The VR Pro Virtual Remembrance Day 21k for the Juno Beach Centre.


When I wake up each morning here in Canada, the thought never crosses my mind that I might be killed by enemy gunfire or taken as a prisoner of war that day. Or I might be tortured or killed because my views are different from that of my countries leader. I enjoy something very special, and that is the word “freedom”.  From the Oxford dictionary the word freedom means, “The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” Throughout history, various dictators have undermined these freedoms by pushing their own agendas and ideologies. The 1930’s saw massive atrocities with the rape of China by Japan, Mussolini’s Fascist Italy had invaded Ethiopia and Hitler’s Nazi Germany regime was seizing one neighbouring territory after another.

Here in Canada, life would continue on as normal as much as it could be. The dictators were thousands of kilometers away, and we had that 5,000 kilometer Great Atlantic moat between us and them. Plus Canada had a friendly and powerful neighbour to the south called the United States. It would have been so easy to have a hypnotic complacency. After all, the dictators were thousands of kilometers away. That complacency can so easily creep into our own lives. In my own lifetime there has been horrific atrocities from the hands of other dictators in various parts of the world. There was Idi Amin, widely known as “the butcher of Uganda”. There was Muammar Gaddafi, an authoritarian dictator for more than 40 years in Libya. And most recently there is Bashar Hafez Al-Assad who is continuing the legacy of his father’s brutal rule of Syria. These are only 3 of a long list of dictators in my own lifetime. Their regimes were (and are) thousands of kilometers away. And we become numb that fellow humans around the world are greatly suffering while we are enjoying freedom.  A 2020 update from the NGO website Planet Rulers mentions that there are 50 dictators currently ruling countries in the world today. They define a dictator as the ruler of a land rated “Not Free”.  According to their research 36% of the world’s population lives in an oppressive country that is not free (based on the definition of freedom). In my own free world, sometimes it does not sink in how privileged I am to live where I live.

From the website Planet Rulers, this 2020 update lists the green as free countries (83 countries), the yellow as partly free (63 countries) and the purple as not free (49 countries). The same website lists full page descriptions of every one of the world’s current dictators. 

 

Image Source. Photo as part of the article “A Look at Some of the World’s Most Notorious Dictators”.

Great Britain on the other hand was far closer to that Hitler Nazi Germany threat in the 1930’s than Canada was. Instead of a 5,000 kilometer Atlantic moat, the English Channel at it’s narrowest is only 34 kilometers from France on mainland Europe. Two days after Germany invaded Poland, both Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. The date was September 3, 1939.  After Parliament here debated the matter, Canada became allies with Great Britain by declaring war on Germany a week later. The date was September 10, 1939. Encyclopedia Britannica mentions by the end of World War 2, more than one million Canadians (about 50,000 of who were women) fought for our country. What blows me away, is that from that vast number, only 60,000 men and women were conscripted. Only 12, 908 of those conscripted soldiers were sent to fight abroad. Such a small number compared to hundreds of thousands of Canadians who volunteered. Out of the 1 million plus who fought for Canada in World War 2, some 45,000 were killed or died in service, and 54,400 were wounded.

Image Source: With the pandemic, there are big changes with Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11. The 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour marked the end of World War 1.

These men and women paid the ultimate price for our freedom. So when I opened an e-mail from VR Pro about a virtual race called “The Remembrance 21k“, with proceeds to the Juno Beach Centre, I told my wife I really wanted to take part in this. Directly taken off the Juno Beach Centre website, it mentions the “Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, France. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War, of which 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 on D-Day. Opened in 2003 by veterans and volunteers with a vision to create a permanent memorial to all Canadians who served during the Second World War, the Centre’s mandate is to preserve this legacy for future generations through education and remembrance”.

My run started at the Cenotaph in front of the Elmvale, Ontario Library. I originally had a red shirt. But you couldn’t see my poppy. Always important to carry different running gear in the car. So I changed it.

I decided to do my run locally, and part of the “fun” of the event was a voluntary scavenger hunt from a list drawn up by the organizers.  I was able to complete several things on the list such as run to your local cenotaph, run past a legion, wear a poppy, run past a Canadian flag on the route, and observe a moment of silence after I completed my run. I will never be able to complete the complete list as I don’t have media on my phone. One of the items on the list was to run using the RaceJoy app.

