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Marathon Man

Tuesday, 18.08.2009 / 2:15 PM / Features
By Derek Jory
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Marathon Man
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Johnson conquered a marathon, fixed his finger and saw a few shows over the summer

With less that a month until Vancouver’s veterans report for Canucks training camp, summer is already on a downward spiral.

Yet unlike when forward Ryan Johnson was a young student and he dreaded the beginning of a new school year come September, he’s ecstatic about returning to the team.

He’s been ecstatic about it since last season ended.

He’s just that kind of guy, one who should have dedicated tattooed across his chest.

How last season ended weighed so heavily on Johnson that all he’s been able to focus on is ensuring it doesn’t happen again.

“It never really leaves your mind, I still have a bad taste in my mouth after the way last season ended,” said Johnson, from his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont.

“It felt like it ended prematurely for us and we put ourselves in a position to go a lot further than we did. It’s something that I’ve never stopped thinking about and it’s kind of driven me throughout this summer.”

Johnson said that a week into his summer, he wanted back on the ice. Clearly that wasn’t an option, so the 33-year-old focused all of his frustration and energy on accomplishing a new goal.

Growing up just three-hours North of Duluth, Minnesota, Johnson always heard a lot about Grandma’s Marathon, a famous 26.2-mile point-to-point course run that began in 1977. As a tot Johnson made it a goal to one day run the event and he fulfilled that ambition this summer.

“I took a few days off after we were done the season and then I got at it. Running is something I’ve wanted to do for a while and I was running in honour of my dad who passed away last summer.”

Johnson already had the motivation and drive of running for his father, but he also set a time goal of four hours, meaning he would have to exert himself like never before.

He did, finishing with a time of 3:59:52.

“I really had to push myself, it wasn’t like I was just out for a joy run,” laughed Johnson. “To be able to face that and conquer it and finish it and finish in the time I wanted, it was just one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

“Just when you think you’ve pushed your body to a certain limit, to go and do that I realized that of all the training I’ve done over the years and all that that I’ve put myself through physically and mentally to get myself ready for a hockey season, running that really put it in perspective.

"That let me know that there was more there because physically it’s such a battle on your body and once your body starts to go, your mind starts to go and it’s a real mental test, as much as it is physical, to be able to get yourself through it. I learned a lot running that.”

Although Johnson didn’t shift gears from season to summer, he did take care of what was ailing him most when the year ended. Canucks fans will be relieved to hear that Johnson’s formally mangled right index finger, which he broke in November against the Minnesota Wild, is good to go.

Johnson had surgery two weeks after the season and the finger was completely reconstructed. The procedure was smooth sailing, yet much to the chagrin of this summer workout addict – “I take a lot of pride in my training and getting my body not just mended, but stronger than ever to come back the next season” – many of his favourite activities were no longer possible because had a cast on.

“Because of my finger I haven’t touched a golf club or a tennis racquet, both things that I enjoy doing. I’ve also had to monitor not just my leisure activities but also in my training I had to make some adjustments to be able to continue to get done what I needed to get done. Roger Takahashi spent a lot of time with me just tweaking different movements so I could still train.”

One thing no one could help with was Johnson’s guitar playing. This wizard with a pick said that has definitely been a struggle, but it hasn’t kept him out of the music scene all together.

The avid music junkie has been to a lot of concerts this summer, including back-to-back Dave Matthews Band shows in Florida this past weekend. Unfortunately the timing was off because the band Johnson is dying to see most right now is Kings of Leon, who just played two shows at GM Place on Saturday and Sunday.

Still, Johnson’s gotten a lot of music in this summer, highlighted by a show at UBC.

“I was able to see The Killers this spring and it was a great, great, show. To me, they’re one of the great energy bands to see live and the lead singer is a true performer and every time I see them I leave feeling like I want to go run a marathon, it just jacks you up that much.”

Let’s hold off on another marathon until next off-season. After all, this summer is already on a downward spiral.