It’s not very often that you get to meet a true inspiration or for that matter a superhero on a Wednesday in downtown Toronto. However that is exactly what happened when I joined around 70 other runners at the Running Room at Yonge and King to meet and run with Jamie McDonald an inspiring brit running across Canada in support of children’s charities in the UK and Sick Kids Hospital in Canada (Donate Here).
As anyone following his YouTube exploits of his journey would expect Jamie rolled up on the group of runners waiting for him in his now infamous Flash costume and his sturdy 3 wheel cart that he uses to push his supplies on his journey as it is fully self supported meaning he has no crew or support vehicles and is responsible for any and all gear he needs himself from food to accommodations. Accommodations that are commonly a pup tent roadside or sometimes the generosity of people taking this charismatic character in to their homes for a warm shower and hot meal.
Quickly upon his arrival Jamie was already hard at work taking pictures with and personally greeting all the runners that had turned out to see him of as small child and his father also stopped by to give him a donation for Sick Kids curb side before Jamie came inside to give a small speech about his goals, motivation and a quick Q&A that lead to a few laughs here and there as he told a few stories about how his expedition had evolved and the people he has met along the way.
Then we were off running. The general idea of his route for the evening was to push up Yonge St with the goal of making his way to Thunder Bay as his next major milestone in his journey. To get this started today’s leg would take him out of the city of Toronto with a group of inspired runners that at times were taking over the sidewalk and right lane of Yonge ST during rush hour which was a sight to see for onlookers as the Flash lead an honor guard of runners through the chaos of traffic, construction and people.
Always a friendly runner Jamie took questions from the group, continued to talk about his journey and waved excitedly to passersby and children as we pushed our way up Yonge. As we proceed he described the run as having a bit of a feel of a last man standing competition as runners of varying levels eventually dropped off from the group to turn back but not before Jamie would stop and give them a heartfelt hug in thanks for their support.
Soon we had made our way north of Eglington and the group had dropped down to about 7 runners as rain that had only been intermittent spitting began to increase in intensity a bit but this did not slow the group down as Jamie continued to make conversation with the group and people took a try at pushing his cart up some of the more hilly fun in that area.
It was then shortly we started to come in contact with other runners on their way in from a training run at the Yonge / Eglington running room that then parted in to a finishing chute like formation applauding Jamie as we approached. Jamie the friendly guy he is stopped to say hello and talk to the runners snapping a few pictures and some video before we were back underway.
The rain seemed to get harder as the evening got darker and this still did not seem to slow down Jamie or those of us following. Every once in a while Jamie was even seen doing a little jump to hit his heels together for the benefit of the group or a passerby.
Soon it was time for a dinner break at a local Subway restaurant where we got to witness endurance fueling first hand. Jamie has conditioned his body to work very efficiently on what in foundation is very similar to the Paleo diet as he sat down to devour a generous pile of tuna on salad to keep his fires burning.
He also the ever giving and cheeky man got some extra cookies for the rest of us that he has now described as feeling like he was running with a security team as we had been flanking him from all sides before stopping in for a bit to eat. This is also where we learned that the last women in our group inspired by Jamie had run about 15km tonight, her longest run ever having only previously ever gone 10km.
Refueled and ready to go we took the last chance for a few photos in a dry / well lit environment as the weather had officially turned to raining cats and dogs at about 1km away from Finch subway station. We were off again for the last time as Jamie’s full security force before heartfelt soggy hugs from the majority of the group looking to catch the Finch train back downtown from where we had started.
I had kinda made my mind up before leaving the house that I was going to go as far as I could with Jamie on this run, seeing him at least out of Toronto proper if not further as it’s not everyday you get the opportunity for adventure with an ultra running super hero on a Wednesday night.
So we pushed on for another 6km or talking about his journey, the inspiration he is to people in general and how his supporters and the people he meets along the way are what fuels him to keep going. I have never met someone doing something so big, for such a good cause that is also so humble.
It is this quality that no doubt makes him the inspirational and very likable guy that he is, and makes it very easy to understand why he is doing this, and why so many people want to help him succeed along the way.
Getting quite late now and soaked to the bone we took turns on the cart pushing the impressive hills as we officially entered York Region / Thornhill a first for both of us we had run out of the city of Toronto. Late as it was Jamie’s mind was beginning to turn to where to camp out for the night and the retail strip that is Yonge for miles was leaving him with thoughts of bank vestibules or transit shelters opposed to trying to setup a tent in the rain.
It was then I got to witness the kind of magic that Jamie creates when running his journey as shown in his videos first hand as a woman named Nicole flagged him down to present him with a donation in an envelope while under the cover of her umbrella.
Jamie had us pull off to the side and have a chat with her under a nearby bank overhang to thank her for coming out where she had also brought him water as she asked what his plans were for the night. He went on to explain his make shift housing plans and just like that she offered up a couch and warm shower to him at her home only minutes away.
Jamie kinda gave me a look and given the weather I strongly suggested that was too good of an offer to pass up and I thanked him for an amazing run and Nicole for taking him in, then she offered me bus fare if I needed it, talk about the generosity of people.
As not to delay Jamie getting inside and dry I gave em a hug, wished him well and was on my own way running soaked, inspired and smiling back toward the Subway line humming the theme for Flash Gordon (see his video) not even buses splashing me as they drove by could dampen the infectious spirit of running with Jamie Mc Donald.
Jamie still has a long way to go and could use support in the form of donations to Sick Kids as well as just people to say hi, run with him a while or give em a place to either setup a tent or better yet sleep in a bed while he spreads infectious faith in humanity across Canada for charity.
Please spread the word of his journey by watching, liking, and tweeting his exploits on the following sites / services.