"Despite the premature end to my run, we raised another $4000 for the fight against breast cancer."
All able-bodied children run. Some of us just never seem to figure out when to stop. And so I suppose I have to confess that I have always been a runner. Large chunks of my life seem to be defined by peculiar or outstanding runs and races. I thought myself a fool for running at - 40o C in Winnipeg, until I moved to Grande Prairie and ran at - 45o. Six months later, while attending a conference in Los Angeles, I ran a 5 km race at + 45o C. As the winner of one race, I was given a watermelon as a prize, and at another, a box of tampons. I have run in all ten Canadian Provinces, but I am still missing two of the territories. Most of my oldest friends are runners. I turned my wife Lisa into a runner. Not content with being a running addict, I seem to be a running facilitator.
I have run somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 races, although my victories are probably all behind me. Even though my drive to miss a good lie-in on a Sunday morning is waning, I still do a lot of running, and participate in the odd race. A 5 km here and a 10 miler there seem to be a way of denying the advance of time.
On rare occasions, a run can be a defining
moment. So it was for me on a September Sunday morning in Calgary, several
years ago. It was the early days of the Run for the Cure for the fight
against breast cancer. Like many other runners, I had been in races in
support of worthwhile causes many times before. In the weeks leading up to
the 5 km run, Lisa and I canvassed our friends, and collected a couple of
hundred dollars for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. I finished the
race in a respectable spot, and in a time that suggested the race course
was probably a bit short. The draw prizes were really top notch, and so
Lisa and I took in the after-race ceremonies, just in case. It was at
these ceremonies that I first hear the startling statistics - one in nine
Canadian women will have to battle breast cancer. Despite tremendous
medical advances to date, a
Even before I finished this first stunt run, friends were asking me what I planned to do the following year. I knew that if I had any hope of getting people to give me that much money again, the stunt would have to be even more outrageous. I talked over the possibilities with Lisa, and with my training buddy James, and finally settled on a task that most people in southern Alberta could identify with. I aimed to try to run the 300 km from Edmonton to Calgary in six days. I would run for 5 km, take a short break, and then run again, until I had competed 50 km each day. This was to be my own outrageous little Run for the Cure for breast cancer. I was in touch with the Run organizers, just to let them know what I was up to. Before I knew it, I was asked to travel to Edmonton for a press conference to support the local efforts. With Lisa in a van to provide support, I planned to start my run at Edmonton City Hall, quietly slip out of town, and head south along Highway 2. However, the race organizers in Edmonton saw the potential for a lot of good publicity. Very early on Monday morning, we arrived at City Hall to face a small media circus. An Edmonton City Councilor and three players from the Edmonton Eskimos football club showed up to show their support. A-Channel's Big Breakfast show did a live feed of my run that morning. Every 15 or 20 minutes, we would think of something silly to do for the camera to promote the Run for the Cure. An aerobics instructor put the Eskimos and I through our paces as a "warm up" for my run, although aerobics was the last thing I wanted to do with 300 km waiting for me. Other television stations arrived, as did the newspapers. I was led from one interview to the next, so that I would be ready to leave City Hall exactly on cue. And so, with the cameras rolling and four local runners beside me, I started running. After about three kilometers, my entourage and I shook hands and swapped hugs, and I continued on alone. After 5 km, I caught up with Lisa for the first time. She was ready for me with a water bottle. She asked how I felt, and I replied that I was just pleased to be underway.
We settled into a comfortable pattern. Lisa
would drive off, and I would start running. Five kilometers later I would
catch up to her, parked at the side of the road. I would drink, we would
chat, and then she would drive off again. I quickly discovered that I
could not run on the east side of
After three days, we got to Red Deer City Hall, and the half-way point. There was a small press conference there, although it was interrupted by two young men who wanted to know if we were there for the rally to decriminalize marijuana. The lady interviewing me for television explained that they were a week late.
I had been asked why I was running from Edmonton to Calgary, and not the other way around. I explained that Calgary is at slightly higher altitude, and I didn't want to be accused of running downhill. The fourth day brought a challenge that I hadn't expected - a rare howling south wind. After 15 km, it was apparent that I wouldn't have the energy to face that wind for another 35 km. Hence we drove 35 km south, and I run that segment with the wind at my back.
There is a considerable quantity of trash at the side of any highway. On the fourth day, in a brief lapse of concentration just outside of Innisfail, I stepped on something discarded from a passing vehicle, and twisted my ankle. Normally I would have been able to shake this off, but after nearly 200 km of pounding, my ankle had simply had enough abuse. I managed to finish the day's running, but despite hours of icing, and the best efforts of a massage therapist, the next morning I found I couldn't bear to let my foot touch the ground, let alone run. Bitterly disappointed, we drove home. Even so, Lisa and I hobbled around the Run for the Cure course with thousands of other runners three days later. Despite the premature end to my run, we raised another $4000 for the fight against breast cancer. My ankle healed fairly quickly, and was well enough by the following spring to finish the run. On a Saturday morning, Lisa and I drove back up Highway 2. She dropped me off, and by Sunday afternoon, 100 km later, we arrived in Calgary. Lisa ran the last few kilometers with me, and we dashed hand-in-hand up the steps of City Hall. Unlike the Edmonton sendoff, it was a quiet and personal event, and some tourists probably wondered why we were jumping around like something out of the film Rocky.
Through my breast cancer runs, I have met
many inspiring women who have battled and beaten the disease. I think that
I now know the section of Highway 2 between Edmonton and Calgary as well
as anyone. I also know a little more about myself.
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