Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I am strong. I am a never-giver-upper. I am a champion.

Say it loud, say it louder, look at your neighbour and tell them... I am strong. I am a never-giver-upper. I am a champion.

Sylvia Ruegger pumping up the spirits of 180 children minutes before their 5-k race at Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg, May 2014.
"Say it loud, say it louder, look at your neighbour and tell them....
I am strong. I am a never-giver-upper. I am a champion"

Moments before my interview with Sylvia Ruegger my hip journalist friend Carly provided sage advice... just be yourself and don't geek out

With pen poised and mantra…don’t geek out, don’t geek out, don’t geek out…I approached Sylvia.

In 1985 Sylvia completed the Houston Marathon in 2 hours, 28 minutes, 36 seconds and in doing so established a Canadian women record for the marathon event that reigned supreme for 28 years.

"The audacity of hope"
Sylvia Ruegger 1985, Houston Marathon where she set her 28-year marathon record.
But wait, there’s more!

In 1984, twenty-three year old Sylvia Ruegger represented Canada at the historic Los Angeles Olympics placing 8th in a field of 50 women with a time of 2 hours, 29 minutes, 9 seconds. The 1984 Olympics were the first time women were permitted to run the marathon event. Prior to 1984 the Olympic governing body believed women were just too darn delicate for such a rigorous event.

Sylvia explains the significance;

“It was an honor and privilege to represent Canada at this historic event, but it was an equal honor to represent women athletes world-wide. We were pioneers of the sport for the world.”

Aldo Furlan, Teacher, Start-2-Finish Coach, and Course Director for Ted's Run for Literacy.
But wait, there’s more!

In 2010 the International Track and Field Committee attempted to strip Sylvia of her Olympic record because her run -they claimed- was “testosterone enhanced”. The Track and Field Committee -all men- argued because Sylvia ran on a course with men she benefited from their male pacing.  

Sylvia’s responded with typical Ruegger passion;

“Go after the dopers. We did it clean. We did it on hard work and sacrifice. If one of those guys wants to come and look at all my journals of what I did, the price I paid to run that time, it was not because there was a guy running in the race, it was because I ran 200 kilometers a week and gave up everything else.”

The International Track and Field Committee came to their senses and dropped their mean spirited accusations of testosterone enhancement.

Roger Berrington, Manitoba Director for Start-2Finish and proud supporter of Ted's Run for Literacy.
But wait, there’s more!

Canadian Lanni Marchant has been nipping at Sylvia’s heels for years so it was no surprise when, at the 2013 Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Lanni stole the 28-year record besting Sylvia’s time by 38 seconds. At the same event Krista DuChene, another Canadian who has been chasing Sylvia's record, ran a 2:28:30, beating Sylvia’s record by 6 seconds.  Sylvia was at the finish to welcome and congratulate Lanni and Krista as they crossed the line. 

When asked how it felt to lose her 28-year record Sylvia replied with dignity and grace;

“I know what it takes to achieve this record.  I know the sacrifices these two made. I have nothing but the highest regard and respect for these two women.”

And then, as an after thought;

“I am grateful for their strength, for my strength. I am most grateful for my record because it has provided me with a platform to speak up for children.”  Sylvia is the founder and driving force behind Start-2-Finish.

Start-2-Finish is the platform to eradicate childhood poverty.  The mandate of Start-2-Finish is …to break the cycle of childhood poverty by providing educational support to Canada’s at risk children, nurturing mind, body, and social health so they are empowered to succeed and become role models for change.
All winners, all champions, all never-giver-uppers.

When asked if she truly believed that childhood poverty could ever be eradicated she talked of dreams and spoke of “the audacity of hope” ...

“When we have a dream we must be bold and courageous.  We must be audacious in our hope for the dream.  We must be willing to take surprisingly bold risks.”

Sylvia then paused briefly and looked deeply into my eyes;

“Terry Fox” she explained “ had a dream that some considered foolhardy and look at the results of his dream.”

“Days before Terry succumbed to cancer he answered a reporter’s question of hope and dreams.”

“I want this to always be an example of courage,” said Terry  “not foolishness.”

This is what Sylvia wants of her dream. Indeed, it is no small task to eradicate childhood poverty, but neither was Terry's dream to eradicate cancer. We have no choice. We must try.  She implores us to believe in the dream, to see courage when others see foolishness, to hope when others are overwhelmed, to see light when others live in darkness.  

Sylvia wants us to be big in our dreams, to care deeply, and believe in the audacity of hope.

You see friends, for Sylvia, it’s not so much about the dream, it's about who we become in achieving the dream. 

It’s about what kind of society we want to leave our children. 

It’s about caring for humanity.  

It’s about action. 

It's about putting legs to our dreams and moving with perpetual forward motion. 

It's about being relentlessly positive. 

It's about moving your feet when you pray.

Ted’s Run for Literacy is a proud supporter of Start-2-Finish and we are graced with our association with Sylvia Ruegger.

It’s an audacious to be alive.


Ted's Run for Literacy purchased 200 pair of high-end running
shoes for kids in the Start-2-Finish Running and Reading Club.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Travels With Saphira, A guest blog by our intrepid David Fielder.

This guest blog by David Fielder was originally posted on May 21, 2009.  It is re-posted here for your convenience.  Yup, David sure can write!


