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Flashback to 1978… the first April Fool's Run

Fran Berger and George Matthews finishing the first annual April Fool's Run

Thank you to Joanie Proske for supplying these fascinating and funny articles saved from the first ever April Fool's Run on April 1st, 1978! (Joanie appears in the results as Joan Rigby.) Joanie ran several more Fool's Runs and came back to run the 2004 event. She kindly loaned us her 1983 "6th Annual" April Fool's Run certificate for scanning (shown on the 1983 page).

Articles and captions are reproduced here from the originals, with only a few name spelling corrections made. Click on photos to see larger versions.

Coast News, April 1978

Matthews and Berger make it

Thirteen finishers in Gibsons-Sechelt run

By Ian Corrance

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In this breathtaking action shot the Coast News editor is shown in a comfortable lead over George Matthews, Fran Berger, and John Hind Smith at Davis Bay during the Gibsons-Sechelt run last Saturday. Notable in the picture is the admiring finger that Fran Berger is pointing at the fast-striding figure of the editor. Winner of the race was Adrian Belshaw and he will be presented with the Coast News Challenge Cup next week.

The first annual Coast News Gibsons to Sechelt April Fools Day Race has been run. Out of around 20 starters, 13 hardy souls completed the 14 miles. Here are their names in order at the finish line: Adrian Belshaw; Maxwell Hammersmyth, Leigh Skinner, Bob Dohlan, Rick Underwood, Nancy McLeod, Mark Slack, Patty Cawsey and Joan Rigby (tie), George Matthews and Fran Berger (tie); Ken Birken; and Waldo Dahl.

From the very beginning Belshaw took the lead and maintained it throughout. He will be presented with the Coast News Challenge Trophy on Saturday, April 8th.

The idea for the race came about originally from two long-standing and completely different ideas on the meaning of the word health.

The opinion of George Matthews is that smoking and drinking do not necessarily guarantee poor health, as long as at least once a week you can get on the rugby field and get battered and stomped into shape for 80 minutes or so followed by an evening of off-colour songs at the local tavern. While Fran Berger prefers isometrics, aerobic dancing, yoga and wearing blue wigs.

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Hand in hand at the finish line and looking as fresh as daisies Fran Berger and George Matthews trot into Sechelt at the end of their stirring victory over improbability. To lessen the chances of their success we even threw a party the previous night but nothing could daunt the indomitable two. Fran stayed longer at the party than the bon vivant George.

Naturally with two such opposing views, it was inevitable that there would have to be a showdown. In a spontaneous burst of armchair energy the gauntlet was thrown down, "Let's race to Sechelt," and before anyone could back out of it, your local newspaper got wind of it and would not allow it to die.

It was a perfect day for a foot race. Although a few of the runners felt a little warm, the weather felt just great from the passenger seat of the pilot car. There were sliced fruit refreshments at Lockyer Road in the form of oranges and lemons (lemons?) supplied by the race officials, Terry and Manuane (Joan Rob nearly got some).

Of the thirteen that finished the most surprising and surprised were the instigators, Fran and George. They came in hand in hand past the bus depot and were in a photo finish for tenth and eleventh place. There was an ugly rumour going around that the reason they were hand in hand was because George did not want Fran to come up with a final burst of speed and pip him at the post. Of course we lend no credence to this.

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George Matthews gets a hero's treatment at the end of his gruelling run to Sechelt. Evans Harmon and Dawn McKim work on his legs and, good heavens, that's Fran Berger giving him a back massage.

Another surprising entrant was the Coast News editor, John Burnside. He had been proclaiming for days that a Burnside would run. The world knew different. Then it was discovered that he had imported a ringer in the form of his son Stuart. It was a darkly-kept secret which allowed him to party the night before secure in the knowledge that he had an ace up his sleeve. Anything so underhanded should and did receive its just reward. Stuart slept in. A battered blue Datsun was seen catching up with the runners at Davis Bay. Burnside jumped out and ran ahead of George and Fran for at least 178½ yards then stopped for a cigarette. In all fairness it was decided that he would have to make it back to his car under his own steam.

A greatly appreciated service at the cenotaph in Sechelt for the runners, was a massage under the soothing hands of Evans Harmon and Dawn McKim.

There are wild stories flying about, again from the daring duo, George and Fran (after a John's special at the Cedars) that they will be on the highway again for Timber Days. We shall wait and see.


Peninsula Times, April 1978

26 tired feet after Gibsons to Sechelt run

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ADRIAN BELSHAW, a UBC zoology student who lives in Davis Bay, placed first in the Gibsons to Sechelt race Saturday with a time of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Adrian Belshaw, a UBC zoology student who lives in Davis Bay, was the first runner across the finish line in the Gibsons to Sechelt mini-marathon on April 1st.

Belshaw, who said he has run long distances before "but never this far," completed the race in exactly 1½ hours.

Of the 19 persons who began at Elphinstone Secondary, 13 managed to struggle all the way to the Lang block in Sechelt.

Fitness service coordinator Fran Berger and Elphinstone teacher and columnist George Matthews, the duelling duo who conceived the race, struggled in holding hands, flushed and sweating. It took them 2 hours and 23 minutes and they placed near the back of the pack — but then that wasn't the point. Berger, in fact, exclaimed, "Oh that's perfect," when told that they were almost last.

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FRAN BERGER and George Matthews must have patched up their differences somewhere between Gibsons and Sechelt. Berger from the Fitness Service, challenged columnist Matthews to the April Fool's Day race, but they came in holding hands and almost last.

The race got off to a late start for Berger and Matthews. The runners paced about in the parking lot at Elphinstone for 17 minutes after the scheduled 9 a.m. starting time, waiting for Berger. She arrived about five minutes after the main body of runners had left without her. "Fran's always late," explained Joy Smith, who accompanied Berger and Matthews on a bicycle.

Second place finisher was Maxwell Hammersmyth, caretaker at Camp Byng who ran the distance in 1 hour and 38 minutes. Hammersmyth, who has a few years on most of the other runners, declined to give his age, except as "over the hill."

Other runners and their times are: 3. Leith Skinner, 1:45; 4. Bob Dohlan, 1:48; 5. Rick Underwood, 1:49; 6. Nancy McLeod, 1:51; 7. Mark Slack, 1:53; 8-9. Joan Rigby and Patty Cawsey, 2:04; 12. Ken Birkin, 2:29; 13. Waldo Dahl, 2:48.

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AN EXHAUSTED George Matthews gets a little sympathetic back rubbing from some of his co-runners. Fran Berger is at left and Nancy McLeod, at right.


1978 Results summary

1. Adrian Belshaw, 1:30
2. Maxwell Hammersmyth, 1:38
3. Leith Skinner, 1:45
4. Bob Dohlan, 1:48
5. Rick Underwood, 1:49
6. Nancy McLeod, 1:51
7. Mark Slack, 1:53
8-9. Joan Rigby and Patty Cawsey, 2:04
10-11. Fran Berger and George Matthews, 2:23
12. Ken Birkin, 2:29
13. Waldo Dahl, 2:48


First ever Fool's Run