Running (a little late) Into 2023


It is hard to believe that 2023 will be my 10th year of running. It started out in 2013 for my health and to lower my blood pressure and my cholesterol. My goal of a half marathon that first year was brutal. How on earth was I ever going to finish it. Well somehow I did, and from then on running became a part of my life.

Celebration after my completing 1st half marathon

In 2014 I started this blog, and at the end of each year I would write a year end recap. My first year end post was called Running Into 2015. Then I just continued the trend. There was Running Into 2016. There was Running Into 2017. There was Running Into 2018. And also Running Into 2019. Changing it up a bit, heading into a new decade I called the next year end post “Here’s to a New Decade, Running Into 2020“. Then there was Running Into 2021. And Running Into 2022. Then it stopped. A lot of stuff happened during 2022. But I just never got a year end article published. But there was a reason.

Preferences change over the years. It took a bit of time to become comfortable with this change. I’ve really gotten to love nighttime trail running.

In a throwaway society, I’m one who will try to keep an item going for as long as possible. Even when they are outdated and almost obsolete. My old analog desktop computer has been a great companion over the past 11+ years. It was there when I typed out all my blog posts. I used it for job searching when I was unemployed. As well I did 11 years of sermon prep on it. But just before Christmas it died. It stored on file a few thousand of my photos taken over the past 20 years. Some of these photos I was going to use for my year end article. My tech support (my wife) was in New Zealand, which meant a Running Into 2023 was not going to happen.

One of the photos on my computer. La Huasteca canyon with its’ 1000+ foot big walls was my most spectacular run I have ever done in my 10 years of running. This was in 2019 when I was in Mexico running with the Monarch Ultra.

In the end, the local independent computer store sold me a refurbished computer. It has the latest operating system (Windows 11). The “new” computer is only a quarter of the size as one old one. Thankfully, the computer store was able to retrieve all my files (including photos) from my old computer. And a lesson learned on back ups. By then it was mid-January. So I figured this was way too late for a year end recap. When I mentioned all this mid-February to my Swiss ultrarunning friend Catrina Denker from the blog Keep On Running, she encouraged me to still write this post.

Photo by Catrina Denker at the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland. Such gorgeous scenery. Catrina and her husband are environmental champions. They don’t own a car and take a train to all their races. I wrote about Catrina featuring her and two other environmental champions in my article There Is No Planet B.

The year 2022 was a strange year in many ways. It had some deep valleys and some high mountain vistas. The year started off with a new COVID variant called Omicron. I wasn’t sure how this was going to affect races moving forward. So I decided to register once again for the year long virtual with A Great Canadian Running Challenge. I decided to only record my running distances, with an attempt to reach 2022 kilometers for the year. I also decided to attempt a run streak with a minimum of 2 kilometers a day. If there were no races like in 2020 and much of 2021, this should keep me motivated for the year.

One thing I really appreciated about COVID. It forced society to slow down. There was so many people walking. But I don’t see that anymore. Everything has returned to the normal frenzied pace.

COVID was hard on the church that I was lay pastor of. With this new Omicron variant, we ended up closing our doors for the third time since COVID hit. The dear congregation was aging. Some people hadn’t returned because of COVID concerns and we were not able to have church leadership roles filled. Which is vital for the continuation of the church. After a couple of difficult meetings it was voted on that the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church congregation, which was established 171 years prior in 1851 would be dissolved with a closing service held on May 29th.

After 171 years of ministry in the community of Hillsdale and surrounding area, the final service was held on May 29th, 2022.

For a church that was established 171 years ago (16 years before Canada became a nation), having it close while I was leading the congregation was such an enormous weight on my shoulders. The congregation was so dear to my heart. I know I did my very best and I could still hold my head high. I devoted 11 years and 4 months of my life to keep try and keep the church presence going in the community of Hillsdale. My wife also sacrificed so much. She has been there supporting during this entire time ministering at the Hillsdale church. It blew me away that I actually prepared and preached over 500 different sermons to encourage the congregation in their walk with God. There were so many great memories from our different church events. And the harder times, such as the hospital visits and the coming alongside families in their grieving of the loss of a loved one. I grew to love this church family so much.

One of the most difficult funerals I have ever had to conduct. Stewart Jamieson was a pillar in the Hillsdale church and in the community. He was like a father figure to me. After birth his parents took him to this church. He faithfully attended right until his death at 90 years old.

