Running Into 2022


When I was in college 10 years ago, I learned an acronym for smart goals. The five points were Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timebound. It has been fun interreacting with the running community on Twitter and learning the specific running goals my running peeps have chosen for 2022. Some have a goal of their first 5k, or 10k. Or running their first half marathon, marathon or ultra. There is running a specific race. Others have decided to start a #runstreak, which is running everyday over a specific time. While others a specific distance over a defined time period.

Image Source: Twitter Account of A Great Canadian Running Challenge

As for me, I didn’t know what kind of challenge to work towards during 2022. The past two years have been pretty much all virtuals. And I have to admit I am pretty much all “virtualed out”. The virtual challenges served their purpose tremendously in keeping me active. They have helped me so much both physically and mentally.

Lots of time immersing myself in the forest again in 2021.

My biggest virtual challenge in 2021 was A Great Canadian Running Challenge, which covers the entire year of 2021. I had set two specific goals with this challenge. One was to average 100 kilometers of running and walking a week, or 5,200 kilometers for the year. Our province was in lockdown when I signed up in the beginning of the year. Which meant schools were closed and I wasn’t required as a crossing guard. The church I lay pastor was also closed. My other specific goal was to reach 1,000 kilometers before schools reopened. I had no idea when that was to take place, so I kept pushing really hard. All my distances outdoors in our Canadian winter. I ended up reaching my target of 1,000 kilometers on Sunday February 7th (day 38). The very next day schools resumed and I was back on my crossing guard duties. As for total distance, I ended up finishing up the year with 6478.86 kilometers (fourth overall). It is tough getting out there day after day. No matter what the conditions or how I am feeling. My shortest day in 2021 was 6.81 kilometers on December 9th. My longest day was 101.5 kilometers on July 9th.

My Garmin showed a total distance of 6,560 kilometers. I am guessing a few days I forgot to log my mileage in the virtual leaderboard. This distance I ran and hiked was over 3 times the distance I drove in 2021.
Much of the year I wore a toque or some form of hat because of serious COVID hair.
Photo after completing 1,000 kilometers in 38 days. Jeannette Boudreau, the founder and director of the challenge kindly wrote a very nice article on my running journey.

This 100+ kilometer day on July 9th was supposed to be on my 63rd birthday on July 7th. Because of torrential rainfall that day it was pushed back a couple of days. The run was also a 100 kilometer virtual for The Limberlost Challenge, also cancelled do to COVID. The previous time I ran the actual Limberlost Challenge race was 3 years earlier. The course was 56 kilometers, and was right on my 6oth birthday. So I ran 4 more kilometers, for 60 kilometers for 60 years. Running 100 kilometers self supported like I did on July 9th was really tough. There were mistakes I made that had the potential to become major issues. Fortunately it didn’t get to that. Overall I was very happy how the run went. And I can learn from those mistakes I made for the next time.

I looked much fresher at the beginning of my 101.5k run than I did at the end.

Other virtual challenges I participated in was Smiles For Amanda. A very special and important run/cycle/hike in memory of Dr. Amanda Kelsall. Amanda was training to become a medical doctor and was killed in a motor vehicle accident on January 5th, 2014. Amanda was 22.

Very fitting that a run was used as a way to honour Amanda Kelsall who tragically died in 2014. Amanda was also a runner.

I also completed the four month Great Virtual Run Across Tennessee again. In 2020 I completed over a triple crossing, 3,224 kilometers in 123 days. It was so tough to cover an average of over 25 kilometers a day for 123 days straight. I wasn’t planning on entering this past year, but the Twitter running community talked me into it (even a 63 year old like me can have peer pressure). Vowed this year it was not going to be a repeat triple crossing. In the end I covered over a double crossing, or 2,317 kilometers for the 4 months.

Swag from the 2021 Great Virtual Run Across Tennessee.
Nearby Copeland Forest is my favourite place to go for a run.

