David Freake started jogging three years ago to shed some pounds, and now the distance runner is poised to make his mark on the oldest, most celebrated road race in the province.
Just don’t mention that to him, however.
“I really don’t want to put any pressure on myself,” said the 27-year-old from St. John’s, five days out from The Telegram 10-Mile Road Race — the Tely 10 — slated to go bright and early Sunday morning with an 8 o’clock firing of the gun.
“But I will say this: I’m going to be there right at the front of the start line, and I plan on being amongst the leaders.”
Freake might be reserved in his race forecast, so we, instead, will do the touting for him. Running competitively only two years, Freake could be considered the favourite in Sunday’s Tely after winning each of the five races (Boston Pizza Flat Out 5K, Burton’s Pond 5K, Harbourfront 10K, Molson Canadian Light 10K and the Molson Canadian 67 Mews Memorial 8K) he’s entered this season.
On top of that, Freake finished 19th overall in the International Toronto Yonge St. 10K earlier this season, a race that saw 5,603 runners finish.
So what’s with the quick development of the hockey-player-turned-runner, a competitor who finished 11th in the Tely 10 last summer and eighth the year before that?
In a word, work ... hard work. And getting an early start to the 2013 season.
“I started doing a lot of speed work at the Pearlgate track in January,” he said. “I wanted to be in top form for that race in Toronto in April, and after a good finish, I kind of said to myself that I want to keep this going.”
And going ... and going ... and going ...
Freake’s been logging more miles than the average sedan these days, up and at ’em 5:30 every morning for a 10-mile run. After supper, there’s another eight or 10 miles to be logged.
Seven days a week.
“I’ll take a couple of days off if there’s a race coming up,” he said. “But I’m not tired. I’m getting a good eight hours sleep each night, and I’m eating the right things.”
His diet, however, wasn’t always the greatest.
Following his hockey-playing days — he came up through the Avalon-Celtics system, played high school for the Holy Heart Highlanders and was a teammate of current Ottawa Senator Colin Greening as a minor hockey player — Freake slowly began to pack on a few pounds — don’t we all? — to the point where he was up to 200 on the scales.
“I told myself that I have to do something,” he recalls. “I wanted to get back into half-decent hockey shape. I’m not sure what drew me to running, but I almost had to do it, although it was punishment.”
Today, Freake is 145 pounds and zipping around the streets of St. John’s. And while he still enjoys watching hockey on television, running and track and field are his things now.
“I follow all the track and field meets and marathons,” he said. “And I can’t pull myself from the television when the Olympics are on.”
Freake, who has a science degree from Memorial and who will be returning to the university in the fall to study Healthcare Management, won’t have Colin Fewer to contend with Sunday. Fewer, who won seven straight Tely 10 titles from 2004-11, is recovering from hip surgery. And last year’s winner, the nationally-ranked Matt Loiselle from Windsor, Ont., is also injured and won’t return and defend his title.
After the Tely 10, Freake will likely enter another few local races, and plans to be in Markham, Ont., in October for the national 10K championship.