Another article by yours truly sees the light of day in a recent issue of Trail Running Canada (p.24-25). If you have ever had a goal that scared you a little (or a lot), you’ll appreciate the sheer size of the undertaking by my friend Rhonda.
Full text below:
Have you ever had a goal? A goal so big it made your heart hurt, and your soul tremble? A BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)?
Well, Rhonda-Marie Avery has such a goal – she wants to run the entire length of The Bruce Trail, spanning over 890km, in 20 days.
I first met Rhonda at the Salomon Toronto store get together, where sponsored athletes come together to chat over a plate of nachos, or possibly a pint of beer. It may be the only time we see each other in clean outfits. The rest of the time, the hair is back, the running tights are on, and bright Salomon trail shoes are laced up tight.
Rhonda looks up and smiles, as we are introduced. Then she proceeds to almost spill her beer, and laughs at her own awkwardness lightly, just like I have done many times in the past. Yet, as we all get up to walk across the street, she takes out a pair of dark glasses, and holds on to someone’s elbow. And it dawns on me. “Is she… is she blind?”, I ask a fellow runner right next to me.
While the retina of most people contains two types of photoreceptor cells – rods and cones, Rhonda’s retina only has rods. Rods are responsible for night and peripheral vision, as well as motion detection, while cones are responsible for eye’s color sensitivity and visual acuity. As a result, Rhonda only has 8% vision, cannot see colour, and must rely on her night vision to get around.
Rhonda is also an ultra runner. A mother. A friend. A sister. Optimistic. Smiley. And stubborn. Incredibly stubborn. And a sure way to get her to do something is to tell her she can’t do it. Yet, what she is attempting to do in August of this year, will be a challenge even for her.
The Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath, runs along the Escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory. The trail is protected and maintained by The Bruce Trail Conservancy – a charitable organization, and one of Ontario’s largest land trusts, preserving over 8,000 acres of land. This year, Rhonda will become the first disabled runner to run the entire 890km.
Ten minutes at a time. You can do anything for ten minutes. “Ten minutes until I will let myself walk again. Ten minutes until I have to start running again. Ten minutes until the race starts. Ten minutes off my last PB time on this course. Ten minutes for the next mile.Ten minutes to the next aid station.”, Rhonda muses on her blog. “Ten minutes until I see my tent again, my crew again, civilization again. Ten minutes I might lose my mind in. Ten minutes to change the world. Longest ten minutes ever. Don’t give up.”
This adventure will take many minutes. Minutes of training, minutes of thinking, minutes of planning, minutes of doubting, and, most importantly, minutes and hours and days and weeks and months of outpouring of support. From relatives and loved ones, from friends and strangers.
The biggest question behind any crazy goal is why. Why do this? Why plan, strategize and obsess for months? Why recruit friends and strangers for help? Why canvass and fundraise? Why run, and run, and run, and then, run some more, for days?
In conjunction with Achilles Canada, Rhonda wants to bring awareness to persons with disability, the world’s largest minority group, focusing on athletes with disabilities.
Achilles Canada is a non-profit organization that encourages people with various disabilities to participate in running and other athletics.
Their mission statement is to “empower you, through running or walking, to take control of your health, to increase your self-confidence, to become more involved in the mainstream world, and to reach your full potential”.
Starting on August 4th, Rhonda, accompanied by two guide runners, will travel at least the distance of a full marathon (42.2km) per day along the Bruce Trail, with the goal of completing the distance in 20 days.
On August 23rd, Rhonda hopes to cover the last 5km of the trail as part of a public walk, where all are welcome to join in and help her complete this adventure. [Can you make it? We will all walk together, starting at 12pm at Queenston Heights Park, Niagara Pkwy, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario)
“Each day is bringing us closer to the end”, says Rhonda in her blog. “Each day we are setting out to show the world that disabled athletes are out there, trying, investing, training, focusing, and looking forward to the next ten minutes.
Every minute is a gift. Whether or not it was wrapped in beautiful paper and bows, or mud and twigs – it’s still a gift.”
Ability to run, ability to walk is a privilege. We hope to see you there. On the Bruce Trail. Walking. Running. Ten minutes at a time.
You can learn more about this project here.
*Have you heard? On August 16th, 2014, I will be running Tough Mudder Toronto blindfolded (yes, blindfolded!) in order to raise awareness for visually impaired athletes and to become a better guide runner. In October, I will be guiding Rhonda, a dear friend, an ultra runner and a visually impaired athlete through her very first Tough Mudder. Please read more and donate to the cause!