Then there was the Monarch Ultra, a definite highlight for 2021. They had a 10k virtual. Although my 101 kilometer run on July 9th was much longer, I wore the virtual Monarch Ultra bib to bring awareness of the relay. Because of COVID, the 2021 Monarch Ultra relay stayed within Southern Ontario. Covering 1,800 kilometers over 21 days. It was such a honour and privilege to run 50 kilometers that final day through my own “neck of the woods” to Barrie.

Hard to believe that in 1976 my mom took the North Simcoe Railway on the very tracks where I was running for the Monarch Ultra. A couple of years after my dad died, Mom took the train trip out to Western Canada with her girlfriend. The tiny, little train station where she would have boarded was at a place called Minesing.

On top of all the virtual running challenges, in 2021 I actually ran a race. My 1st race in over two years, the Salomon Summit 700 held in the Blue Mountains was deferred from July 2020 to July 2021 and then deferred again until to September 25, 2021. For being only a 10k, I really struggled with the fact there was a 65k drive each way to the start line. And almost did not go. It ended up being an amazing race, however.

My one race in 2 years was wet and rainy. And challenging and fun.

Heading into 2022, I really don’t know what goal to work towards as a runner. I am trying to get away from #CarDependency. And every trail ultra I am interested in here in Ontario has #CarDependency attached to it. Our planet is in a Climate Crises. It is here now. It is being felt. And it could get much worse. As I have been getting more and more involved in environmental advocacy, I’m no longer interested in driving 200 kilometers each way to run a 50k race like I might have five years ago. Driving these distances for a race is very common for ultrarunners in Southern Ontario. And I ask myself the questions, “Is there any future for me at all as an ultrarunner? Can running ultra distance races a long way from home and environmental advocacy coexist on the same page? Or would that be living a double standard?”

Tweet from BC Transportation in the aftermath of the devastating November, 2021 British Columbia floods. Major droughts, major fires and major floods are exacerbating at an alarming rate these last few years.

So I started to see if I could get to any of these races using the lower carbon footprint of public transit. In the end I could not find any trail ultras in Ontario I could get to by using public transit. I expanded it across Canada, and still came away empty handed. When I expand it even further across North America, I discovered there’s a lot of trail ultras to research. The website Ahotu lists 2,415 upcoming ultramarathons in North America in 2022. Even if I were to research six races a day, I still would not get through the entire list of them within a year.

Enlisting the Twitter running community to try and find an ultra in North America without #CarDependency

So I enlisted the Twitter running community with the specific goal to find ANY one trail ultra within a 4 mile (6 kilometer) run of a train. The reason I specifically chose the train is that it’s a far more efficient way to travel. The website Our World in Data mentions that “Taking a train instead of a car for medium-length distances would cut your emissions by ~80%.” Southern Ontario at one time used to have a thriving passenger rail network. Sadly it is all gone, hundreds upon hundreds of kilometers of track ripped up to be replaced by highways.

Taking a bus is half the carbon footprint than a medium sized car for a single traveler. However, buses also use the same congested roads as cars. In 2019 when I took the bus to Mexico to run with the Monarch Ultra, I missed two bus connections. The first was in Chicago due to my bus being stuck on congested roads. Image Source.
Carbon footprint of different modes of travel. Image Source.
Photo at the last timed ultramarathon race I ran. Hard to believe that was late April 2019. Pick Your Poison is only 9 kilometers away from where I live. I am very fortunate. I’ve run their 50k distance the four previous years before COVID. Pick Your Poison is a very popular race. Some runners will drive one way 300+ kilometers to get to this very race and then have to scramble to find parking. Patrick Voo photo.

It is still early in 2022. I have thought surely I could find one trail ultra in North America accessible by train. So far I have been unsuccessful. Maybe I am being just too unrealistic with my goal. Achieving this goal might end up being tougher than running/hiking over 6,500 kilometers for the year. And tougher than running 100 kilometers self supported. After running 16 timed ultra races in the previous 5 years before COVID, I am thinking my ultrarunning trail race days might just be about over. The reason why roads have killed the passenger railway system in North America is that they are highly subsidized. Bloomberg has an article titled, “Nine Reasons the U.S. Ended up Much More Car Dependent Than Europe”. Over the last 40 years, gas taxes, tolls, and registration fees have covered only about 60 or 70 percent of roadway expenditures across all levels of U.S. government. The remainder has been paid using property, income, and other taxes not related to transportation. These subsidies for driving reduce its cost and increase driving demand in the United States. It may be cheaper, but our obsession with the car doesn’t factor in any of the massive environmental costs attached to climate breakdown. In European countries, meanwhile, drivers typically pay far more in taxes and fees than governments spend on roadways. This is one of the reasons why their fuel is twice as expensive.

