Written by Amie Lesyk
Crossing the finish line
Marie Buisson has completed marathons around the world since taking up the sport seven years ago—in her early 50s.
By Amie Lesyk
Photography by Ruth Bonneville
It was a line Marie Buisson never thought she’d cross, but for some reason she was drawn every year to watch runners victoriously finishing the Manitoba Marathon.
“I would think ‘that’s amazing, I wish I could do that,’” says Buisson about observing the finish line. “But I never really thought that I would.”
Fast-forward seven years and 58-year-old Buisson has not only crossed that finish line more than once, she’s run marathons in every province across Canada as well as in China, Boston and Australia.
The retired elementary school teacher insists she was never terribly physical growing up.
“I was very clumsy in team sports,” Buisson says with a laugh, looking down at the steaming coffee in front of her. “I was never good in sports, so to be able to run was something.”
Buisson grew up in Fisher Branch, MB with 15 other siblings.
“I think we grew up valuing education and discipline,” she says. “The work ethic was always there.”
Buisson’s sister, Evelyn Tomy, attests to the fact that idle hands were not common on their family farm.
“We worked every day when we grew up on the farm,” she says. “Our family is like that—we all have to be working and doing something.”
This strong work ethic has stayed with them and Tomy insists Buisson was always a goal-oriented person.
“I see her as a role model,” says Tomy. “She has goals not only physically but academically.”
Obviously not afraid to tread new territory, Buisson took up running at the age of 51 by participating in a running club with students at her school.
Buisson’s interest in running grew and eventually she joined a group at The Running Room that was training for the Manitoba Marathon.
“I just kind of fell into it,” she says, explaining her intentions weren’t initially to run a marathon, but just to run.
She credits the support of her running group with getting her through training.
“I was a lot slower than they were,” she says. “They would kind of say ‘come on Marie, you can do this.’”
As the marathon drew closer, Buisson was feeling confident and began to think the goal of accomplishing the 26-mile feat was a feasible one.
Whether it’s with a group, by herself or during a marathon, Buisson explains that running brings about a sense of serenity.
“I like the peacefulness of running…the serenity of running,” says Buisson. “Also the support. It’s kind of a network. If someone’s a runner you automatically have something in common with them.”
It is not only the camaraderie and support of her running club that inspires Buisson to continue, but achieving a goal at the end of each marathon—her first jaunt over the Manitoba Marathon finish line brought a rush that has fuelled her passion.
After her second marathon, she sought new goals and, showing some patriotism, decided to run a marathon in every province in Canada.
Averaging one or two marathons a year, after six years, Buisson has reached that goal. Her last marathon took place in Newfoundland this fall.
“It’s a great way to travel,” says Buisson, talking about the unique viewpoint a runner earns. “It’s a great way to see a city.”
Buisson worked while training and travelling to marathons, retiring partway through her quest. In this span of time, she also managed to make time for marathons outside of Canada, for even more once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Buisson ran the Boston Marathon in 2006 with a couple of co-runners and said being a part of that tradition was amazing.
“Boston is one of the oldest marathons, and one of the first where a woman was allowed to run,” she says. “The whole city shuts down for it.”
Another run where Buisson found herself a part of a surreal experience was completing a marathon on the Great Wall of China.
“I kept stopping and saying ‘we’re actually here,’” Buisson remembers.
Getting to China took a lot of pavement pounding, not in the form of running, but in fundraising.
“I knew there were marathons where you raise money and then you run,” Buisson explains about how she came to be a part of the Joints in Motion Great Wall of China marathon. “I had just retired…and I thought I’d like to help other people.”
It took Buisson a year to fundraise the $6,500 needed for her to make the run.
“There were many, many times where I thought, I’m not going to do this.”
But as she came closer to hitting the financial target, one small donation at a time, Buisson gained confidence and reached yet another goal.
Crossing the finish line is rewarding, but doesn’t always come without pain. Buisson’s had her fair share of injuries.
“My piriformis muscle was so tight, it pulled my pelvis out of line—it was just pain,” Buisson remembers the injury that put her out of running, literally.
Buisson had to forfeit plane fare and her registration fee for a marathon at Ottawa because of the painful bout. But, ever determined, she went back and completed the marathon a year later.
Apart from being more careful when it comes to her body and health, Buisson also changed her competitiveness when it comes to times.
“I used to be a lot more competitive time-wise. Now my goal is to finish and not hurt too much,” she says with a laugh.
She’s also cut down to running every other day, instead of every day.
“As I’m getting older, it’s getting harder,” Buisson admits. But none of this means she’ll stop taking on new activities. She and her husband recently cycled their way through France.
With her massive goal accomplished, a career, a family and tens of thousands of miles behind her, what’s next for this ambitious woman?
“I don’t know,” she says, looking as if she suddenly realizes she’s accomplished this massive goal. It’s likely Buisson will always find ways to keep busy. A cycle trip to Germany is in the works and as far as goals, for now Buisson is keeping it simple.
“I’d like to keep active, for as long as I can.”