There is no question, the closure of the church hit me quite hard. But what hurt the most was the reaction from outside the church. It is well documented that the Social media platform Facebook (or any Social Media platform) can get pretty toxic sometimes. But I never really experienced that side of it personally during my 13 years of using Facebook. That is, not until word got out that the church was closing. Random people from the community, who have had nothing to do with the church for the 11+ years I was lay pastor, all of a sudden were angry with me, ranting and fuming about the church closing. Way back in 2019, I wrote a church article called Living In a Keyboard Warrior Society. It is about how vehement on-line attacks can destroy other human beings. Little would I realize with the church’s closing, I would be at the receiving end on Facebook of such attacks. With my wife’s encouragement, and before it got to the point I was totally broken, for my self preservation I got off of Facebook. Now that I am off it, for my own mental health and self care, I have no desire to use that platform anymore.

My social media hangout is Twitter. You can find me there @canuckcarl. Such an amazing cross section of followers. Runners, cyclists, tree huggers, environmentalists, photographers, pastors, educators, crossing guards. And the list goes on. I even follow a lot of people I don’t agree with, as it gives a more balanced perspective in my writing. The most important thing is to always be respectful and kind.
Thank you Les!

After the church was dissolved, all assets were turned over to the Presbyterian National Office in Toronto. A few other ministers mentioned I knew the church building better than anyone. And I would be the most ideal with the church dissolution transition. I was asked to be that in-between person, but said “I really can’t, I desperately needed time to heal”. But I agreed to check on the building two to three times a week and keep the grass cut. Over the next while I was inundated with emails and phone calls about the church from the National Office. And in the end I ended up doing the very thing I said no to. I know I am too much of a “yes person” and am the first to admit I am quite gullible and can easily be taken advantage of. Over the following few months, the expectations from National Office was quite overwhelming. So much so, my daily run streak ended at 309 days. I wasn’t injured. I wasn’t sick. But on November 6th I just didn’t have the emotional strength to get out the door for at least a two kilometer run. I again missed my run the following day on November 7th. Once the streak ended, there hasn’t been any consistency of daily runs since then. The church building had been sold, but there was so much on my shoulders that had to be done before the mid December closing date. With very little time to spare, it was was all completed as required. But the closing date since then has been extended at least four times. With the church sitting empty for so long, my worst fears are now being realized. It is being vandalized. By who, I have no idea. I’m so looking forward to the day this chapter is over so I can move on. And properly grieve and heal.

Window kicked in at the church.

Needless to say, 2022 has been a really challenging year running wise. I ran two races. The first was the 50k Pick Your Poison, held the last Saturday in April. Even though I was running everyday in the early part of the year, with all that was happening, I never had any decent long training runs. But I somehow managed to finish the 2022 edition of the 50k Pick Your Poison within the cutoff. I was the 4th last finisher. Pick Your Poison is held in Copeland Forest, which is very dear to my heart. Last year was my 5th time finishing the 50k.

Image from my 2022 Pick Your Poison. The 5th time running the 50k distance.

My other race in 2022 was the 96 kilometer Rainbow Run Trail Race, an inaugural race held on August 6th at Earl Rowe Provincial Park. This would be my longest one day race. My previous longest one day race was my North Face 50 miler (80.46 kilometers) held at Blue Mountain way back in 2017. I have also run a 150 kilometer stage race called Bad Beaver Ultra. But that was over three days. The 96k distance at Rainbow Run Trail Race did not concern me very much, because there was a generous 30 hour cutoff (the same cutoff time as the 168 kilometer distance). During COVID in 2021 I ran a self supported 63 miles (101 kilometers) for 63rd birthday. I picked a cooler day a couple days after my birthday. It was quite challenging. I finished in 16:09:57. It took everything I had, and I don’t think my 63 year old body could have done it much faster. In 2021 I was in fact in a much better place both mentally and physically. My 101 kilometer distance in 2021 was midway through a 4 month, 2,000 kilometer virtual race called A Great Virtual Run Across Tennessee. And also part of the yearlong A Great Canadian Running Challenge where I completed 6,560 kilometers of hiking and running for the year of 2021. When it was announced that my 96 kilometer Rainbow Run Trail Race was cut to a 15 hour cutoff on what would be one of the hottest days of the year, I knew if things did not work perfectly, my then 64 year old body will have a hard time to finish. In the end I pulled out at 60 kilometers. My electrolyte balances were way out of whack. It was my first DNF.

My 2021 stats of running and hiking. Recorded only designated point A to point B runs and hikes (not step counts).
Photo with Rainbow Run Trail Race director Jodi McNeil after I pulled out after 60 kilometers.

The day following my big race I had a wonderful interview with Craig Lewis of Running Tale Podcast. Craig was so polished and extremely easy to talk to, but I was concerned with all my “umms & ahs” in the podcast. Craig explained he worked 10 years with the BBC. He shared a kind response to my concern was these words, “Any umms and ahs makes an interview real to me – donโ€™t trust an interview without them, it will have been edited, scripted or the interviewee is being disingenuous and has pre-planned lines to get out”.