A steam train photo from the railroad glory years, this once nearby wooden trestle built in 1908 by local craftsman Mike McPeake was a marvel of engineering. Spanning 2,141 feet across wetland, it was the longest trestle of its kind in Canada. This trestle handled both local freight and passenger service. With modern highways highly subsidized, railways could no longer compete with cars and the trucking industry. Sadly the trestle was dismantled in 1978. Image Source.
Now a rail trail, I ran over this local bridge as part of the 2021 Monarch Ultra. Image Source.
I really try to avoid driving major highways. Always so discouraged by their excessive waste. However, because they are deeply subsidized, I still have to pay for them through my taxes. Image Source.

Passenger train service in North America really got the short end of the stick these past 50 years. When public transportation such as trains do not turn a profit, the 1st thing that happens is services are cut. This is exactly what has happened with Via Rail here in Canada. With services cut, people are even then less likely to use it. It really goes to show how much of a car culture we live in here in North America. Catrina Denker is a Swiss ultrarunner friend who doesn’t own a car in her home country. She is constantly on the go participating in trail races and ultramarathons throughout her country. She will take the train to these races. The race starts right at the train stop. And the cost of the train ticket is included right in the race registration. Catrina tweeted these words about taking a train to a race, “Traveling to a race by train is so much easier than by car. No worries that you’ll get stuck in traffic. You can walk around in the train, chat with friends, eat something, use the bathroom, read a book. No frenzied search for parking when you arrive. Highly recommend it!”

Trail races start right at the train station for my Swiss ultrarunner friend Catrina Denker. This is her at the super tough Eiger Ultra Trail.

It is not just Switzerland. The vast majority of European countries prioritize train travel over car dependency. There is this 250 kilometer, 5 day stage race that runs from the northern Cambrian mountains to southern Snowdoniain in Wales that I would love to run some year. It is called Ultra X Wales. On their website not once is ever driving a car mentioned to get to the race start. It only way it mentions to get there is by train. What a difference from North America.

To get to the race start of Ultra X Wales, it is a one kilometer walk from the Machynlleth train station. Screenshot from Ultra X Wales Race Information Packet.

Europe also prioritizes active transportation such as cycling and walking to move away from car dependency. Many cities have implemented entire networks of bike lanes, separated cycle tracks, off-street bicycle paths, and traffic calmed neighborhood streets. This makes it easy travel by bicycle between any origin and destination in a city or region. Additionally, European traffic laws actually protect pedestrians and cyclists, often putting the responsibility for a crash on the driver. North America traffic laws, police, and court juries often fail to prosecute or punish drivers who kill or maim pedestrians or cyclists. It is really frightening being a vulnerable road user here in Canada.

Taken at my school crosswalk on Ontario Provincial Highway 93, I try to picture myself cycling along this highway. And I cringe. The reason why I very seldom go cycling. With no infrastructure for cycling in my village, it is just too dangerous.
It took a major earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand before city planners took action to make the city more friendly for active transportation such as cycling and walking. Took this photo on a 2016 trip to New Zealand to visit my daughter. This information board was outside of the school where my daughter taught.
Brand new Christchurch, New Zealand bus station replacing the one destroyed in the 2011 earthquake. The city was rebuilt being much more walking, bicycle and public transit friendly. I took this photo when I visited my daughter there in 2016. So bright and modern, this bus station breaks all the stereotypes we as a society have created of them. I used the Christchurch transit when I was there.

