Carl Wright is our Featured Canadian Athlete from Ontario
I really needed something to keep me motivated during this pandemic. What I loved about the A Great Canadian Running Challenge is that it is Canadian-based.
How has A Great Canadian Running Challenge changed your life?
This pandemic has been particularly tough on me mentally. During lockdowns, I have been out of work in both of my part-time jobs. Having lost a former co-worker friend to suicide just a few weeks ago, I realize that this could very easily be me. I really need to take care of my mental health. Whether it is a slow, calming, peaceful walk in nature or the euphoric phenomenon known as “runners high” after a long, hard run, this challenge motivates me to get out there on the days I desperately need to.
Did you walk, jog or run this challenge?
It is a combination. Though I never intentionally planned it this way, my running season is much like the professional baseball season. Winter is off-season, with all walking except for the odd gentle run. Coming into race season, I start my training, working towards my 1st big race of the season at the end of April.
I started running 7 years ago when I was 55. There was a running club at my former employment. They kept asking me if I wanted to join, and my answer was always a firm no, as I hadn’t run since I was 18. My dad died at 47 of a heart attack, and my doctor was concerned with my high blood pressure and cholesterol. He said, “You don’t want to be on blood pressure meds and statins the rest of your life,” and gave me 6 months to get my act together. I definitely didn’t want to die young like my dad. So I joined the running club. I hated running at first. It took me an entire year to change from where I hated running to where I love running. I am very passionate about it now.
How often do you walk, jog or run?
I am out every day in one form or another. When I am in training, I run 3 times a week, consisting of 2 short runs and 1 long run. The other days will involve walking. As a devout nature lover, most of the time, these walks are prolonged and very slow. I love spending time in the forest and connecting with nature through my senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.
What has been your greatest obstacle this year?
I really miss my personal human connections with my running family. I love running with others. They are such an inspiration to me in such a way that I’ve been able to achieve far more than I could ever dream possible. Though I am not a consistent Facebook user, I really love the camaraderie found on the A Great Canadian Running Challenge Group Facebook page. So many people on there encouraging one another and building each other up. This is what it is all about.
How do you stay motivated and find the time to walk, jog or run?
I have some running friends in their 70’s and 80’s that are such an inspiration to me. When I feel unmotivated, I look up to their accomplishments. I want to be just like them when I am their age. Two years ago, I took early retirement. I now have far less stress, and in its place, I now have 2 part-time jobs, which I love. It has been a huge blessing in that I now have more time to pursue my own accomplishments. I have so much admiration and respect for those out there with so little time, yet still getting out there for amazing mileages.
What advice would you give someone who is struggling to reach their goals?
Try not to get trapped in the comparison factor. You are yourself, and what you accomplish is absolutely amazing. Have fun. Though these are personal quirks and idiosyncrasies and have no scientific backing, I find they help me. Do things you would normally have done as a kid. Running/walking by a park. Take a detour and go on the swing. Run in the rain, and absolutely in the first snowfall of the year. Pick beautiful spots to run and walk. Take pictures while out there, and aim to learn something new about something you saw out there in our amazing natural world. If all else fails, branch out and do other great activities such as cycling, weight lifting or gardening. Though they wouldn’t count as distances in this challenge, it will help get you out of a rut. You will come back with a much stronger mindset.
Though I am not fast, I have a passion for ultrarunning distances. I love to inspire others through my writings on my personal website. Though I have had a lifelong love and passion for protecting the environment, my running journey has taken me to a completely higher level.
Two years ago, I became an ambassador runner and writer for an environmental charity called The Monarch Ultra. In 2019, it was run as a continuous 4,300-kilometre relay from Canada to Mexico over 47 days following the Monarch butterfly’s migration route. I had the privilege of running a stage in Canada. On invitation, I then went down to Mexico to help run some of the unregistered sections there. It was the experience of a lifetime! The relay was filmed and is currently being produced into a full-length documentary called The Monarch Ultra.
Seven years ago, my doctor bluntly told me to get my act together. So I took up running. I hated running. I was not able to run one kilometre. Looking back, I am amazed at how this evolved into a love for running. I am blown away by how far this journey has taken me! I encourage you to hang in there and believe in yourself.