A man from Calgary is nearly through Manitoba as he attempts to achieve a lifelong dream of running across Canada.
Skylar Roth-MacDonald left Victoria on June 1st, and if all goes according to plan, he will pull into St. John's near the end of October. The 25-year-old is doing the trek as a way to raise funds and awareness for mental health.
Roth-MacDonald has lost two best friends to suicide. He says mental health is a big part of his life and he is using his platform to help others realize that suicide is not the only option and that there are much better ways to cope with our struggles. Roth-MacDonald is raising money for the Canadian Mental Health Association and as of Wednesday, he has raised $14,197 towards his goal of $50,000. Donations can be made through www.milesforsmilescanada.com, where he writes, "this run mirrors my battle with depression. Naturally, some days are tougher than others."
On Tuesday of this week, the runner made it to the Centre of Canada, a small park on the Trans Canada Highway north of Landmark. And, though Roth-MacDonald says he has so far been spared from any serious injuries, that does not mean there have not been challenges along the way. For example, the weather.
"It's been the hottest summer of my life," he exclaims.
The first three days in BC brought temperatures around 31 degrees. But the worst was yet to come. Roth-MacDonald says there have been many days with temperatures around 35 degrees and even one day of 38. In the first seven weeks, there have been less than a handful of days of rain or overcast conditions. Roth-MacDonald says nearly every day has been at least 27 degrees, describing the conditions as "super, super hot."
The weather has certainly played a role in his daily routine. Roth-MacDonald says on the real hot days he tries to be on the pavement by four o'clock or five o'clock in the morning in order to get a lot of kilometres under his belt before the heat of the day. With a goal of running at least 60 kilometres per day, Roth-MacDonald says on the "cool" days he can up that to about 80 kilometres. Over the last week, he has maintained a pace of between six and six and a half minutes per kilometre.
Another challenge has been wildlife. Roth-MacDonald has so far counted about four bears that he has seen along the way, though none of them grizzly bears. But the most terrifying moment of the entire trip may have come in B.C. Roth-MacDonald says for a couple of hours he could sense that he was being followed. As a precaution he ran with bear spray in his hand, noting that if he kept it in his backpack, he might not have enough time to pull it out if needed. Suddenly a cougar jumped on the guardrail.
"Ten, 12 feet away," he says, describing how close it got to him. "And fortunately, as soon as it jumped up I was able to spray it because I was kind of expecting it."
Roth-MacDonald says after spraying the cougar he immediately sprinted back to the RV and stopped running for the rest of the day.
There have also been highlights during his journey. He says running with friends in B.C., seeing family in Calgary and feeling the support of the running community in places like Regina and Winnipeg have been memorable. Further to that, he says it is always appreciated when vehicles give him a honk or strangers invite him into their home for the night.
"Manitoba has been amazing, the people especially," he says. "We've had people on farms host us for the night, give us a truck when we go into Winnipeg. Winnipeg was a cool experience, seeing The Forks and just the history of it. I've never been to Winnipeg before. And the running community in Winnipeg was just incredible so I'll definitely be back to Manitoba, there's lots more I want to see."
Roth-MacDonald has only a one man crew. A close friend of his has taken on all responsibilities, including driving the RV, doing laundry, staying on top of social media updates and preparing meals. Those meals can include just about anything for the runner who is burning off between 5,000 and 6,000 calories each day.
"Anything with calories I will eat and obviously the healthier, the more premium fuel," he says. "But the body will burn anything."
Roth-MacDonald made it to the Rock Garden RV Park near Richer Tuesday evening. He expects to cross into Ontario on Thursday and be in Kenora on Friday.
Should Roth-MacDonald make it to St. John's, you might wonder what the 25-year-old could possibly plan for an encore. Well, those plans are already in motion. Though he is unable to share any details just yet, Roth-MacDonald says his run across Canada is only about 25 per cent of the distance and time compared to what he is planning for 2024.