73-year-old Calgary man runs half marathon to help in the long journey of caring for wife with dementia

Running is part of Frank Saulnier’s daily routine. The 73-year-old Calgary man runs around 10 kilometres, six days a week.

Another part of his routine is now taking care of his wife Nancy, who was diagnosed with dementia several years ago.

“Initially it’s a lot of shock because you end up living with somebody who does all kinds of things they never did before,” Saulnier said.

Saulnier said one of the things that have helped him cope has been acceptance.

“I had to get to the point where I realized what was going on, wasn’t her doing. It’s not intentional,” Saulnier said.

Running is the other thing that has helped Frank and Nancy on this new journey of theirs.

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On Sunday, Frank completed his 11th half marathon in Calgary, the Centaur Subaru Half Marathon.

“My time is around 2:26. So that’s good,” said Saulnier as he made the run look seemingly effortless at the finish line.

“It makes it all worthwhile, plus I do it regularly just to keep my sanity,” Saulnier laughed.  “And we all should be doing that.”

He said running helps him with the daily stress of being a caregiver. Saulnier added that something as simple as searching for misplaced spoons doesn’t seem matter after he’s cleared his head.

“It’s an energy refill,” he said. “I usually run early in the morning because it’s the time when she’s usually in bed.”

The Centaur Subaru Half Marathon was one of several running events held in the city on Sunday as part of the Servus Calgary Marathon.

Officials noted that Saulnier was in good company at the events, with 13 other participants 70 years and older enlisted in the half marathon and five people in that age range taking part in the full marathon.

The executive director of the event said you don’t have to be a marathon runner to get the benefits of running.

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“I feel for a lot of us — especially over the last two-and-a-half years — it’s provided some stability and routine,” Kirsten Fleming said.

“Even if you’re not out running marathons, just getting outside and breathing fresh air and having that time to be in your head outside in nature, and just putting one foot in front of the other is super important.”

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Saulnier describes his wife of 40 years as a happy person, and while she can’t be there to cheer him on at the finish line because of mobility issues, he added they still support each other.

“She feels I run for her. I do run for her,” Saulnier said.

He said marriage and the bumps along the road are like a marathon. The mindset requires that you don’t give up the race and you don’t give up on each other.

“I’m going to keep doing what I can do as long as I can keep doing it,” Saulnier said.  “Every day is a new day.”

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