Running Hall of Fame
Felix LeBlanc is a lifetime member of the ORRRC who has around 50 years of experience as a volunteer, competitor and endurance seeker. He recently shared some of the stories he has garnered in that time.
When he was 31 LeBlanc worked as a contactor at Wright Patterson and was looking for physical activity since he was overweight. That is when he decided to pick up running. Shortly after this he became an ORRRC member in 1969.
In 1973 LeBlanc took over as president of the club. The previous president opened the trunk of his car to give him the club’s supplies.
“The club fit into a box,” he said.
A typical race in the earlier years of the club would draw 50-100 people. Most events would be held in the Monroe area, including the ORRRC marathon and would usually get the most entries at around 300.
The Frostbite 5 is the oldest ORRRC race, and in some of the early years the weather was very inclement with excessive wind chills and icy roads as it has been on several recent occasions.
“There were a couple of years we had to move the start line because it was that frosty,” LeBlanc said
During his years as club president LeBlanc would often be the race director, including an invitation only 50k in Beavercreek. He still has this role at the Sugar Maple race along with Bill Mercer.
Word of mouth from the core members was the primary method used to attract runners to events. LeBlanc would use an electric typewriter to produce a club schedule. He would also note financial transactions. Membership would be logged by written signature.
In 1972 LeBlanc competed in his first of seven Boston Marathons that decade. After a hectic start where he says the pack carried him the first 15 feet, it was pretty quiet with not a lot of crowd support. This changed when he approached the cheering students at Wellesley College.
“In those days because there were so few runners strung out they came right into the street and formed a single file gauntlet, which you ran down through,” LeBlanc said. “The hair on the back of your neck just stood up because they were screaming as loud as they could as you’re running by. You go from a terrific start where you’re all jazzed up to trying to calm down, and every time you go through a town there is something magical happening.”
LeBlanc’s Boston debut would conclude with a 3:26 time. His second attempt in 1973 would end in a time near four hours on a hot day, but he did have a story to tell with a mile to go.
“As I’m walking off to the side this person standing there says, ‘Take a slug,’” LeBlanc said. “He’s got a king sized beer. I take the slug, and I run the rest of the way in after that.”
At Glass City in Toledo LeBlanc had his personal best marathon time of 3:10. To accomplish this he focused on keeping up with a runner going at a pace he wanted. This was the same strategy he used in 1979 at Boston.
“There are instances where if you can focus either on catching or staying with somebody it really helps you through a long event.”
In the 80s’ LeBlanc started pacing races on his bike, which he still does for club races typically on the bike paths. He rides to the turnaround point in some events and puts a cone down.
Also on the bike LeBlanc has gone on several lengthy cycling journeys. His longest came in 1996, when he went on a 61-day trek that started in Connecticut and traversed north all the way to the Canadian province of New Brunswick. He then rode back to Ohio to conclude his 2800-mile trip.
Another arduous feat for LeBlanc was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Everything was going according to plan. After covering 860 miles he broke his arm when he tripped.
“I didn’t catch myself and took my arm above my head. When I landed and bounced along the pack came down and broke my arm,” LeBlanc said.
There was a nearby ranger station where LeBlanc would get medical attention. He wasn’t deterred and hiked the remainder of the trail the next year.
“After those four months I was 128 lbs. If you put a pack between 30 and 40 lbs. on your back and walk at least 10 miles everyday you’re going to lose weight,” LeBlanc said. “You could count every rib on my chest. I had a perfect six-pack.”
Some of his impressive feats show the longevity of LeBlanc as a runner. He has been in all 40 Dayton River Corridor Half-Marathons and completed the JFK 50 mile race in Maryland 14 times during the 80s’ and 90s’.
LeBlanc’s lifetime of dedication to his running community made him a natural choice as an inductee into the Dayton Distance Running Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1986. Enduring is something he has proven more than capable of, which makes his continuing service to the club no surprise.
Today LeBlanc cycles instead of driving, and after the interview he was back on his bike to return home.
--written by Alan Hieber