Skylar Roth-MacDonald, who grew up in Red Deer, will begin running across Canada Tuesday to raise money and awareness for people facing mental health struggles. (Photo by Karl Lee)

Skylar Roth-MacDonald, who grew up in Red Deer, will begin running across Canada Tuesday to raise money and awareness for people facing mental health struggles. (Photo by Karl Lee)

‘I feel ready’: Red Deer native begins run across Canada Tuesday

A Red Deer native will set off on a cross-country journey next week to raise money and awareness for mental health.

Born and raised in Red Deer, Skylar Roth-MacDonald will run across Canada in 150 days or less, beginning in Victoria, B.C. on Tuesday and wrapping up in St. John’s, N.L., around the end of October.

Through his “Miles for Smiles” run, Roth-MacDonald is aiming to raise $50,000 for the Canadian Mental Health.

“I want to raise awareness for all the people who are struggling … with their mental health,” Roth-MacDonald told the Advocate just a few days before beginning his trek across Canada.

“I want to open up about my own struggles and hopefully that can (encourage) people who are struggling with their own mental health issues to seek resources, to seek professional help and to talk about it as well. There’s nothing to be ashamed about.”

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In 2009, Roth-MacDonald lost a friend and soccer teammate to suicide. Just three years later, another friend and teammate died by suicide. Between Grade 7 and high school graduation, he knew eight people who died by suicide.

Each day on his Miles for Smiles journey, Roth-MacDonald, who now lives in Calgary, will start running at 4:30 a.m. and expects to travel about 70 kilometres, which would take him until about 3 or 4 p.m. He would then regroup and get ready to run the following day.

“I’ve been feeling ready for the past two months. I find the biggest challenge was planning the logistics – that was really tough. The training went well through the whole camp, which is great. I feel ready. I feel 100 per cent,” he said.

“I feel like I’m mentally prepared. I’ve looked at everything that is going to happen and what can go wrong. I’ve picked the brains of other people who have run across Canada,” he said.

The run itself will follow all COVID-19 rules in place, including a 14-day quarantine following Roth-MacDonald’s arrival in the Atlantic bubble, if that is still a requirement at that time.

In January this year, the Red Deer native ran from Calgary to Red Deer in a weekend to get ready for the summer cross-country run. Back then he told the Advocate the Canada run is on his bucket list.

“In 2023, I want to be the first North American to run around the globe. The Canada run is bucket list thing for me, but it’s also a massive pilot project to see if I can physically do it and organize it.”

To donate or for more information, visit milesforsmilescanada.com.