One sock, one shoe, all heart

Shoeless cross country runner prevails over ice and snow

Glenlyon Norfolk School student and Oak Bay native

As Ben Weir approached the starting line of the provincial cross country championship race in Prince George on Saturday, one thing crossed his mind.

“How to separate myself from the (300) runners. It was pretty crowded and the trail narrowed fast,” said the Oak Bay teen.

Within the first 100 metres Weir was clipped from behind and tripped to the ground. His left shoe was nearly pulled off, but not quite. Before he could adjust it, he was up and running.

“(The shoe) was half on, my heel was out, and I thought I could figure it out as I went. But that wasn’t happening, so I knocked it off.”

It was one degree celsius, with most of the 6.7 kilometre trail ahead of him. A trail consisting of ice, rocks and tree limbs, as well as some mud and snow.

Despite falling and going with one shoe, Weir surged to catch the lead pack, meaning he spent a good amount of the limited fuel a runner can expend in a race.

The 17-year-old finished second overall, 15 seconds back of winner Tim Delcourt from Surrey. When Delcourt learned what Weir went through to finish second, he tracked him down, shook his hand and gave him a hug, said Weir’s coach, Paul O’Callaghan of Glenlyon Norfolk School.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important the proper footwear is in a race,” O’Callaghan said. “We go over a lot of things before the race, footwear selection and identifying every possible scenario so you can be ready. And we even mentioned what to do if you lose a shoe.”

The key is not to panic, which is exactly what O’Callaghan shouted to Weir in their quick opportunity to chat on the first of the three laps.

“I said, ‘I lost my shoe,’” Weir said. O’Callaghan’s response was to, “stay composed, stay focused.

“A lot of athletes would spend energy worrying and either drop out or drop in the standings. The key is refocus on the task at hand,” the coach added.

Crucial to Weir’s success was his ability to keep his rhythm, which he managed to do despite running in just a sock.

“There were some jagged rocks, especially on the downhills, which is where I lost time, but mostly it was snow and mud, and my foot was pretty numb,” Weir said.

“In 30 years of Olympics and world championships I’ve never seen anything like it,” O’Callaghan said.

The most refreshing moment of the race for Weir was catching running mate Liam Kennel of Oak Bay High. The running mates finished one-two at the recent Island championships and managed to stay within striking distance of Delcourt until the final kilometre.

“We knew at that point it was all or nothing with Delcourt getting away, so we went for it,” Weir said.

Kennel came in third, six seconds back of Weir, with Thomas Getty of Mount Douglas Secondary in seventh. All three train with Keith Butler in the elite after-school program and are headed to the national cross country club championships at Jericho Beach on Nov. 24.

Weir is currently weighing his post-secondary options as a cross country and track and field student-athlete in Canada and the U.S.A., with an eye on engineering.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers sees 37 per cent increase in tips in 2019

The non-profit takes anonymous tips from the public, brings information to police

Almost 150 calls of service for Westshore Towing during snowstorm

Most calls were from Sooke, Metchosin and Highlands

Esquimalt, T’Sou-ke nations join more than 50 other members in South Island Prosperity Partnership

Chiefs look forward to creating ‘sustainable future’ for next generations

Langford Legion gives the gift of tech to elementary school

Savory donation of $2,680 funds four Chromebooks and two iPad minis

Canada to bolster screening of central China passengers for virus at 3 airports

Additional measures will include messaging on arrivals screens in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver

Ice chunk from truck crushes vehicle windshield on Vancouver Island

None injured, but Nanaimo RCMP say there can be fines for accumulations of ice and snow

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Intense winds en route to Greater Victoria

Winter storm warning in effect for east and west regions while wind warning to hit south and north

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

Most Read