March 2009 Senior Living Magazine Vancouver Edition

Page 25

Left, Neil McKinnon on an archaeological site in Tibet. Right, completing the Honolulu Marathon after kicking a 35-year smoking habit.

only an occasional drink. He says, “I consider that since I went at smoking and drinking like I did everything else, without running I might not even be here.” He has gone on to run at least 10 more marathons, many when he was past the age of 60. Right now, Neil is content with the writing life, and, besides his novel, has three other writing projects on the go. He and Judy divide their time between their home in Steveston and their house in Mexico. He is proud of his two grown daughters and thrilled with his grandsons. However, it’s a safe bet that if a new interest beckons, he will follow to see where it leads. “I would never be afraid of quitting work because, inevitably, if you get involved in a whole bunch of things, you’re going to find that things pay off for you. Writing arrived, and it paid some money. Teaching arrived, and it paid some money. SL [In life], all sorts of things just show up.”

Tuckahoe, Saskatchewan].” Again, Neil made the rounds to publishers, this time successfully. He signed a contract with Thistledown Press, who published the book and nominated it for two major awards – the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour and the Alberta Book Award for Short Fiction. Although it won neither, it was shortlisted for both. Neil is now hard at work on his next book, The World’s Greatest Lover. But writing, alone, wasn’t enough to keep him busy. In 1993, he and his wife, Judy, applied for and were offered jobs teaching English in Japan. Once there, he studied the Japanese language and, in 1994, was offered a position teaching math at a community college in Kobe. Judy was offered a post in the same institution. Life seemed idyllic until 5:15 a.m. on January 17th, 1995, when, in his words, “The Kobe earthquake hit and everything turned upside down.” Neil and Judy were unhurt, and he managed to find a working fax machine to send out firsthand accounts of the disaster to newspapers in Canada. Just before Neil reached the mid-century mark in age, he took a fitness test at the University of Calgary Physical Education Centre Read more at and failed miserably. “Everything was bad,” he says. “My strength was weak; they said “Ask A Professional” I was overweight. I had smoked for over 35 years, and I was a heavy drinker.” Then, Neil saw an ad in the Calgary paper. Somebody was training a group to run the Honolulu Marathon. “I phoned and asked if I qualified. I was accepted into the group. The very first day I went out, I couldn’t make it around the block. That was in April, and yet that December, I ran it.” Neil also gave up smoking and now takes

MARCH 2009


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