Craig Lewis and his wife Michelle interview some really high profile runners on their weekly Running Tales Podcast. Photo is of Steve Edwards from the latest podcast. Steve has completed a staggering 978 marathons and ultra marathons. He is aiming for the goal of 1,000 registered, timed marathons and ultras. No doubt he will soon reach that target. He sits 50th on the mega marathon list. Here is the podcast interview by Michelle Lewis.

The August 6th Rainbow Run Trail Race was only my 2nd of 2 races and my final race of 2022. There are lots of other races out there, but they involve a considerable drive. With my concern for the environment and the state of our planet, I no longer have any desire to drive long distances just to run a race. I continued to run distances with the yearlong virtual race with A Great Canadian Running Challenge. Except for a handful of times I drove the 8 kilometers to Copeland Forest, all my distances have been been without driving to a place to run. I had reached my goal of running 2022 kilometers for 2022 in mid November. On November 29th I was at 2,139.05 kilometers and it hit me. I’ve reached my goal and asked myself the question, “Why am I still recording distances?” The last 3 months (except for a couple recent long runs) I have been running without a timing device. It has been really wonderful. I feel so much more free running naked (without an activity tracker). My first 4 years of running I never had a running watch. It was really nice to go back and relive those “good old days” like I’m a brand new runner.

Always a treat running in Copeland Forest. I make the most of my time there.

The cool thing with running, is every runner is different and has their own preferences. Personally, I don’t run with music or listen to podcasts while running. And after watching drivers on the highway at my school crosswalk for 3 hours a day, the last place I want to be running is on roads with vehicular traffic. So I head to the quietness of the forests where I meditate, think and pray. It is where I’ll get ideas and inspirations for my sermons or articles. This is where I make a lot of decisions. One of those decisions was to continue as a pulpit supply minister. The Hillsdale church closure was such an enormous weight on my shoulders. I didn’t feel like I wanted to get back in the pulpit anyone soon. But just like running, you don’t give up. Doors were opening up immediately (even though I wasn’t looking for anything). After agreeing to speak a few times in various churches in the later half of 2022, I now have more of a set schedule for 2023. Speaking at the churches of three beautiful rural congregations the first three Sundays each month.

Church 1: Willis Presbyterian Church, Jarratt.
Church 2: Esson Presbyterian Church, Rugby
Church 3: Knox Presbyterian Church, Uptergrove

Sometimes in life we can be blindsided with the unexpected. Occasionally it is in a good way. Near the end of 2022, I received an email from an organization called Parachute Canada mentioning I was one of three winners in a contest called “Canada’s Favorite Crossing Guard”. I actually thought it was a scam at first. There really are a lot of school crossing guards in Canada. There are also a lot of scams floating around. I asked Marci, the principal at Hillsdale Elementary School if this was for real. She mentioned it was very real. Apparently I had been nominated by the Hillsdale School. The children I cross at the crosswalk make my job very special and important. So I take my school crosswalk job very seriously. I really do love the children so much. They give me such a great deal of joy. I look forward to seeing them each day. The month of December 2022 was a whirlwind of media interviews regarding my award. It was capped off with a phenomenal school assembly all in my honor. I was presented with a gorgeous trophy and a cheque from the contest sponsor Desjardin Insurance for $500. This past February I was also presented with another amazing award called “Trustee Tribute”. On the plaque it reads, “In Recognition of Your Significant Contributions to the Simcoe County District School Board”.

Such an incredible assembly the school put on for me in my honour. The walls of the entire gymnasium was decorated with amazing artwork from the kids (like the poster behind me). The children shared very touching poems they wrote on me as their crossing guard as well as performing an amazing song. Photo credit Samantha Orr.
Photo credit Samantha Orr
Trustee Tribute award. The plaque reads, “In recognition of your significant contribution to the SCDSB. Image source: Simcoe County District School Board

So there you have it. A bit of a recap of 2022. Just a little late. I’ll be turning 65 this year. and entering what some people refer to as the “Third Age”. The first being childhood, then adulthood and then the third age. Which is old age. This is the fun part of life. It’s all about picking up hobbies or pursuing passions you’ve never done before. But just never had the time to do them. Though with inflation, debt and rising interest rates, there doesn’t appear to be too many changes work wise for myself in 2023. I’m planning on running the same two ultras as last year. They are both under a 60 kilometer driving distance. And I’m continuing to try to find an ultra in North America I can get to by train. As well for 2023, this blog and my Christian based blog are undergoing a bit of rebranding at the current time. As time allows I’ll continue to change things up. Priorities are changing in my life.