Two items on my scavenger hunt list. Running past a Canadian flag, and running past a legion. The Royal Canadian Legion is Canada’s largest veteran support and community service organization. This picture is the Elmvale legion.

I’ve been dealing with Achilles issues on the right foot, so I ran a very slow pace. It gave me lots of time to reflect and be thankful for the freedom I have here in Canada.  I stopped many times along the way for photos. My route started at the Elmvale, Ontario library (where there was a cenotaph). Then I ran past the local legion, through some side streets, until I got on the North Simcoe Rail Trail. A few kilometers north of Elmvale the trail changed names to the Tiny Rail Trail. At the village of Wyevale I turned around and ran back.

Where the North Simcoe Trail changes to the Tiny Rail Trail.

 

Beautiful bridges along the trail.

 

My biggest challenge on my run was this here rooster. which was free ranging with some chickens along my route.. After a couple of minutes of getting its picture taken (I loved its colouring), all of a sudden it decided it had enough. And it charged at me. I blocked it by placing my hydration pack between myself and it. Coming back on my return run the rooster was waiting for me. Literally. I thought for sure I could outrun it. After all they only have 6 inch legs. Boy was it fast. I barely just stayed ahead of it while it chased me for at least a hundred meters. It was inches away from me for the longest time as it tried to go for my legs.  Finally I gained some distance between myself and it, and it stopped chasing.

 

My turnaround was just ahead in the village of Wyevale.

Interesting enough, I did not run this section of trail at all during my 4 month long Great Virtual Run Across Tennessee (which ended up totaling 3,214.4 kilometers). No it wasn’t because of the rooster. It is because there is a section of the North Simcoe Trail that goes on a very busy road, which has narrow shoulders in places. I have always felt uncomfortable and vulnerable on that section of road with cars coming at me and going just an arms length past me at 80kph, 90kph, 100kph. Or more. But I figured if a fellow Canadian World War 2 soldier, gray from seasickness from bucking boats in a stormy English channel can bravely disembark down a ramp into the waist deep water of the heavily mined Juno Beach, I can do it. The Canadian soldier exited that ramp while the German defenses were anchored in with their machine guns, mortars, and artillery. Often positioned in concrete bunkers, overlooking the likely Allied landing areas, the enemy would be firing at these Canadian soldiers as they desperately tried to get their bearings on a place they have never been to before. Surely I can run along this scary stretch of road to honour and remember them.

Running along the shoulder of this road with busy weekend traffic had me very anxious. Picture on my return after my second encounter with the rooster.

I made it through that road section unscathed, but sadly not every Canadian was as fortunate at Juno Beach. The Juno Beach Centre website mentions “There were 21,000 troops (this is how my run called The Remembrance 21k was named) who landed on the beach on D-Day, of which approximately 14,000 were Canadians from 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. The final third of the troops who landed on Juno Beach were British. On Juno Beach and the inland advance of it 340 Canadians were killed, 574 wounded, and 47 captured for a total of 961. There were also 243 British Army casualties in the Juno sector.

Image Source. I can’t even imagine what is going through these Canadian soldiers minds before landing at Juno Beach on D-Day.

 

Image Source from an excellent Calgary Herald article by Pete McMartin titled “We Mustn’t Forget D-Day, Which Was Canada’s Finest Hour.” The article was in response to practically nil coverage about D-Day in the media when it’s anniversary rolls around each year. D-Day was June 6, 1944.

Another item on my scavenger hunt was a finish line photo. Since this is a virtual race with no official race photographers, I set up my camera on timer on a picnic table that was right near my 21.1k finish. Backtracked a few dozen metres, and took a photo of me coming in to my virtual finish. Then I walked back to my car.  On the way home I stopped at a little village called Waverly.

Running towards my virtual finish line in Heritage Park, Elmvale!

 

Screenshot of my distance and time which was submitted to Speed River Timing.

There is a very beautiful war memorial/cenotaph located there in Waverly. It is only a 9 minute drive from my home, and in my 45 years of driving I have honestly never stopped there. Highway 93 is a busy road, and like most people, I just keep driving. I have likely driven past this war memorial hundreds of times over my 45 years of driving. Which I feel very ashamed of. Waverly is at the crossroads of 4 different townships, Flos, Medonte, Tiny and Tay. The main monument lists the names of the lives lost during World War 1 (each side represents a township). There are 4 separate corner monuments. Each corner monument for a separate township of the lives lost in World War 2.

