I took a look at the map and sighed, “Only 100 K to go and we’re done.”
“Yep,” my husband, Andy replied.
I glanced at the whole route from St John’s to Victoria – one heck of a journey. It’s amazing what seven pairs of legs can do. I recalled proudly making the Nova Scotia basket back in August for a lucky winner who ran through my hometown – virtually, that is. We celebrated a virtual Christmas in Winnipeg, my birthday in some remote spot on Lake Superior, and Andy’s birthday in Charlottetown.
Back in April of 2020, Canadians were learning how to cope with this new virus called COVID. We had restrictions on non-essential travel, stay at home policies, shops and restaurants closed, and limited visits with friends and family.
We cancelled our plans to visit aging parents in Nova Scotia. My course in Victoria was cancelled. Parks were closed. Our volunteer work supporting literacy at a local elementary school came to an abrupt halt. Our gym closed. Our running club group runs were nixed.
However, my bike was on the trainer in the basement. Our 55-kilometer Galloping Goose rail trail stayed open. I could run or walk every day if I chose to. My bookshelf was full. I had an extensive stash of stationery, and I’m passionate about correspondence writing.
We embraced Zoom. My personal trainer and I moved our gym sessions to Zoom. Our family visits moved to Zoom. My course resumed on Zoom. I volunteered to send correspondence to seniors in my parents’ assisted care home. Within six weeks, I wrote and sent over 400 cards and smiles to isolated seniors. I volunteered to organize a few running club events that wouldn’t involve us meeting as a group.
In April, I created the Virtual Vancouver Island Circuit Challenge in April. Could our cumulated club mileage get us around Vancouver Island in nine days? With 30 runners and walkers, distances to tally and reports to write every day, it felt as though I had a full-time job with overtime. Then I created “May Marathon Madness.” How many marathons can you complete in a month?
These are the types of things that kept me occupied in the early days of COVID. Friendship, health, family and a sense of fulfillment are the most important things for me in life. COVID or no COVID, I needed to keep these things central to my new and restricted world. The way I would approach fitness, family, friends and goal setting would change, but not the fundamentals.
At the end of April, I received an interesting email from a running organization in Ottawa. How would I like to be part of the Big Canada Run? After being slightly incensed that they stole my idea, I quickly learned that the run would engage running communities from around the globe to commit to 8,000 kilometers of distance on foot, crossing Canada from St John’s Newfoundland to Victoria, BC. Teams could be as small or a large as we wanted. We’d have a year to complete the challenge, starting on Canada Day, 2020. I was pumped to create a team.
I contemplated who to invite. We’d be a team and we’d need to support each other for a year. We’d need members to be accountable to walk or run their share of the distance. We’d need positive attitudes and not take ourselves too seriously. Let’s face it – 8,000 kilometers would be no small feat.
If one of us was having a hard week, we’d need to be supportive. If one was having doubts, we’d need to build their confidence. We’d need friends with some grit who wouldn’t quit when the going got tough. I chose people who I thought might fit the bill.
In the end, seven brave, spirited souls committed to be the Sooke Supremes Team. We made bets as to where the team would be on each member’s birthday. We’d celebrate each at an outdoor cafe. Every member made a basket of his or her home province for the other members to win – Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and BC.
When interest started to fade, we added the Bass Ass Prairie basket, the Caesar basket, and the prairies Lean, Mean Machine healthy basket – all to be won by meeting motivational criteria. Maggie added the “100-k in day” for a New Year’s Eve challenge. I added the ugly sweater run.
We shared photos on-line. We were there for Megen’s surgery. We cheered for Maggie’s half marathon. We celebrated our successes. We supported Kari through the loss of her beloved dog. We encouraged Andy’s 25-miler.
We cringed at Kayla’s bloody knees and the dramatic story she relived with photos on Facebook. Maggie and I sold books for breast cancer and COVID initiatives for the hospital. We shared our family histories as we virtually passed through our ancestral regions.
While I was writing this piece, I came across a quote: “Running has given me many things, but the greatest gift has been the people that it has brought into my life.” This quote sums up my experience with the Sooke Supremes.
In years to come, I expect what I’ll remember about COVID is not the closures and personal inconveniences, but rather the tight-knit friendship I developed with The Sooke Supremes. During a year of global death, fear and isolation, we maintained our fitness, developed deeper friendships and, tallying our distances, completed an 8,000-K run. In just nine months, we covered ten provinces on our own two feet. We really rocked.
Leslie Ann Bent is a retired chartered accountant. She lives with her husband in the quiet hamlet of Shirley, BC, on the Juan de Fuca coast. She’s traveled to many corners of the globe and enjoys sharing her amazing experiences and adventures.