Caribou Legs

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“There is something spirit about running. When you are alone with your mind, your fears and thoughts plus the effort of putting one foot in front of the other – something happens.”

Addiction and drugs can snatch almost anyone from the safe, warm normalcy of life into the dark soul-draining life that drugs can create. Some have other factors in their lives that place them closer to the temptation of drugs and possible addiction.

As I wander amongst the Canadian running community, I get the chance to meet many new runners. I find and connect with so many people with amazing stories. One story leads to another, like each footstep leads to another. This is the story of a Canadian runner known as Caribou Legs who managed to tear the claws of addiction from his skin and keep them at bay by finding a love and a soulful connection with running.

Brad “Caribou Legs” Firth

Brad’s face is lean and like many marathoners and ultramaratoners. The miles have whittled away the fat from his frame. Thousands of footsteps have dried away the extra like smoking meat, rendering him to a wiry, muscled runner. But it was not always this way.

Brad spent 20 years on the violent back alleys and dark cold streets of Vancouver, (his words) as a hard core drug addict. The need, the unending itch that needs to be scratched quickly drew Brad into lying cheating and stealing, to feed the need.

“I became more vulnerable, weak, frustrated, desperate, hostile, afraid, hopeless, and extremely paranoid, suspicious, tense, anxious, and nervous from rigorously abusing crack cocaine. Eventually, I found myself in provincial jail, desperate for a change of lifestyle; with no options or solutions of resurrecting my spirit.”

“It is important we cultivate running into our children for generations to come. It is important we live to run and run to live!” – Caribou Legs

“It is important we cultivate running into our children for generations to come. It is important we live to run and run to live!” – Caribou Legs

How Brad became Caribou Legs

From online research and sources, the name Caribou seems to come from the Mi’kmaq word “xalibu,” meaning “the one who paws”. The well-know Canadian animal  is well adapted to its environment with long legs that help it move through snow. Many Aboriginal peoples have based their culture around the caribou.

Brad did not become “Caribou Legs” overnight. His legs were not ready for any running or ploughing through the snow at first. But there is always a beginning.

One thing led to another and one day Brad found himself in jail and wondering how to begin a new life. This is when Brad (who is of native ancestry) says an elder told him to start running.

So that’s what he did. As many new runners do, Brad started running every day and in his poetically he says he, “(I) …slowly broadened my horizons and stretched my legs into the North Shore mountains. That’s where I reclaimed my spirit! I felt useful, powerful and worthy. Running became my medicine, teacher, and best friend.”

Brad who was soon to become better known as “Caribou Legs” says he was soon running everywhere in Vancouver and surrounding area. Brad’s drawn into the world of ultra running (over the marathon distance) after he met an ultra runner named Benji Chu. Brad soon found he liked running long and soon he found himself running an 11-hour run to Whistler on the Sea to Sky highway. Brad was on his way to earning his future name.

With an appetite now for the big miles and mental challenge of the ultra run Brad was off for a 23-hour run when his running was interrupted by a truck going by. The truck clipped and shattered Brad’s elbow as it veered to close to him on the highway.

Brad said, “I was told by Benji that the hit n run was payback for all my wrongful decisions on the streets and that I had also incurred many karmic debts over the years. My Creator had spared my running because I was to share my running in a good way with society.”

After being released from hospital Caribou Legs was soon nursing himself back to running. Despite his love of running he says it took it took 6 months to get back on the highway.

With more than enough information and the desire to write an article as opposed to a blog, I still ask Caribou Legs a few questions.

What do you feel when running?

“I feel useful, purposeful, calm, relaxed, determined, focused, safe, spiritual, and confident and I feel cared for when I run, I feel that I’m allowed safe passage wherever I run. Running is my purpose, way of life. Running is my medicine. I have an obligation to serve running to my people as my message or testimony to inform them that it’s possible to transform oneself from addiction.”

Why do you keep running?

“I keep running because I love running!”

What would you tell other who have addictions about running?

“I would tell people with any addiction problems to pick up running as a form of dealing with stress and heartache!”