So this is a bit where I am at as I run into 2022. For a guy who did say he was “all virtualed out”, yeah I did sign up once again for 2022 in the A Great Canadian Running Challenge. Because I really don’t know if I’ll have much of anything for races this year. Once again my province of Ontario is moving into a step 2 lockdown. It could be a while yet before we are out of this pandemic. This year my virtual mileages will be far less as I am strictly recording just my runs, instead of runs/walks. I’m also looking forward to continuing to promote a running group I helped start last fall here in Hillsdale. It’s really low key and all about social support, enthusiasm, camaraderie and having fun. I have been really enjoying it. Wishing you an amazing 2022. I hope you achieve all your goals.

Do you have any goals for 2022?

Our little Hillsdale running group.
Love all the smiles!
Categories: RunningTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

19 comments

  1. Hi Carl – great post! So many good points in your article. I always enjoy reading your blog. I haven’t decided on a goal this year – I hope to survive another 70.3 triathlon and if all is well in the world we have a bicycle trip in Europe planned. I would also like to give my blog more attention – the last 2 years I’ve not written much. Keep up the good work! And I vote for trains!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful recap of your running adventures for 2021. You ran a lot and achieved your running goals, and you should be very proud of yourself. It sounded like you had a good and consistent game plan for the Great Canadian Running Challenge, and fourth overall is a great result.

    It is always very thoughtful of you to think about our climate as you are out and about running. It’s true that many races and marathons you have to travel long distances by car to get there, and it does leave a carbon footprint as you discussed. Not to mention it costs a fair bit to travel there. Very creative of you to look around your area and see if there are any races you can get there by train. Not sure if you are keen on this idea, but maybe carpooling to races that aren’t too far a way could be an option. Or you could take the train to somewhere, then meet up with another runner with a car and carpool together.

    A lot of longer running races here in Australia, especially those along the coast, you’d need a car. It’s not too far unless you are driving interstate. I’m not a runner but I am always amazed at how dedicated runners can be from getting there, to running, resting and training again to do what they do.

    I don’t have many goals for 2022 apart from writing my book, and to perhaps take a short course and learn a new skill. I’m thinking maybe something in human behaviour. Wishing you a wonderful year ahead, Carl. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Such kind words, Mabel. Thank you. I am extremely keen on the idea of carpooling. Before I got in to the trail running, I did that for a couple of marathons. And it worked out very well. Not a lot of runners in my area that run the trail ultras, but I think taking the train somewhere to meet up with another runner and then carpool is a great idea. Thanks for this, Mabel.

      So much respect for your book writing. That is a massive endeavor, and would take a lot of discipline. Hope the words you want to express fall in to place for you. And everything goes smoothly. Have a wonderful year ahead, Mabel. 😀 🙏

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      • Carpooling could be the way to make travelling longer distances more sustainable. It’s also a way to connect with other like-minded individuals who share your views. I hope you do get to run the trails further away to challenge yourself, to connect with other runners and raise awareness of our climate. And have fun.

        Yes, I do hope the words I want to express fall into place. That usually happens when I don’t rush writing my book. You take care, Carl. Stay safe 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much, Mabel. you are always so kind and supportive. Registrations for the 2022 race season are now starting to open. Not too much for the winter and season starts May and goes through November. I’ll be checking in with other runners who are reasonably close nearby and see what their plans are and if they would like to carpool. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What an active and adventurous year you had, Carl!
    The Great Canadian Running Challenge, your self-supported 100k, the double GRVAT, the 50k Monarch Ultra and even a live race – no wonder you logged 6’478k! Or actually 6’560k, if we go by your Garmin. That’s a very impressive running year. I don’t know anyone – even ultra runners – who have reached such an impressive annual mileage.
    Moreover, I love that didn’t need to cover ridiculous distances by car to have those exciting adventures.
    Well done, Carl!

    It’s so sad you can’t find a race that you can reach by train. I think it’s going to be impossible. Like Mabel, I thought of carpooling. Looking at the carbon footprint chart in your article, a 2-passenger car emits 96g per passenger kilometre. If you could carpool with 3 more people (total 4), you could lower that footprint even further. Perhaps you could combine a race with visiting family and friends in another town.