Inscription at the main cenotaph at Waverly. The last line reads, “Who dies for freedom lives”.

 

The cenotaph at Waverly is where 4 different townships meet. World War 1 inscriptions are on the original monument (a township represented on each side). Each township has their own memorial stone for World War 2. So many people from this area sacrificed their lives.

Am 62 years old and have lived in this area all my life. I have been driving for 45 years, and this is the 1st time I have stopped at this cenotaph. It is only a 9 minute drive from my house.

Amidst the constant background traffic noise of busy Highway 93, I lingered and audibly spoke each name engraved on this hard, solid rock. It was extremely moving. These were real people who lived up and down these country sideroads, concession roads and small villages in these 4 townships. They were the ages my sons and daughters are now when they left this peaceful countryside (many were also much younger) to fight for my freedom. And they didn’t make it home.  We will remember them. Lest we forget!

Delmar and Isabel Kelly. Delmar was a Canadian pilot who flew with the RAF in World War 2. Isabel volunteered at the legion for decades. Photo courtesy of granddaughter Alyssa. When I asked permission, Alyssa mentioned that Grama (who is now also passed on) would want me to share it.

There was 1 last question on the scavenger hunt. And that was to send a photo of who I was running to remember. His name was Delmar Kelly. He was a Canadian pilot who flew with the RAF over North Africa, Burma and India. The most incredible thing was that Delmar was shot down 3 different times during World War 2. And survived. I never met Delmar, but as a Pastor have had many wonderful Pastoral visits with his dear wife Isabel, (who has now sadly also passed on). In this article written in 2016 titled Missing in Action I wrote more about Delmar and his dear bride Isabel.

With declining membership in the Royal Canadian Legion across the country, they are struggling for funds needed to provide vital support for our veterans. Off the Legion website, it introduces a video titled Two Minutes of Silence with these words, “The most sacrosanct and central element in Remembrance is the Two Minutes of Silence. During this time of reflection, Canadians pause to honour, thank and remember our Fallen.”

 

 

Categories: RunningTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

20 comments

  1. Hi Carl! I work on a second blog, I have my startwithsparkles still though. This is my other daily blog. 🙂 Nice to read your thoughts and lovely connections to freedom. What a great virtual run. Way to go! Hope you’re well and have a great winter season! ~Rachel

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an amazing post, Carl! So much useful background information on your virtual Remembrance Day 21k!

    For example, I didn’t know that there are 50 dictators currently ruling and that over a third of the world’s population is not free. That’s a shockingly high number and makes me appreciate my freedom more.

    I like that your facemask matches the poppy! It looks good on the black shirt – a good thing you had a spare one with you. And that rooster!! Hilarious! I wonder how quickly you were running when he chased you!

    That is so thoughtful of you to stop at the cenotaph at Waverly and spoke each engraved name out loud. Isn’t it amazing how we can drive or walk past something for many years without noticing it?
    Delmar and Isabel Kelly would have been so proud of you doing this run in rememberance of them!

    You did well with your finishing line shot, Carl. Looks quite professional. How is your Achilles holding up after this run?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read Catrina. You are always such an amazing support.

      I was quite surprised about the 50 dictators as well. That website I discovered called “planetrulers.com” is really comprehensive. I ended up editing a map on my article (one was interactive and I couldn’t make it work, but was able to use another one). The website also gives full page details of each dictator. After reading their bios, I’ve learned there are some pretty disturbing people ruling around the world.

      I was shocked how fast that rooster was…lol. Put it another way Catrina, if it was a bear chasing me, I don’t think I could have gone any faster. If the rooster had of connected with the back of my leg, it would have made a mess. Probably my quickest 100 metre to date…lol.

      Delmar passed on before I moved to Hillsdale so I never got to meet him. The 3rd time he was shot down, Isabel got a telegram that he was Missing in Action. She was coming to grips that he was likely dead. Delmar ejected himself, and spent 9 days on a raft in the South Pacific. Survived by drinking rainwater that was collecting in the raft. Malnourished after, but physically okay. Fortunate for him, allies found him before the Japanese did. Otherwise he would have taken as a Japanese prisoner of war. I know they would have been happy that I am keeping their memories alive.

      I was totally amazed how ell the finishing photo turned out. Thank you Catrina. Made 2 attempts, and went with the 1st one. Thanks again for reading and for your support. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh wow, that story about Delmar is amazing! He survived on a raft in the Pacific for 9 days – that would be great material for a film.
        There are so many brave people out there. Imagine the joy that Isabel must have felt when she realized Delmar had survived.