Today Caribou Legs is an ultra runner with a well-earned nick name, off the streets and at 44 years old says he hopes to run for another 40 years. He has run 750 km in a 10-day run, 1200 km 25-day run from Inuvik to Whitehorse, and a 3200 km 78-day run from Vancouver to Whitehorse. One of his proudest moments he says was qualifying for the Boston marathon (3:07 qualifying time) and running a 1:22 half marathon, placing 46th out of 3500 men.

Caribou Legs’ most recent ultra run from Vancouver to Whitehorse was to bring attention to the Peel watershed where he ran through the Rockies and averaged 65-75km a day. He describes himself as an ice road ultra runner one of the strongest long distance ultra runners in Canada

His passion and enthusiasm leaks from every word in his emails to me. He describes running as a vital activity and says it lends itself to therapeutic healing.

“Running each day validates many physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental defects within our culture. Running improves our behaviour and offers healthy fitness solutions. I enjoy passing on stories of past runners leading the way when villages followed the herds. It was the runners who followed the herds and allowed hunters to set traps for caribou and buffalo. Runners carried important inter-tribal messages for important gatherings. Runners were always allowed safe passage in enemy territory as well. Runners in the community are regarded highly amongst chiefs and elders.”

When I run I am in touch with myself. It is my true self that comes out under the stress and sweat of a run. I feel whole and alive on quiet, early morning runs or cutting through the dark on a fall evening. Caribou Legs I am glad you have joined the Canadian running community.

Your story inspires and adds to the collage of stories that abound by those pounding the pavement across the country like you.

Run on my friend.

*You can follow Caribou Legs on his Facebook page. In May 2015 he will running from Vancouver to Ottawa.

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Feeling inspired!

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“To see the smooth, graceful strides of honed elite marathoners sets the fire alight in my belly- the hunger to run – a marathon.”

It is a cool damp fall morning in Canada. The fall marathon season is quickly disappearing like the colourful leaves tumbling across the lawn blown by a cool wind.

Quick blog about my renewed desire to make a crack at running a good marathon – fully prepared, strong and injury free.

Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Got a quick run in on Sunday morning with my friend Blake and then camped out in the basement to watch the Youtube live coverage of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I had been set to run the race after an unsuccessful go at the Ottawa marathon in the spring but an injury has plagued me all summer. Mileage and hopes of a fall marathon dwindled with each passing month. I did however maintain my role as a Digital Champion (Blogging and tweeting about and to those who were training for the race).

Race results

MEN

1 2:08:15 3:03 Korir, Laban
2 2:08:36 3:03 Jufar, Tariku
3 2:08:41 3:03 Abdulahi, Shami
4 2:08:58 3:04 Terer, Patrick
5 2:09:53 3:05 Shafar, Vitaliy
6 2:10:07 3:06 Some, Peter
7 2:10:47 3:06 Abraha, Gebretsadik
8 2:11:08 3:07 Wami, Mulugeta
9 2:11:21 3:07 Gillis, Eric
10 2:17:12 3:16 Kangogo, Kip

WOMEN

1 2:23:14.1 Seboka, Mulu
2 2:24:42.4 Duliba, Aliaksandra
3 2:27:09.2 Kiyara, Rael
4 2:28:28.7 Gobena, Amane
5 2:30:11.0 Gizaw, Melkam
6 2:30:24.0 Eticha, Fantu
7 2:31:05.1 Marchant, Lanni
8 2:35:33.0 LaBeaud, Natasha
9 2:36:02.5 Doerksen, Kimberley
10 2:48:44.1 Bird, Sara

I was glued to the amazing coverage and was inspired by the strong runs from Eric Gillis (from my home province of Nova Scotia), Lanni Marchant (Canadian record holder) and from many others like Michal Kapral who set a WR for joggling a half-marathon and J.P. Hernandez who ran the full 26.2 miles as Batman (to raise money for a good cause).

The coverage ended and I had to hold myself from lacing up shoes for another run!

Film Transcend

A couple days before watching the marathon I finally got to download the film Transcend from Canadian film maker and runner Michael Delmonte.

