Running with blistered feet up a mountain highway, a Red Deer native experienced his most gruelling day since starting to cross the country on foot to raise money for mental health.
Skylar Roth-MacDonald, who now lives in Calgary, has covered about 60-km a day under the scorching sun and under rain and drizzle, since starting his cross-Canada run June 1 in Victoria.
Tuesday, a mixed sun/cloud day near Grand Forks, B.C., “was my most challenging day, physically,” he said.
“I had lots of blisters all over my toes and it was mostly uphill, so I mostly walked… I used it as my recovery day,” added the 25-year-old.
Roth-MacDonald has struggled with depression as a “ripple effect” of losing friends to suicide. He said eight young people he knew died of suicide between Grade 7 and high school graduation.
But mental health wise, he’s been feeling great since starting his Miles for Smiles fundraising campaign.
“Being outside this long is good for the mind. It keeps you positive and off your phone — which can cause anxiety,” he explained, during his lunch break west of Castlegar, B.C.
Roth-MacDonald is running along the shoulder of Hwy 3, with vehicles passing beside him. A rented motorhome, driven by two supportive friends, pulls ahead then waits for him to catch up kilometres up the road.
Drivers have been quite willing to share this stretch of highway, which is less busy than the Trans-Canada: “I haven’t gotten any honks yet,” said Roth-MacDonald, who’s running in full reflective gear to raise money as well as awareness about mental health.
“I want to open up about my own struggles,” he said before starting the Miles for Smiles campaign, to encourage people who are also struggling with anxiety or depression to seek resources, such as professional help, “and to talk about it as well. There’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
About halfway across B.C., Roth-MacDonald will eventually follow the highway over the Crow’s Nest Pass and into Alberta to begin the Prairie leg of his epic 150-day run.
His goal is finishing in St. John’s, Nfld. by mid-October — hopefully having raised $50,000 and a lot of awareness for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Roth-MacDonald has raised about $6,000, so far.
Highlights of the run have included finding a poster and balloons tied to utility poles near Princeton B.C., as a sign of support from friends.
“A couple of my buddies are also coming up on June 16 to run a full day with me in Fernie,” said Roth-MacDonald.
He’s also excited at the prospect of seeing family. “My dad is coming to spend some time with me in Creston,” he said, while his mom is planning to meet him in Calgary. Roth-MacDonald intends to set up a pop-up shop there to sell T-shirts and other items to benefit the CHMA.
Meanwhile, his journey continues, one step at a time — much like the battle against depression. “I have been building some tools so I can help myself,” he added.
Donations can be made at www.milesforsmilescanada.com. (A GoFundMe fundraiser was also started to help cover his fuel and meals).