive was simple: to bring the 1964 Olympic time trials to Calgary. If they could successfully hold a marathon in Calgary, he felt that he could convince amateur sports to host the Olympic trials in Calgary the next year, instead of the usual Ontario choices. Our high altitude and the hometown advantage would put the Calgary runners at the front of the pack. Doug succeeded in his goal: the Olympic trials were held in Calgary the next year, at the second Calgary Marathon.