If you need any extra motivation while competing in the North Shore Triathlon on Victoria Day, you might want to glance over at the race director who is keeping the whole thing running.
He’s the one who will be talking on two radios, putting up cones and fencing, calmly answering every question while also making sure everyone racing, watching or volunteering is having a jolly good time. He’s also 82 years old.
The North Shore Triathlon is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary race, and Mick Maguire will be running the show as race director for the 19th time. He’s been involved with the event in some capacity longer than that, for most of its history. With his unmistakable long hair, light English accent and youthful appearance, Maguire is a fixture on race day.
“He is a bit of a legend,” said Jordan Back, a longtime friend who used to work with Maguire at the North Shore News and has also been heavily involved in putting on the North Shore triathlon for many years. “A lot of people when they first meet him will think he’s in his early 60s or something. He’s really quite a phenomenal guy in terms of just his physical health but also his outlook on life. The way he thinks tends to be quite young and progressive. He’s an amazing guy.”
It could be safely argued that few in the world have been promoting triathlon for as long as Maguire. When he settled in Canada in the early 1970s, the native of England kept up the passion of the country of his birth by joining the men’s soccer league in Vancouver. But when that game started to get a little bit too fast for his aging legs, he decided to slow things down by trying out a brand new sport that involved swimming, bike and running vast distances.
“Triathlon had only just started – it had just been invented – and I got in there and then,” he said, adding that the switch to an individual sport was a fun challenge after spending years in a team environment. “It’s up to you to put as much or as little into it as you want. If want to do well, you really get involved and work hard at it.”
Maguire did work hard at it, competing in races around the world and representing Canada as an age-group athlete. He has since taken that ethic of hard work and thrown it all into building up the North Shore Triathlon into the race it is today, said Back, who is a North Vancouver District councillor.
“He’s working on some aspect of it basically year round,” he said. “He’s always doing something. The event is his baby. … You can tell that it means so much to him when you talk to him. He’s always looking to see how we can keep the race going well into the future. A lot of it does revolve around him and his energy and love for it.”
That energy is on full display on race days, said Back.
“God knows what time he gets there, 4:30 a.m., 5 o’clock maybe. We always have a volunteer appreciation party after a race, and Mick is usually the last person to arrive at that party because he’s been there putting fencing away or loading cones. He doesn’t leave until the last cone is on the truck. He sees it right through to the bitter end.”
Race director is a demanding job, but Maguire is well equipped to handle it, said Back.
“It’s hectic, there’s a lot going on,” he said. “Mick just keeps the same steady hand, he never gets too bothered by anything. We’ve had some incidents over the years that if you don’t have that calm demeanour, you might not handle that well. But Mick is the perfect personality for what he does. … He’s central control on race day, he’s keeping an oversight on everything. He’s getting people coming up to him and asking him questions and going in every which direction, but he handles it very well.”
Back recalled one year in which some wires got crossed and the people who were supposed to provide traffic control during the race did not show up. Racers were ready to hit the streets of Mount Seymour Parkway but there were still cars whizzing by along the course. Maguire was the one who jumped into action.
“I keenly remember Mick out in the middle of Mount Seymour Parkway at Berkley, shutting down the road,” said Back. “This race was going to go on no matter what, and he was going to make sure of it. He did it – he was just like a one-man show out in the middle of Mount Seymour Parkway. A busy intersection, just shutting down a road so we could get going. That’s just the type of guy he is.”
When you hear about all that Maguire does for the race – he’s been busy recently running clinics teaching newbies all they need to know before racing their first triathlon – it’s easy to forget one mind-blowing fact: he’s 82 years old.
“It’s crazy,” said Back. “Our relationship is funny. He’s one of my very best friends, but when I tell people he’s over 80 years old, they can’t believe it. He’s very fun to be around because he’s just a positive guy. He’s just a great guy to be around. People see that as soon as they meet him.”
This year’s race is sold out in the adult divisions and has already set a record for most registrations for the kids races. Getting those kids out is one of his main goals, said Maguire.
“The whole thing is to make sure that everybody has a good time, it’s a safe race. We encourage the kids, because they are the future of the sport,” he said, adding that the No. 1 goal is to help people live fitter, healthier lives.
“The reason we do it is to encourage people to get out and be more active in the community,” he said. “It’s trying to get people into fitness. That’s the main goal of all of it. … If you’re not racing, you can always come along and volunteer. We can always use more volunteers.”
The 30th North Shore Triathlon will run in the morning on May 20 in and around Ron Andrews Rec Centre. For more information visit northshoretriathlon.ca.