The film has great images of Wesley Korir running and is about running but is also about the person behind the runner. The film takes you into what and who this highly gifted Kenyan runner wants to be and become – and how he wants to give back to his country. Running is only part of the story.

The film is inspiring and will not only get you up and wanting to run but also to follow Korir’s story.

Look forward to seeing more running films from this Canadian film maker!

Run on my friends – stay inspired!

*Thanks to Steve Layton for great STWM Photo montage!

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Running thoughts

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“My thoughts can sometimes run hot, cold, quick slow or to the very topic of running. My aim is to just keep thinking – and running.”

I am not running this weekend at the Toronto Waterfront marathon but have some running friends who are. My goal was to be at the start line but hundred mile training weeks en-route to a marathon attempt at the Ottawa marathon this spring and some cranky hips are keeping me at home.

This blog is for my Toronto marathon digital champion friends and all those lacing up for the Toronto marathon or any other race this weekend.

How to say sane before the race

Relax, kick back and relax your mind. The work is done – its time to get ready to race.

Read about running or have fun with some running videos.

Podcast about good running book.

If able set aside 5-10minutes to just sit quietly and meditate or just clear your mind and relax. You may not realize how wound up or stressed you are (excitement can still get you tight and stressed).

Last minute tips

  • Prepare ahead of time and have your stuff packed, your race day gear ready and your bib (with pins) set to go.
  • Make sure you have cheap throwaway warm up gear
  • Throw plastic garbage in drop bag in case of rain (cheap rain coat)
  • Limit your time on feet day before at race Expo – quick browse then go relax.
  • Stay hydrated and eat healthy, nothing out of the abnormal and plan your race day breakfast.
  • Gently stretch and stay loose.
  • If you want to get a pre-race massage, ensure its just to relax and not too deep or anything you are not used to.
  • Set the alarm and have a back-up.
  • Know your A, B and C plans for race day.
  • Go out and get 100% out of yourself.

Race day tips

  • Remember your plan and your goals
  • Focus on getting 100% out of yourself
  • Remember you cannot control weather
  • Get yourself well-positioned and good spot for your pace at start
  • Do not go out too fast, remember you have 26.2 miles to run
  • Relax, breath and bring down heart rate and focus n locking into your pace

And make sure you have fun. Even if you do not run as expected – remember you volunteered, no animals were harmed in the running of your race and that you will live to run again!

Run on my friends. Each footstep is a victory and let the finish line welcome you with its warm sense of accomplishment when you meet it.

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Green Shorts

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“Running is such a minimal gear sport and all you really should need is a short, shirt and shoes.”

I am a runner and I love trail running and like the idea of green products (environmentally friendly and natural). In the world of running products – natural is however hard to find – plastic is everywhere. I think few of us runners really complain because comfort and function is the first priority.

But I am always open to natural and green products if they work.

Someone found my blog and found me and decided to send me a pair of all natural running shorts to test and try. Here is what happened.

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Urth/Wear

The Company name is Urth Wear and the logo and the shorts both have leaves on them. I am okay with that. But the test shorts that arrive in the mail are dark green and have leaf prints all over them. They kind of look more like short boxers than anything else. But I put aside colour and check them out.

The outer short is a cotton material and not overly light but looks okay and there is an inner liner/brief that is made out of a white soft material. I remind myself as well that this i a prototype and I there is room for improvement and feedback.

The Shorts

Cotton seems a bit stiff but okay. Shorts are short shorts like I normally wear but seem shorter due to material and do not move like synthetic material. The inner liner is surprisingly comfortable but bunches a bit at the groin. When I tie up the shorts the draw strings dissapears into the hole and is too short—-but the shorts are snug and no problem with falling down.

Off I go for a warm fall run and the shorts are on. I feel a wee bit self conscious because of the coulour and the design on them. I warm up and pick up the pace. It is a leaf-strewn bicycle path through the woods. The shorts feel comfortable if not a tad too short.

Still need to test on a longer – sweatier run.

I send off my feedback and comments and throw the shorts in for the wash.

