Running across Canada from St. John’s, N.L., to Victoria, B.C., in a year might be quite a bit of a challenge for individual runners. But for a team, this task turns into a fun and exciting adventure, especially if runners don’t actually have to go anywhere far and instead can run wherever and whenever they like.
The Big Canada Run, which is a virtual team run across the country covering 8,000 kilometres, offered such an opportunity to anyone in Canada and even outside of it. And 25 members of the Estevan Road Runners club, led by captain Audrey MacMurchy, decided to take on the challenge.
Big Canada Run started July 1, 2020, and will end on July 1, 2021. Running, walking, hiking, skipping, galloping, trotting – anything completed on foot counts towards the team’s distance. Each runner has committed to 308 kilometres a year or .84 kilometres per day. But there are no limits.
“Some people are doing 10 kilometres a day or 14. I’m doing five a day, but at the minimum, we have to do .84, that’s what we’ve committed to,” explained MacMurchy.
There are 259 teams, ranging from two to 28 members, who registered in the Big Canada Run. Each team or individual runner logs in their daily kilometres online. They can see their progress and also watch how other teams are doing. The website also offers a lot of information about the landmarks they would see along the route if the teams were actually running through particular areas.
“Even though we put in our individual stats, we are doing it as a team, and we are not really running against other teams. Everybody is doing the same route all across Canada,” explained MacMurchy.
As they progress, participating teams pick up digital badges at cities along the virtual way. Each badge has some symbolic Canadian value. Thus, the first badge teams received as they logged in their first 80 kilometres, which symbolized that they made it to St. John’s, was a maple leaf. In Sydney, N.S., 400 kilometres away from the start point, teams receive a moose, and in Halifax – a sorry badge.
Other badges are beer in Moncton, lobster in Charlottetown, poutine in Quebec City, hockey in Montreal, maple syrup in Ottawa, Caesar in Toronto, donut in Sault Ste. Marie, goose in Thunder Bay, polar bear in Winnipeg, Mountie in Regina, bacon in Calgary, Ogopogo in Kamloops, Inuksuk in Vancouver and totem in Victoria.
On Aug. 3, Estevan’s team already received the poutine badge, gained as they collectively ran 2,650 kilometres from the start, and they decided to celebrate the achievement with a nice poutine supper at Black Beard’s Restaurant. At that point, MacMurchy was positive that they will reach the destination way ahead of schedule.
“We’ll be in B.C., we hope by November-December. And then we’ll decide what we are going to do, if we are going to go back across Canada virtually or (something else),” said MacMurchy.
The hockey badge for covering 2,900 kilometres was reached just a few days later on Aug. 6. When the team logs in the total required distance they will also receive a finisher’s medal and swag.
MacMurchy said that for her this challenge is a great way to keep active, learning something along the way. Besides, it allows people to do something together during the pandemic.
“(It offers) to continue to be active, to participate with a group, group fun, support, something fun, local, active to do during COVID. A lot of runners are missing out on their runs now because lots of them have been cancelled. So to do the virtual run is awesome. And we are still going to get a medal in the end,” said MacMurchy.
There is a private Facebook group for all the teams across Canada and a separate one for the Estevan team, in which runners share interesting photos, places and other information they come across on their individual runs wherever they are running. MacMurchy said that there is a woman who runs for one of the teams who is currently in South Africa. On her run, she saw a mama and baby zebra, which she also shared with other participants.
There is also a Facebook group specifically for Estevan Road Runners featuring photos, accomplishments, support and "lots of love and laughs." Participants also use the group to arrange runs or walks in various picturesque areas of the southeast.
Anyone interested in becoming a part of the Estevan Road Runners can join their Facebook group.