    For example, we are planning to do the marathon in Berlin. We need to visit Kai’s mother anyway in Germany, so we can combine it with that. Of course, Europe is much smaller and denser than Canada. I guess it’s a lot more difficult to plan combined trips in such a big and far-flung country like yours.

    Zurich is planning to become more bike-friendly, which is great news. They will even build an underground tunnel under the main train station for bikes so that we can easily ride from one part of the city to the other without risking our lives. It will cost USD 28 million and 74% voted yes for the tunnel. Progress!

    Wishing you a wonderful 2022 and that you may find an environmentally-friendly way of getting to a race! Cheers, Carl!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are always so encouraging, Catrina. Thank you so much. Was able to get out every day, and am extremely happy how my year turned out. And grateful that I stayed injury free.

      Yeah, I think you are right that it will be impossible to reach a race by train. Carpooling would be the most viable option. It would get 2 or 3 cars off the road and would be better for the environment. I know when COVID ends, whenever that would be there will be a trip to New Zealand to see my daughter and grandson. If I can, I would really love to include a race. Trains are limited to certain areas, but they do have a pretty good country wide bus service. Their fleets of buses are extremely modern compared to a lot of buses in Canada.

      The underground bike tunnel in Zurich sounds amazing. When cyclists feel safe, they will definitely be on their bikes much more. I tried to research how Southern Ontario compares with Switzerland and Germany. Ontario is a massive province, and 94% of the population of Ontario live in Southern Ontario. Southern Ontario is about 3 times the size of Switzerland, and has 50% more population. The population density of Switzerland is one and a half times that of Southern Ontario. Canada is such a big country. Even in Southern Ontario there is so much I haven’t seen. Or haven’t seen in such a long time. An example is Niagara Falls is 200k’s away. I’m 63 and the last time I have been there was 50 years ago when I was 13. Maybe I could combine a race with a vacation with my wife.

      Thank you for all your support, Catrina. You and Kai are amazing. All the best in 2022! 🤗

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post and some good points! It would certainly be easier to travel by train to a race in Europe than in North America or Australia. These places have some catching up to do in terms of climate-friendly transportation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for dropping by Ashley and for taking the time to read. And for your kind comment. I don’t know too much about Australia, but I am thinking the transportation infrastructure would be similar to North America. We really do have a lot of catching up to do with Europe! 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful blog! You have written good points ! You are a good runner! Well done. Great share 🙂💕🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post Carl and so informative!! Here’s to great 2022 to you and yours!! Blessings!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Coucou Carl,
    Je te souhaite une belle et heureuse année 2022. Mes meilleurs vœux.
    Super ton article, très complet qui retrace quel bon coureur tu es, continues comme ça.
    Pour ma part, je songe me mettre à faire beaucoup plus de sport cette année, surtout apprendre (tard) le vélo.
    Belle journée
    Bisous

    Liked by 1 person

    • C’est très gentil, Anita. Merci. J’espère que vous aurez vous-même une année 2022 incroyable. Le cyclisme est un sport formidable. J’espère que vous en tirerez beaucoup de plaisir!. 😀 🚴‍♀️

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  8. Hey Carl!

    Your 2021 running was unbelievable! Congratulations on so many accomplishments. My only race was the Limberlost virtual and I concur – it will be great to get back to attending actual races – whenever that transpires. I see 2 options for reducing your carbon footprint when travelling to a race. 1. Carpool. This might require converting your neighbours into ultra runners, but that should be easy! 2. Purchase an EV or hybrid. This option might be tricky as current EV/hybrid production cannot keep up with demand.

    Wishing you well in 2022 and hoping that we can toe the line together in the near future.

    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words. I’ve missed you my friend. And I do think of you and wondering how you are making out. I am fortunate in that I do have a Toyota Prius. It’s a 2008 bought in the fall of 2018. I love it so much and am kicking myself that I didn’t start driving one 10 years earlier. By far the best car I have ever owned. It’s quite amazing when you mention the demand for them, I’ve had offers to buy it from me from strangers in parking lots and such. But not for sale. Only drove it 2,200 kilometers last year. I am looking at car pooling as well. I’ll be at Pick Your Poison. Really excited to be back there.😀

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