When race cancellation emails began to fill runners’ inboxes in early 2020, causing a primary running and training motivator to fizzle, everyone was forced to look for those alternative motivations to keep moving forward.
For several years I’d been finding “running as art” a good motivator for getting out the door daily (those RunHaiku won’t write themselves!), but in 2020, my running friends and I had the opportunity to explore more interesting ideas and places close to home.
“You can find things that other people have made up and do those for fun, or you can make your own fun.”Brendan Leonard, Semi-Rad.com
Here’s a summary of the “make your own fun” running projects I was part of in the past year. In honour of Brendan’s excellent take on the “year of the fun run”, I made some charts to document all my findings over the course of many adventures.
Every Single Street
Even before Covid struck in North America, and inspired by Rickey Gates’ project, I took on Every Single Street in Steinbach to pass the longest winter months. On March 13, I ran through a trailer park and those random cul-de-sacs on the edges of town to complete the project.
Then I noticed there were all these other lanes of travel between the streets of my town…
Secret Paths of Steinbach
In April, after a couple weeks of recon, I set out by headlamp one morning to link all the secret paths I could find between streets in town. Each was a lovely little portal to a new neighbourhood, and offered the fresh perspective you can only get when you enter a place (in this case, a neighbourhood) through a side door. Read the recap here.
Driving to and from the Sandilands for many weekend runs (which had become a lifeline as I settled into a new #workfromhome routine), we would always pass this old wooden sign pointing the way down a forestry road to Hadashville.
Each time I noticed it, the question in my mind grew: could we really get there from here?
As it turns out, my friend Greg had been asking the same question, so that settled it. We would run from there to here.
At the end of May, Gord, Justin, Greg, and I were dropped off at a random intersection on the Trans Canada Highway near Hadashville, and we ran the 50 long kilometres to Marchand along forestry roads.
Yes, we found out, you can can there from here, but once you’ve done it, you may not find a reason to make the trip again. Recap here.
(This is the point of the year where Greg’s wife and mine probably realized they should be limiting the amount of we spent together scheming up adventure ideas, but we were already on a roll, so…)
After reading Cameron Dueck’s Menno Moto, I took a look at the map from the Mennonite Landing on the Red River near Niverville, MB. Coincidentally, the distance from there to here (Steinbach) was nearly exactly the distance of a marathon, 42.2km! And what’s more, the 146th anniversary of the first Mennonites landing in Manitoba was coming up on Aug 1.
These were two coincidences too many, so we decided something must be done.
At sunrise, Saturday Aug 1, a dozen runners dipped their toes into the Red River, then dove into a run home to Steinbach. This turned out to be a beautiful time of year to run country roads, with crops in full bloom on every side.
Capped with watermelon and roll kuchen, we decided this one would have to become a tradition. Recap.
2020 has been called the “year of the FKT” (Fastest Known Time), as some of the world’s fastest runners, with no place to prove their speed, turned to conquer famous trails and routes to etch their place in history.
The Mantario Trail is one of the few trails in Manitoba with this kind of allure, and indeed the FKT was set and reset several times throughout the year (once by our very own Greg Penner).
As preparation for an FKT attempt, as well as just a fun “long day out”, in September a group of friends took on the trail, about 65km of some of the most scenic and rugged terrain in the province.
This one took everything out of me, but made for some of my favourite memories on trails of the year.
Thanksgiving weekend was fast approaching (early October in Canada). On this weekend, hundreds of Manitobans would be running the Manitoba Marathon virtually (another cancellation email…). Some of my friends from the Arete Endurance club were running a shared route in Steinbach, but we decided to add a less-serious element to the weekend.
Similar to the Beer Mile, but much more “Mennonite” (in more than one way), we would find out how many perogies one could eat in the course of running a mile.
While some only seemed to get faster at a rate of 8 perogies per mile, I realized I preferred to enjoy my food.
Longest Night Run
It’s tough to qualify the Longest Night Run as “fun”, but definitely fell into the “make your own” category. A bunch of friends joined together (virtually) to run through the night in solidarity with a friend fighting cancer. Where some of my adventures this year had been motivated by curiosity and a spirit of “just for the hell of it”, this one was fuelled by the kind of motivation that pushes you beyond what you think is possible, and keeps you going past the point of wanting to stop. Recap here.
As 2020 draws to a close, from a running perspective I’m optimistic. Whether races happen or not in 2021, there will be plenty of reasons to keep running and exploring. There are so many more wacky ideas to try, and more dots on the map to connect, and at least a few other crazy friends with whom to share the adventures. We’ll see you out there!
Related: read Gord’s take on his year, which included many of the same highlights mine.