“It’s really phenomenal”: Albertan runs across Canada for mental health

LETHBRIDGE – Most runners train between 12 and 20 weeks to run a single 42-kilometer marathon.

But compare that to the current run of Skylar Roth-MacDonald, a 24-year-old ultra marathon runner, and a single marathon seems like a cinch.

He has been running daily since the start of his cross-country expedition in Victoria, BC on June 1 and has averaged 68 kilometers per day.

“I always thought it was just a big challenge to go coast to coast and see what the body is capable of and what the mind is capable of,” said Roth-MacDonald.

His effort attracts national attention and inspires people to join him on the road for a few miles as he passes through their community.

“Doing it day in and day out is just… it’s really phenomenal,” said Shawn Pinder, co-owner of Runner’s Soul of Lethbridge.

“A lot of people have tried to run even five or ten kilometers a day. Even that kind of distance is really tough, so doing it seven times is pretty phenomenal.”

(Supplied / Shalagh Quinn)

Roth-MacDonald only gives himself 150 days to get from Victoria to St. Johns, Newfoundland.

This is all part of her Miles for Smiles fundraising effort, the proceeds of which are raised to support the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

“The cause was just obvious to me. There is a lot of awareness to be done and I am happy that we are starting to make waves.”

Roth-MacDonald grew up in Red Deer with a tight-knit group of friends he made through local soccer teams.

In 2009, the group lost a teammate and a good friend to suicide at just 12 years old. Three years later, a second close friend and teammate committed suicide at age 16.

Today, Roth-MacDonald is pushing his body to its absolute limits in order to overcome his own episode of depression and shed light on the issue to remove stigma and spark conversations about mental health.

For Christopher Sookrah, Roth-MacDonald’s good friend and Miles for Smiles crew member, hearing about the hike across the country came as no huge shock.

“Skyler is still making it to the top. I was a little surprised when I heard, but also, you’re going to crush him and if anyone can do that it’s you,” said Sookrah.

The duo made their way through Lethbridge on Wednesday and expect next week to go smoothly given the flat Alberta terrain.

British Columbia, however, was another story. Not only was the various hills a grueling endeavor, Roth-MacDonald also had a terrifying close encounter with one of Canada’s most dangerous wild animals.

On the tenth day of his trip near Castlegar, British Columbia, Roth-MacDonald was separated from the recreational vehicle driven by Sookrah.

There was no cell phone reception in the area and the sun was starting to set. To make matters worse, Roth-MacDonald said he remembers having the odd feeling that something was stalking him from the bushes.

“Just to be on the safe side and just to be sure, I had my bear sprayed and my gut was right. Around 9pm a cougar jumped over me and onto the railing,” he said.

“He had his mouth wide open, but luckily I had the spray in my hand and had to spray it, then I ran as fast as I could towards the motorhome, which luckily was just around the corner. 700 meters behind me. We have definitely finished the day there. “

This potentially fatal decision was not enough to deter him from abandoning his ultimate goal of reaching St. John’s by the end of October and raising at least $ 50,000 for CMHA.

Over the past three weeks, Roth-MacDonald and Sookrah said being able to experience the nation’s natural beauty and meet helpful and warm people along the way encourages them to keep moving forward.

Roth-MacDonald is also in the process of applying for grants to create a film that he hopes to share with students across the country in an effort to highlight mental health issues and break down the stigma that can accompany access to appropriate care. .

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