Mary Beil, a graduate of the Oceanside Running Club Association’s Learn to Run program, crosses the finish line at the Harriers Pioneer 8K, the first race of the 2020 VIRA Vancouver Island Race Series. (Joseph Camilleri photo)

Clinic helps retired Parksville educator return to running

ORCA Learn to Run program to start Feb. 5

Fifteen years ago, an injury forced Mary Beil to quit running.

But now she’s back and she’s hooked on running.

What helped her regain her passion for running was the Oceanside Running Club Association’s Learn to Run Clinic she came across in the PQB News last year.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to get out and get some regular exercise,” said Beil, a retired Parksville educator. “I figured signing up for something would help me follow through and make it happen.”

Beil was one of the close to 80 participants of the clinic last year, a record number for the Oceanside Running Club Association, which organizes the event.

Having done a bit of running before, Beil at first found the initial sessions to be too easy. The clinic is a 14-week program that is led by head coach Doug Brown. It combines walking with running and gradually incorporates more running into the routine.

“There is a lot of walking to a little running and you build up slowly over time,” Beil commented. “As the runs got longer it could be challenging but I embraced our coach’s advice to run ‘your own race at your own pace.’ I was determined to give it a good try, do the ‘homework’ and stick with it.”

Meeting other runners and forging friendships greatly helped Beil see the clinic through.

“Running with a group can really help,” said Beil. “You find others who run at a similar pace and are friendly and encouraging. We also had a couple of social events which was very nice. The clinic wrapped up in time for the Mothers’ Day 5K Run in May. It was pretty cool to think back on the progress made.”

The experience has greatly motivated Beil to continue running. After entering the 5K Mother’s Day run last year, she decided to join ORCA’s “Run Longer” group. She said, “I am hooked on running.”

“In October 2019 I ran the Victoria Half Marathon,” said Beil. “That was an amazing highlight for me.”

Beil signed up for the Vancouver Island Race series.

Last January, she and two other graduates from the Learn to Run Clinic — Debbie Kuhn and Cathy Byron — braved the cold weather to run the first race of the series, the Annual Harriers Pioneer 8K in North Saanich. Beil finished in seventh place in the women’s 65-69 with a time of 48 minutes and 26 seconds.

“There are seven more races in the series and I’m hoping to do them all,” said Beil.

Other products of the Learn to Run program, who are now avid runners and involved in ORCA are Michael Quint, who has never run previously, and Paul Watson, another former runner who eased back into the sport.

Quint also ran the Victoria Half Marathon and placed 179th in the men’s 25-29 division with an impressive time of 1:33:50.

The 2020 Learn to Run Clinic is set to start again Feb. 5. Brown said they’re looking forward to the clinic. This year the clinic will have a warm covered place to assemble at. ORCA has secured an indoor space at the Parksville Community Centre for the first six weeks of the clinic.

“It’s a nice change for all of us,” said Brown. “Participants will be able to meet indoors before we go out to do the weekly training session and then again after the session to debrief.”

Anyone wishing to register for the program can contact Brown at 250-248-8342 or email You can also register online at

Beil recommends the clinic to beginners and also to former runners who want to resume their passion for the sport.

“It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go,” said Beil.

“The program builds up gradually and you learn so much from knowledgeable people who care. It is a great way to get outside and get some really good aerobic exercise. It is so energizing and the calories burned are a bonus.”

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