Davidson, James. "Government Runner." Saturday Night magazine [Toronto,Canada]. March 11, 1988. Passions. (exceprts from the article)
"A senior Ottawa civil servant, Michel Careau breaks loose by running-and running and running. Last year he came second in New York's 1,152-mile ultramarathon.
If it were, say midnight, things would be calm at the corner of Metcalfe and Sparks, but it's 7 a.m. on a Friday and civil servants crowd Ottawa's downtown sidewalks. The day is a splendid one, as pale light the color of new corn provides a backdrop to the Parliament Buildings. No one seems to notice, though, as the armies of the morning march to the Hill with eyes cast downward. From the driver's seat of his Volkswagen Westfalia camper, Michel Careau, passes whimsical judgment. 'These people,' he says ' they all look important with newspapers and lunches in their briefcases.' Then lowering his voice in a tone of mock seriousness, he adds, 'Today they are going to take care of the nation.' Careau is one of 'these people' himself - his job title is director of International and Inter-governmental Affairs, Health and Welfare Canada. That's senior civil servant for short...
Photo: Michel Careau (r) receives a visit at the 1987 Sri Chinmoy 1,300 Mile Race in New York from Rene Marleau, Delegate General of Quebec in New York (l) and Gaston Harvey, Quebec's Consular for Public Affairs (ctr).
'It's like I have some kind of dual personality,' Careau explains. 'Part of me is a civil servant and part of me is a distance runner...'
Careau doesn't consider himself physically gifted and his compact, five-foot-seven inch, 142-pound frame is unusual in a sport dominated by willowy, loose-limbed athletes. Careau's special ability is mental discipline, which springs from his schooling, first by nuns and then by Jesuit fathers. Life as a child meant waking at 6 a.m. for Mass at 6:30 and studies beginning at 7:15. When running, that ingrained discipline allows him to keep the body moving long after it first groans for rest. Just three months after he began the sport, Careau finished a marathon. From there, the distances increased to ultramarathons of 552 kilometres over five days in 1985, then 665 kilometers in five days in 1986, and then the 1,854 kilometres over eighteen days last year. Careau admits that not all his friends and co-workers understand. Some consider him pleasantly eccentric, others think he's daffy.
In fact, there aren’t many who can truly understand. Only about two hundred Canadians participate in ultramarathoning. An Ultramarathon is any race beyond the marathon standard of forty-two kilometers…
Careau thinks the most difficult part (of the 1987 Sri Chinmoy 1,300 Mile Road Race in New York) came when the race was over and he had to stop. ‘I was so happy, but I also felt a bit sad,’ he says. ‘It’s a strange feeling when the life you’ve been living for so long – eighteen days – comes to an end. It wasn’t easy for me when I got home. I was still on the wave of my big run. It took some time to mentally come back to real life. Well, I wouldn’t call it real life, but my civil service life.’
Careau plans to make running a full-time venture in about five years...But today, he must be a civil servant once again. After breakfast, he trades a blue jogging suit for a blue business suit, hops in the camper, and drives back across the bridge to Ottawa, At 10 a.m. Careau pulls into a grey cement office complex called Tunney’s Pasture. Out of the corner of his eye he spots a man jogging along the sidewalk. ‘Look at that chap,’ he says, once again affecting a stern government employee’s voice. ‘He should be working.’"