Conclusion

I am really open to wearing and using green and environmentally-friendly products but I think – being honest – for me to buy them they need to look as good, be of reasonable price and be functional. I think runners in general can be stingy-but will buy if it looks cool and works well.

I am interested to see second prototypes.

Run on friends!

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Joggling boggles my mind

Michal Kapral Joggling
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“I have just enough brains to keep one foot in front of the other, to keep going and not tangle myself.”

I recently ran a relay race on the east coast (Nova Scotia) and witnessed a military runner fly by while juggling. Really. He wasn’t jogging or back with the strollers and wearing baggy basketball shorts – he was hammering along with three balls in the air. Boggled my mind.

But it was not the first time I had seen a joggler (running and juggling). The former editor of Canadian Running magazine and someone I got to know had been the first. And this person, this joggler is back in the news. Let me introduce you to Canadian joggler (from Toronto, Ontario) – Michal Kapral.

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Michal, recently screaming around an indoor track (joggling) with balls in the air.

Michal

Michal is lean and fit for a 42-year old in the publishing and writing world. Like a superhero he not only is a decent runner but has an almost super-talent. He joggles.

He is the current Guinness World Record holder for the fastest joggling marathon of 2 hours 50 minutes and 12 seconds and also holds the 10K record of 36 minutes and 27 seconds. (I have a hard enough time dragging my aging body along anywhere near that speed nowadays – forget about adding juggling!) So there is no current Guinness record for the joggling half-marathon, but Michal has joggled an uncertified 1 hour 23 minute half-marathon in the past and is hoping to beat that time.

But as I said, Michal is fast. In 2002 Michal was the overall winner of the Toronto Marathon in a time of 2:30:40 after taking up competitive running just four years earlier. He has also recently set some impressive times as a Master runner.

On Sunday, October 19 Michal will be running the half-marathon at the ScotiaBank Toronto Waterfront marathon weekend. Michal will be joining a charity team including two-time Olympic gold-medallist Miruts Yifter (nicknamed Yifter the Shifter for his ability to change up gears in a race and destroy hi opponents) in raising funds for AIDS orphans in Ethiopia through an organization call P2P Canada.

But not only will Michal be running, but he will be bring along his juggling balls and going for a new a Guinness World Record for the fastest half-marathon while “joggling” three objects. And Michal is fast enough to do this.

“I can’t emphasize enough how tough it is to race a half-marathon while juggling every step of the way” Michal says. “I hope to get enough donations to the P2P charity so this absurdly difficult challenge will make the world a better place.”

I got hold of Michal and asked him a few questions about joggling as his big race approached.

What is it that draws you to juggle and run – joggle?

“I keep coming back to joggling because it’s the perfect combination of full-body endurance exercise, hand-eye coordination and entertainment. Once you get a good rhythm going, it’s poetry in motion.”

How difficult, how much harder do you have to concentrate when joggling?

“There’s a lot more concentration involves when joggling compared to running, but it really varies over the course of a race. I find I have to concentrate a lot at the beginning of a race as I find my groove, then it’s relaxing for a while, almost like a trance. But near the end, it becomes absolute torture trying to maintain the juggling cascade as I push toward the finish. The half-marathon is tough because you are really maxed out at the end, and still have to maintain a quick pace. “

Does joggling add to or just make running more difficult?

“Juggling does make the running harder but it also adds a really interesting new element to it. I’ve been at this whole joggling thing for almost 10 years now, so there’s definitely something there. The training runs are especially fun because I can do tricks and clown around. I get people cheering for me as I joggle through downtown Toronto — that doesn’t happen when I’m just running!”

Running is hard enough but Michal runs and joggles – boggles my mind. Run and joggle on my friend and hope to see a record in Toronto!

 

To make a donation to Michal’s cause, click here.

You can follow Michal on his blog

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Also find me on:

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Malaysian runner who needs a leg up

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“We all grumble about getting out the door for a run sometimes or about minor aches and pains that make running difficult – take a step back and remember there are always those with bigger challenges.”

I came across a story in Ottawa, Ontario that caught my attention. I tried reaching out to make contact with those involved but never heard anything back. I have decided to share what I have.

