Derm Holwell: Going the Distance

St. John’s native Derm Holwell has been running in marathons since his 20s, overcoming adversities, with the 2018 Boston Marathon being his 28th consecutive


If I asked you to name the most popular, and prestigious marathon you could think of, chances are you’d say the Boston Marathon. An annual event always landing on Patriot’s Day, the third Monday of April, the marathon attracts 500,000 spectators each year, including amateur and professional runners from all around the world. 

From Regatta to Runner 

For one St. John’s native, currently residing in Ontario, there’s no question about whether or not he will be running the 2018 Boston Marathon. Part of the Quarter Century Club, Derm Holwell has overcome prostate cancer, outran the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, and will be running his 28th consecutive Boston Marathon on April 16th. 

“I’m originally from Newfoundland, I lived there I guess literally half my life now, because I moved from Newfoundland when I was 31 and I’m now 63. I started running when I was 24-years-old to get in shape for rowing in the Regatta,” Holwell shared in an exclusive interview with The Newfoundland Herald.   

“We’d get out of the boat, and we’d run around the lake. My next-door neighbour was a marathon runner and when the rowing season was over, he convinced me to go for a run and the longest I had run at the time was four miles, which I thought was a long way. Then I went and ran seven miles with him and I thought; geeze, I could get use to this. It seemed like I could keep going forever. I gotta say now, I’ve basically ran for forever.” 

Many Accomplishments 

The main reason the Boston Marathon has developed a reputation for being on the more prestigious side of marathons is because in order to run in the marathon, you have to qualify. 

Qualification is based on submitting a verified performance that was 2 minutes, 28 seconds or faster than the qualifying standard for their age and gender.

“If you talk to any marathoner, the Boston Marathon is their goal, or their dream race,” Holwell explained.

“Obviously, Boston is my biggest. There’s 86 people that are on the Quarter Century Club list, which is people who have run the Boston Marathon 25 times consecutively. I was the fourth one to get on that list, three years ago now coming up this marathon. There’s a new person on it from Nova Scotia, from last year’s race, and there’s five Canadians out of the 86 that are on the list.”

Holwell’s goal started out with just simply running in the Boston Marathon. After that, he proceeded to running his 6th during the 100th Boston Marathon in 1996, to running his 10th. By the time his 17th consecutive Boston Marathon came around, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and went under the knife 12 weeks before the following marathon, but still kept his streak.  

“I was there during the Boston bombing. We were finished and left, 200 metres away from there, 25 minutes before the bomb went off. We actually ran by the exact spot where the bomb went off at 1:04, and it went off at 2:49.”

The Final Goal  

Despite it all – being diagnosed with prostate cancer and outrunning the Boston Marathon bombing – Holwell remains committed to his love for running. 

“I just don’t want it to end, but I mean you have to be realistic that sometime it’s gonna end. In 2006, I finished the Tely 10, and I set my miles up this way when I realized how close I was to doing it, with my last mile of the Tely 10 being my 50,000th mile. This year, I got very similar to that. On December 31, I added 34 miles for the month to make it so that my last mile of 2017 was my 75,000th mile. So now I have a goal of running my 100,000th mile and my 100th marathon when I’m 75,” Holwell shared excitedly. 

“I have tracked every single mile I’ve ever run since day 1, and I don’t know why I did it, it’s just that I guess I’m a bit, obviously, anal with that kind of stuff. Once I got into it, I actually started logging, for instance I would write down who I ran with, what the weather was, you know. At the end of every year I make sure I get a particular book, Runner’s Guide, and I write in it, every single day.”

The Newfoundland Herald and the rest of us here in Newfoundland and Labrador wish him nothing but the best of luck! Break a leg … but don’t actually.

One thought on “Derm Holwell: Going the Distance

  1. Roger Haynes
    April 21, 2018

    great seeing you again,good storey

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