        Thank you for filling me on this amazing story, Carl!

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome Catrina. Yes, Delmar’s story would really make an incredible film.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a thoughtfully written, infused with your experiences running, current emotions and Canada’s history. It is great that you participated in a virtual run the The Remembrance 21K, honoring those who defended the nation and those who put themselves on the front line. It is great you looked out for yourself by running slower due to your Achilles issues – and all in all it sounded like it was never how fast you could complete the run but the journey.

    That rooster incident was hilarious. I guess it doesn’t like getting it’s picture taken and really had enough when you hovered around. It did sound like a very fast one but good that you just managed to outrun it and left you alone. Funny that it came at you again when you saw it again. Maybe, just maybe, it was trying to be friendly.

    Lovely self-timer shot of you there. It was very well set-up.

    It’s funny how there are places and corners that we pass so often and don’t explore. I guess one day we will when the right moment presents itself – like you and the war memorial in Waverley as you ran for a good cause.

    Hope are you doing well over there as you head into winter. Stay safe and take care 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much Mabel for reading and for such a generous response. I am really glad I ended up doing this. The sore Achilles was actually a blessing, as it helped me reflect. No doubt the soldiers on the battlefield would be dealing with issues far, far worse.

      We used to have a rooster on the farm. That is going back 47 years. I remember how ornery it was, and their beak and talons can really cause injury if they connect. I did forget how fast they are however. I am glad it dropped away when it did. I was really out of breath….lol.

      I was amazed how well the self timer turned out as well Mabel. Definitely a stroke of luck. I only figured how to use the self timer on my camera this past summer.

      Thanks again for reading. Sincerely hope everything is going well for you! 🙂

      Like

      • That is so true. Others in the past and also present have much worse than us. If we can get up and go about our day, we are one of the lucky ones. Sounds like your Achilles is manageable and that is great.

        Your story of rooster and their talons reminds me of a time when a flying bird struck me just above my left eyebrow. It wasn’t flying that fast and was a small bird, but my forehead did hurt for a few days. So…birds can be dangerous 😂

        Everything is okay over here as we head into summer. Hope you are staying safe this winter 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • That would have quite a bit scary getting clipped by the bird so close to the eye Mabel. It will be interesting to see how winter goes here Mabel. I definitely will be keeping low key to keep safe. All the best to you! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Carl what an excellent way not only to remember those lost but to help raise money for a museum in their memory. Like you I can not imagine what it would have been like to get off one off those boats with the enemy on attack. The bravery and courage is astounding. The historical information you share is astounding. I can hardly believe how many people volunteered! The map of countries which are free as compared to those that aren’t is shocking. It helps put into perspective just how fortunate and free we are. I hope you achilles injury is improving. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Sue so much for taking the time to read. I have never been to Europe, but I think the Juno Beach Centre would be a very important place to visit.

      So fortunate with the freedom we have here in Canada. Wen I started to research I pretty shocked the amount of countries that are now free as well.

      I too a week off from running this past week to give the Achilles some rest. It is feeling not bad and I might go out for a gentle run this afternoon. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

      Like

  5. Hello Carl.

    What a mind stopping post! Memories, feelings, describing your run, history, beautiful photos, war etc. Thank you. I was unborn child, when Helsinki was bombed in February 1944. When the alarm sirens howled, my mother wondered if she should go to the nearby bomb shelter or not. She decided go to a bomb shelter. Without this decision, I would not be here writing this. One bomb felled near to the rock of our home. it blew in the windows of our home, opened the drawers of bureaus, everywhere were shards of glass and the pressure messed everything up. That’s what my mother told me.

    Links:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Helsinki_in_World_War_II

    https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=&sl=fi&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.is.fi%2Fsuomi100%2Fart-2000005073549.html

    Happy new week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read and for your detailed comment an links. Wow, that split second decision by your mother was the difference between you being here or not. Even for civilians such as your mother, living through the war must have been really horrifying. Looking up your link, I was not aware it was the Soviets who were bombing Finland during those great raids of 1944. Finland is such a small country compared to such a military superpower such as the Soviets. I am so glad you remain a free country.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is an excellent post! Great job putting it all together – very well done. You brought my passions for history and running together – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: