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Running Sneakers

Public Submission
20th century
Materials & techniques
Leather, cotton, plastic; Sewn
These sneakers belonged to Joe Richard, the pre-eminent middle distance runner on Canada’s East Coast between 1932 and 1991. Joe was born to a large Acadian family in Cape Augete, Nova Scotia in 1914. He attended The Arichat Academy, fished the waters of St. Peter’s Bay with his father, fought in the Second World War with the Cape Breton Highlanders, worked long days as a sectionman with the Canadian Pacific Railway, and had a family of 6 children; amidst all of this, he ran. 


Joe’s first official race was in 1934. He won the Victoria Day three mile handily, beating the local favourite and establishing his signature technique of tucking himself behind the leader and waiting for the perfect hill to power his way into the lead. Joe continued to race for 60 years. He made three appearances at the Boston Marathon in the 1950s where he finished in 39th (3rd Canadian), 40th, and 41st place. Richard also anchored the winning one mile relay team at the 1953 Maritime Championship known as “The Big Four”: Joe Richard, Bill Keleher, Bill Phillips, and Frank Phillips.


Joe’s last race was the George Gallant Shediac Lobster Festival 10K in 1991. He was 77.


The Martell-Richard Mini Marathon has been held each year since 2005 in Arichat, Nova Scotia to honour Richard and fellow competitor Joseph Martell. Joe and his wife, Kay, attended the race in its inaugural year. He was 91 at the time and walked the race. Kay attended in 2015 and was awarded the prize for the oldest finisher. An award is given out annually to the oldest finisher at the Saint John Marathon by the Sea in Joe’s name.


Joe won over 150 trophies, medals, ribbons and certificates for his achievements, including two for boxing won in Amsterdam during his time in the armed forces (The Canadian Forces Bantam Weight Championship and “runner-up” to the winner of the Northern European Forces Bantam Weight Champion). A year after his death in 2008, Joe was inducted into the Miramichi Sports Hall of Fame.
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