Bruce Deacon wishes his classmates from elementary school could see him now.
As a young schoolboy, Deacon was hardly considered an athlete, but now he's set to compete in the marathon at the Sydney Olympics.
He's come a long way from the boy who used to run to the outfield to eliminate any chance of having the ball thrown to him during baseball games.
"I was never an athletic child, but I had a desire to do well at some sport," said Deacon. "I just wanted to beat the big kids."
Deacon discovered his love for running when he attended summer camp as an 11-year-old.
One of the camp councillors was training for a marathon and launched a running program.
Deacon knew he could run and thought it might be fun.
When he returned to school in the fall, Deacon started running cross-country.
"I participated in the National Capital Marathon when I was 12," said Deacon, 33. "Then I started doing track. It was still pretty clear, pretty early that longer distances were better for me."
After toiling with various events in his youth, Deacon began running marathons again at the age of 24.
Deacon grew up in Nepean, but as any dedicated runner knows, Ottawa's harsh winters are not the ideal place to train.
In 1990, Deacon chose to move to British Columbia to attend Simon Fraser University, where he earned a teaching certificate and increased his training regimen.
"It was an exercise in frustration trying to train in Ottawa," said Deacon. "Being out west gave me a much nicer consistency. I noticed improved results in the first year."
In 1991, Deacon, now a resident of Victoria, won the California International Marathon in two hours, 19 minutes and qualified for the Canadian national team. He's been there ever since.
Deacon attempted to qualify for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and while he finished third, he didn't meet the time standard.
The Brookfield High School graduate admits failing to qualify convinced him that his training schedule and a teaching job didn't work together.
"I decided to return to substitute teaching," admits Deacon.
The decision paid off.
In 1994, Deacon competed in the Commonwealth Games in Victoria and set a personal best time of 2:13:35 at the London Marathon. In 1995, he participated in his first world championships, where he finished 11th.
"The worlds were definitely a highlight of my career," said Deacon. "I went in (ranked) 70th and finished 11th. I felt like David and Goliath."
Things only got better for Deacon in 1996. He married his wife Rosemary and qualified for the Atlanta Olympics.
Deacon finished a respectable 39th and credits his faith in God for his success.
"I get tremendous strength from my faith," said Deacon. "I feel God gave me this ability and I want to use it to the fullest. I see His hand throughout my career."
Deacon is counting on a little help from God in Sydney.
"The cruelty of the marathon is that the season comes down to one race and so much can go wrong that day," admits Deacon. "This will be my last Olympics, my last kick at the can."
-- LISA BURKE
-- Ottawa Sun
Oct. 1: Men's marathon: Bruce Deacon, Victoria, finished 44th in final event of Games.
2000 Games Track & Field Coverage