Decorated CAF athlete takes on new challenge with Boston Marathon
By Ryan Melanson,
WO Charlene Arsenault has had a long military sports career, with 15 appearances at the CAF National Hockey Championships, six gold medals, and a spot on the CAF Sports Honour Roll. She isn’t done yet, however.
She took up competitive running in 2014, moved up to marathons soon after, and in only her third attempt at a full marathon, WO Arsenault recently completed the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon on April 16.
“I never thought I’d even ever run a marathon, let alone qualify for Boston. It was an amazing experience and I’m very fortunate to have been there,” said WO Arsenault, who works with 1 Dental Unit Det at CF Health Services Centre (Atlantic).
The year’s installment of the Boston Marathon, one of the oldest and most famous road races in the world, also brought some of the harshest race conditions in the event’s history. Low temperatures, high winds, and constant rainfall that turned to an absolute downpour at times made the 42 kilometre route significantly more difficult to complete. Hundreds of runners dropped out, and those who finished tended to have slower finishing times than they hoped for.
WO Arsenault’s finishing time was 4:09:06 in the 50-54 age group, the slowest of her three marathons to date by more than a half hour, but she said it was hard to be disappointed considering the weather.
“People were doing whatever they could to deal with it; a man on the bus gave me plastic bags to put on my shoes beforehand. But everybody got soaked, there was no way to stay warm or dry. I couldn’t feel my hands by the end of it.” she said.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t highlights however, and she still got the Boston experience of meeting runners from all over the world and seeing the thousands of spectators who line the route to cheer on the athletes. It’s a cliché that Canadians draw lots of positive attention when abroad or at internationals events, but in this case, it was very true.
“I stopped at the 30K mark because I forgot to put my Canada t-shirt on over my jacket, and as soon as I was finally wearing that shirt, the crowd was just going crazy,” she said. This provided some much-needed encouragement to finish the last leg of the race with frozen legs and heavy, wet clothing. Her partner made the trip to Boston with her children to cheer WO Arsenault on, and her family members tuned in from home in Tignish, PEI, watching on TV and tracking her progress online in real time.
Though she planned to make a one-off appearance at the marathon, WO Arsenault now plans to take another shot at it 2019 and try for her best marathon time yet, hopefully with more cooperative weather. To prepare, she plans to run the 5K at CAF Running Nationals later this month in Ottawa, and follow it up with the full Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon the very next day to secure a qualifying time for Boston in 2019. Add the possibility of competing with the CISM team at the World Military Marathon Championship in Lebanon this November, and it’s clear she’s not slowing down as she prepares to retire from the CAF next year.
She also hasn’t left the CAF hockey community behind, and though her years on the ice with the CFB Halifax Mariners women’s team are behind her, WO Arsenault said she enjoyed serving as a coach last season and plans to do it again.
“I’ve only got one year left in the military to be involved in hockey, so I’d love to go behind the bench again, if they’ll take me.”