When the writer John Steinbeck was in his sixties and disillusioned with America, he decided to take a cross-country trip to see parts of the United States he had never seen before. He knew that he’d need to talk with people so he took along his dog, Charlie. He wrote about it in his book called, Travels With Charlie.
Recently I took my own dog, Saphira, on a trip to Brookings, South Dakota for their 40th Marathon. Don’t get me wrong, my dog can’t run a full marathon, but having the misfortune of travelling by myself, I took her to likewise talk to people. My travels with Saphira took me to a wonderfully fun marathon. A well organized event in a unique town in the Dakotas. The main street has a feel of contemporary and the past. Visit The Ram, one of the restaurants hosting a pasta meal for marathon participants, and see the old turn of the century safe as you talk with people ready to run from all over the State. Arguably one of the smaller marathons around with only 165 marathon finishers, 233 half-marathon finishers, and 30 relay teams – still the event catches you up in the spirit of the runners and numerous volunteers.
The run itself is not an easy one with many hills, and if you’re shy of turns this may be a problem; added to the difficulty was the amount of wind that came up. Wind itself is unpredictable and was a lot worse the night before the marathon; and just to note, actually died down the evening after the race. But live music following the run and free hamburgers all added to the post race atmosphere in little Pioneer Park. The run does take you through the town, out of it, through it, out of it … so on and so until you’re done. Yet somehow it is a lot of fun along the way.
Part of the charm of this run and this town of Brookings is the old architecture with houses that exude a sense of wholesome family life – a kind of Midwestern simple life values of a era some may have known when they were yet children. Yet what stands out the most for this traveller with Saphira was the running community itself. It turned out, while I value her company, I need not have had Saphira along. I saw the running community that included five runners from Winnipeg so embrace everyone.
Let me tell you about Jill Moncur, the woman from Sioux Falls who won the woman’s marathon category. She had made the hour trip to Brookings by herself and was alone when presented with her award. Well quickly good old Winnipegers befriended her and celebrated with her that afternoon as though they were old acquaintances. And for myself, the running community embrace me in their celebrations as well. Whether it was a pasta meal, during the run, or following completion there was always a friendly runner to talk with and with whom to enjoy their company.
Sometimes one must travel alone, with or without their dog or those they love, but the great thing about the running community is that it always welcomes people in and shares the love of the run. Steinbeck found from his travels that he did not need to be disillusioned with America. My travels with Saphira to Brookings, South Dakota Marathon confirms for me the enormous privilege it is to share the road with some great people. Brookings is only about 6 and half hours from Winnipeg and worth taking the trip.
Enjoy the run wherever it takes you.
David Fielder

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I Lost My Virginity in Spruce Woods Provincial Park (and it was epic)

"We've got a motto here; you're tougher than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can." 

Christopher McDougall, Author Born to Run

"If you encounter any asphalt, you're lost."

Dwayne Sandall, Race Director, Spruce Woods Ultra

Spruce Woods Provincial Park Ultra-Marathon
(photo credit Tim McKay)

The Spruce Woods Ultra Marathon was my first official trail race and is now a must-do event.  MRA Hall of Fame recipient, Dwayne Sandall and his cheery crew of volunteers are to be congratulated for hosting this most groovy event.  It’s the independent spirit and off-the-grid thinking that makes this event stand a cut above the rest.  I lost my trail runner's virginity and it was epic.

Within minutes of arriving at the rag-tag race headquarters at the forest edge we were warmly welcomed.  The half marathon was the last of four events to depart. The 100 milers started 22 hours earlier, the 50 milers at 6:00AM, the 50 k’ers at 8:30 AM, and the sissy little boy/girl half marathon event at 10:00 AM. 

Dwayne walked the half marathoners to their start; a scrub bush on the trail. He scraped a start line in the sand with his boot heel and announced unceremoniously “There’s our line”.

I reflect on the symbolism of drawing a line in the sand.  George Carlin said we must all draw a line in the sand and take a giant leap beyond that line. And that’s what we did; we soared over the line.  The unknown lies beyond and that is why we run from one line to another; never truly satisfied, always searching for answers that lay just over yonder, beyond the line in the sand.

A runner darted out for a nervous pee two minutes before start time.  The catcalls from the race director and others were met with good natured guffaws.  Looking about, I sized up the motely crew of trail runners silhouetted by the gorgeous sun.  What a beautiful sight to behold… smiles and sun, laughter and good cheer. To participate in this epic journey is a blessing of blessings.

Truly friends, this was a beautiful day to be alive.  In the moment, alone and together, life itself smiles down upon us as we surge in perpetual forward motion.

I can’t say I saw ghosts of the Kalahari, but I sure sensed their presence. Passing several 100-mile runners I became overwhelmed with admiration.  Fatigued beyond imagination, placing one exhausted foot in front of one exhausted foot, they move forward with untold determination.  My heart choked as I witnessed Bert from Brandon cross over the line into his mother’s arms; the last 50 paces brutally slow as if struggling through quicksand. He stepped over the line, slowly, purposefully, and simply stopped and stared. I have witnessed human perfection on a grandiose scale and it sends shivers up my spine.

The course rolls gracefully through Spruce Woods Provincial Park.  The views are stunningly beautiful.  We gather steam on the few flats, and huff and puff on the endless ups and down.  The never-ending ups and downs are a test of our grit.  The sand is soft and bogs us down.  Tangents are impossible.  This is not road racing; this is something entirely different, entirely beautiful. Someone summarized the course as “It isn’t technical, but it sure is fun”.

Indeed, it sure is fun and it sure is a good day to be alive.  Thank you Dwayne and crew.  It was a most fantabulous day.