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Stettler woman runs away with medals

Bridie Forde of Stettler was a runaway winner at the Canada 55-plus Games this summer in Nova Scotia
Bridie Forde poses in her Stettler home last week with the seven medals she won this summer at the Canada 55-plus Games in Nova Scotia.

Bridie Forde of Stettler was a runaway winner at the Canada 55-plus Games this summer in Nova Scotia, bringing home no less than seven medals.

The games were held in Sydney on the Labour Day weekend.

Forde’s medals were all won in running events, as she captured silver in the 400 metres, the 10K and the 100-metre relay. She brought home bronze medals in the 800 metres, 1500 metres, 3000 metres and five-kilometre events.

“The relay was fun,” the energetic 68-year-old said last week. “We were so close to getting the gold medal.”

The retired cosmetology teacher has participated in the 55-plus Games half a dozen times.

Forde’s awards added to Alberta’s medal count of 113, which landed the province in top spot in the nation. Alberta easily eclipsed Ontario’s 80-medal, second-place finish.

While in Nova Scotia, Forde also competed in runs at the nearby Louisbourg National Historic Site, adding a silver in the 10K and a bronze in the 5K to her medal collection.

“A lot of people didn’t run in this one — they were saving their energy for the Canada Games,” Forde said.

“But I couldn’t not do it — the run around the historic fort is so beautiful.”

Running is Forde’s passion.

She has competed in multiple competitions and marathons, including the famous Boston Marathon twice — in 2011 and 2012.

“It was so hot — the second hottest marathon in history,” Forde said of the 2012 run last spring.

She said she completed the 26-mile run in a little more than five hours in 2011, but because of the extreme heat, she walked most of the course in 2012, taking more than six hours.

Some runners dropped out and some ended up in hospital.

After her retirement from teaching, Forde ran her first marathon in Dublin, Ireland, and that was followed by marathons in London, Edinburgh, Rome, Victoria and Las Vegas.

She takes a camera with her on the marathons and captures special moments permanently.

She has also had considerable success in the Five Peaks Trail Running Series, which has garnered her a multitude of medals.

“I like cross-country — it’s so nice to run in the middle of nowhere,” Forde said.

Forde credits her love of the sport to her roots. Born Bridget Kealey in Northern Ireland, she — along with her sisters — used to walk or run to the small rural school they attended.

“I’ve had the nickname Bridie as long as I can remember, and it was actually years later that I learned my name was really Bridget,” Forde said.

She also enjoyed dancing and has a small trophy she won in Irish  dance when she was about 10 years old.

“I just like movement,” Forde said with a laugh.

She later taught adult jazz-fitness classes in Stettler in the 1980s.

Forde met her Scottish-born husband, Jim Forde, in London. They married and were expecting their first child when they decided to move to Canada.

Jim Forde accepted a teaching position in Saskatchewan, but Bridie wasn’t permitted to fly, so she joined him after the baby was born.

The Fordes lived in Saskatchewan for nine years, at Maryfield and Indian Head, before moving to Stettler, where they raised two children, Kathleen and Gerard.

Bridie is also a competitive cross-country skier.

In 2012, she completed her 20th Birkebeiner 55-kilometre cross-country ski event, with an overall record of two gold medals in her age group, two silvers and five bronze.

In 2010, she was awarded the John Toonen award for her dedication to the event.

“I love being outside,” Forde said.

She said running is a family affair. Both of her children, her son-in-law, daughter-in-law and grandchildren are all interested in running.

“It’s great for us — family-wise,” Forde said. “My daughter and I had a great time cross-country running.

“When my son comes home, we often go for a run. It is wonderful one-on-one time to talk as friends.

“My husband and I often walk around Buttermilk Lake, watching the geese.”

Forde said many of the competitions and marathons she has participated in have been turned into wonderful vacations, by staying longer to enjoy the local attractions.

She said her husband and son accompanied her to the Boston Marathon.

“Boston is an old and beautiful city — full of history. Jim and Gerard really enjoyed it there.”

Forde has no intention of slowing down, with many of her weekends filled with running events.

She has her sights set on competing in a marathon in Ireland next year and the opportunity to reunite with her sisters in her homeland.