Selvan

Born in Malaysia in 1990, Selvan Mohan is a missing right tibia, kneecap and ankle. Despite multiple surgeries, at the age of 12, his leg was amputated just above his knee. Since then, he has been walking with a prosthetic leg. Walking then turned into an ability and desire to run.

This is where the story comes to our shores. After completing high school, Selvan received a full scholarship to study in Canada. He finished his undergraduate degree in Biotechnology and Biochemistry in the spring of 2013 and has fast-tracked into a PhD in Chemistry. He is working in the field of Bionanotechnology and is currently researching the impact of nanoparticles to the environment with Environment Canada. Selvan is also in the process of applying for a Permanent Residency in Canada.

Despite only having one real leg, Selvan runs and cycles. Hard enough for us 2-legged folks. Since early 2014, parts of Selvan’s prosthetic leg started to fail. He consulted the Rehabilitation Centre of The Ottawa Hospital and was told that he would need to replace his prosthetic leg soon. He was told the total cost of the leg would be $21,674.87. The cost as a foriegn student who only makes makes $26,000.00 from being a Teaching Assistant was too much. His international student fees amount to about $22,000.00 a year!

A campaign began to help raise money to get Selvan his leg and to help him keep walking, biking and running!

A friend told me of the story and I hope you find interesting and inspiring. Like Selvan, don’t let challenges or differences from stopping you from doing what you want. The road may be bumpier, slower or steeper but you will get there. Run on Selvan.

Much of information for this blog was gleaned from links below: Website

Ottawa Citizen article

Also find me on:

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A middle-aged turtle and some stuff to test!

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“We were Ninja turtles in the 90s, middle-aged turtles on the weekend and soon enough will be tortoises with headbands and dreams of speed.”

The September day in Nova Scotia was beautiful. A last warm hug from Sister Summer before fall sweeps in with leaves and chilly winds.

I was on the east coast of Canada for a reunion with some older, balder, fatter former teammates and friends for a reunion. A reunion in the form of a relay from Halifax to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. 10 runners and 110 kilometres.

The day started at the crack or rather yawn of dawn. Arm warmers, a reflective vest and I was off at 6:30am for 12k or so of morning running fun. I eased into a decent pace and tried not to push too hard (I was supposed to run the last leg as well)(or so I thought). I held an okay pace of around 3:58 and cranked the pace up a bit to hold off another runner near the finish. Wet wipes and dry clothes and I was ready to cheer on the other runners.

We all ran well and sported matching orange singlets. Some struggled, a little less fit than thought and others surprised themselves. Some I have been in touch with on a regular basis, some now and again and some I had not seen in almost 20 years. It was a lot of fun. We traveled mainly in 2 vehicles and a team-spirit seemed to grow as every kilometre went by. The injured teammate who had come along (Trevor) – and who I was supposed to run for at the end seemed to be getting more and more excited, and started talking about running. I waited.

The last leg came after a long day of cheering, shuttling runners around and handing out water. Fatigue was setting in but it was still fun. Leg 10 of the relay arrived and Trevor was in running gear and told me he was going to do it. He did, all 600m before stopping. I smiled for I know the desire to run, the team spirit and old friends and teammates had gotten to him. I would not have cared had he run 2m or 5km- he was good to see him with the desire to run.

We passed on the awards ceremony and went to a greasy restaurant that used to make pizzas for the relay (way back in the 1990s). It was just as bad as I remembered and had wieners on it. Ahhh memories, old friends and running.

Stuff to be tested

I have a pair of all natural green running shorts from a company called urth/wear that looks interesting. The green shorts with leaves on them might not be the colour or design I would have chosen but I am game to try something that might be good for Mother Nature….as long as they don’t chafe me silly. Review and pics to come.

Received some endurance nutritional drink from Tailwind Nutrition that should be interesting to try. Be tasting and trying out before, during and after runs. So many more choices than the days of only Gatorade (in the glass bottles)(yep I’m old).

All that and just got a sweet little box from Cliff bar with some samples and a hat…sweet!!! Sometimes the little things make me happy!

Run on my friends – see ya all out there on the roads!