TRU Athletic Coordinator takes on daunting race

Jon Shephard showcases his love for running with completion of the 'Death Race"

Shephard started small before taking on the sport of extreme ultra-running with 125 km death race. (Submitted)

Jon Shephard has been the athletic coordinator of TRU for over 20 years. You might recognize him from the sideline of the Wolfpack games, wearing a headset and a goofy smile while he organizes the events.

He has watched 1,000s of games of basketball, volleyball, and soccer; he is on good terms with all the athletes involved.

With that being said, behind his friendly manner and sheepish grin is a secret: a deep dark secret. Jon Shephard loves to run.

He loves to run so much that earlier this August, Shephard attempted the Canadian death race. A race 125 kilometres long and includes over 17,000 feet of elevation. He completed the race after 21 hours 22 minutes and 21 seconds; something to ponder next time his fellow TRU athletes complain next fitness session.

I asked Shephard what led him to this crazy experience, “every year I look through potential races and build a little bit of a bucket list. Last year a few of us did a 50km race and one of the guys asked what we were going to do next year. I said you pick a race and I’ll do it. Of course, he chose the Death Race and that was that.”

It was the 20th year anniversary of the Death Race, located in Grande Cache, Alta. of the Rocky Mountains. Usually, the finishers just receive bragging rights, but because of the anniversary finishers also received a belt buckle. Bragging rights and a belt buckle? This was all too enticing for Shephard to pass up on.

“I have always wanted to get a belt buckle, but usually you have to run a 100-mile race to get it. I thought ‘Well heck yeah, If I only have to run 125 kilometres to get my belt buckle and knock off a bucket list race, I’m sold’,” Shephard said.

Shephard ran the race alongside 10 other citizens of Kamloops, who were all apart of the same running club in which he trains with weekly. They ran the entire race together.

“Running alongside my group was huge. If I didn’t have my friends to run with, I can only imagine how much harder the race would’ve been. The support was awesome and essential for my success. I had the best crew I could’ve ever hoped for,” Shephard stated when asked on the importance of his support group.

John ended up finishing 107th out of 230 participants, who all finished within the given time frame of 24 hours.

Another 10 people did not finish within the time allotted and 134 people did not finish resulting in their resignation. It is hard to grasp the magnitude of how hard this race is to complete, but Shephard started his running career with humble beginnings.

“I started in the fall of 2010 with a friend from work. We first ran 800 meters at the indoor track at TCC. We were so stoked we did it. Each day we would do another lap. It built from there and a year later I ran my first race in March 2011. The rest was history,” Shephard said,  “I fell in love with trail running. I never thought in a million years I would ever run 125 kilometres.”

Extreme ultra-running is obviously interesting, Shephard’s advice for beginners is  “start small, don’t get discouraged, and buy a good pair of shoes.”

If you want to give trail running a chance, there are various local clubs in Kamloops including Dirty Feet, Runners Sole, and Kamloops Ridge runners to name a few. You can learn about the sport, key tips, and enjoy some new running companions.