The banner photo on my Christian based blog is this majestic maple in the field behind my house. A housing development is soon to be going in and the tree will be cut down. On Twitter I am doing a thread on the 21st of each month. Now 14 months long, it will keep running until the tree is cut down.

A huge concern for me is our planet earth. Part of it is the building of car dependent McMansions on productive farmland like in the field behind me. But it is also so much more. We are experiencing a Climate Emergency and we are getting closer to the tipping point. Compounded with that, we are experiencing a Biodiversity Crises. Elizabeth Mrema, the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity mentions, “We have no time to wait. Biodiversity loss, nature loss, it is at an unprecedented level in the history of mankind.” The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has compiled a Red List which now includes 147,517 species, of which 41,459 are threatened with extinction. The IUCN Red List is used by government agencies, wildlife departments, conservation-related non-governmental organizations (NGOs), natural resource planners, educational organizations, students, and the business community. As of July 2022 the migratory Monarch butterfly’s status was uplisted from vulnerable to endangered, because of its fast dwindling numbers. Since 2019 I have been involved as an ambassador with the Monarch Ultra. This year I am honored to be asked to be involved with the planning of the 2023 festivities. It will involve some running. Some celebrating our beloved Monarch. As well as fundraising for an extremely important endeavor to help in the survival of our beloved Monarch. More information to come soon at a later date.

Slide 2 from the IUCN Red List Categories Powerpoint Presentation. Click here for a free download.
Video: CBC News. The National

Categories: Year End RecapsTags: , , , , , , , , ,

17 comments

  1. Congratulations on making it through 2022, intact. You have had major challenges and finished well. The best is yet ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow you are an inspiration! I was never one for running and then was hit with a physical disability. What you have accomplished is amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Diane. These are very kinds words. Thank you for sharing about your physical disability. I had no idea. You are always so upbeat and positive. To keep going day in and day out in a world that isn’t always accessible to people with disabilities has got to be so challenging. To me you yourself are an incredible inspiration. Thank you! ๐Ÿ™

      Like

  3. Iโ€™m so glad you wrote this review, Carl!

    What a tough year that was. One day you will re-read this article and you will be surprised at how well you handled all these challenges.
    I guess the ongoing church dissolution is weighing heavily on your shoulders right now, especially with the vandalism. I hope that you can soon close this wearisome chapter and move on.

    I didnโ€™t know about the nasty comments on FB. So sorry you had to go through this in addition to everything else! Excellent move to leave that platform.
    Youโ€™re right about the happy running crowd on Twitter! Such good vibes. I wish I could spend more time there.

    Well done on your two ultras! Iโ€™m sure you will manage to finish BOTH this year!

    Iโ€™m so happy that you could close 2022 on a high note with a big round of applause. That crossing guard award is so well deserved.

    Wishing you a splendid 2023 and that it may continue to well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement, Catrina. Barring that the closing date isn’t extended anymore, it will be March 15th when this Hillsdale church chapter is over. Really looking forward to that date.

      I admire you for your discipline on your blogs. Your posts come through like clockwork, coming into my email here in Canada around 3:30 am on Tuesday mornings. And such generous responses on your part to all the comments. I can’t even fathom the amount of time it would take you to respond to everyone.

      You are amazing in that you know your limits and are spending less time on Twitter. That takes discipline. I’ve been wanting to ease up on Facebook for a long time (I also had 2 Facebook pages), but I never seemed to be able to. I wanted to dedicate more time to my blogs. The online attacks really hurt a lot, but in the end I made a clean break. I am glad I did. And probably wouldn’t have the discipline to do it otherwise. Hard at the time, but there is always a positive that seems to come out of everything.

      It was such an incredible ending to the year. Something I didn’t mention in any of the interviews is my wife (who I took over the crossing guard job from) won the same Canada’s Favourite Crossing Guard award in 2012. Lynne was crossing guard for over 15 years. I knew I had very big shoes to fill. ๐Ÿšธ

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow you are an inspiration! I was never one for running and then was hit with a physical disability. What you have accomplished is amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That is wonderful that you took up running so much later. I am having some challenges at 61 with my right hip, so running is out for me but I do yoga and swim to strengthen the body.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an awesome blog Carl…thanks for sharing! so sad to read about closing the church, but He works His wonders in the three rural churches you rotate through! Love the award for school guard and what that award really says about you!! You know the kids love you as much as you love them! Keep up the running!!! The Lord is definitely working through you!! Blessings to you and your family!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The FB trolling was terrible. Good thing you keep yourself busy and healthy – mind and body – outdoors. Love the tree hug.

    Liked by 1 person

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