News Toronto

Runners tag up on charity trek to Montreal

By Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun

Darren Weldrick (Supplied)

Darren Weldrick (Supplied)

TORONTO - 

A few years ago, running mates and adventurers Darren Weldrick and Colin Buchanan were jogging somewhere in the world when Buchanan blurted out an audacious plan.

Why limit their daily running routes to the streets of Toronto. Why not keep going? Why not get members of the Runway club, which Weldrick founded 12 years ago, to join in, relay-style, and keep going and going ... to a place such as Montreal?

“It was an off-the-cuff remark by Colin, but it got us both thinking of really going that far,” said Weldrick.

Sadly, it was not long after that Buchanan was diagnosed with brain tumours, eventually going into into palliative care at Kensington House in Toronto before dying at age 55 in 2016. Weldrick kept memories of their good times - but also a regret that his friend never had a chance to see if his long haul to La Belle Province was feasible.

A year ago, Weldrick was in California and ran in an event called The Speed Project, from one iconic point to another, Santa Monica Pier to the ‘Welcome To Las Vegas’ sign on the Sin City Strip. It covered almost the same distance as Toronto-Montreal, with participants of varying ability tag teaming.

The runners’ adrenalin took them right through the night and made quite an impression on 45-year-old Weldrick. By May of this year, he had worked out the logistics of a Canadian version and found an ideal mix of 10 Runway club members, ranging from age 35 to 55.

Weather permitting, the group will leave at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7 from the Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square, intending to reach the summit of Mount Royal about 60 hours later. They’re making it a fundraiser for Kensington House and two other local causes: Good Foot Delivery, a courier service that employs developmentally disabled people, and Start2Finish, which brings proper running attire and coaching to young financially disadvantaged students, with a learn-to-read element.

The two questions Weldrick is most often asked about his plan is whether his group will really go the distance without stopping, even in pitch darkness, and how on earth they’ll avoid all that traffic.

“We aren’t taking Highway 401,” Weldrick assured with a laugh. “We’re going by the Toronto waterfront trail, Highway 2 all the way to Quebec, onto its lakeshore, then the Lachine Canal and into Montreal. We have a ferry to catch along the way.”

Weldrick, who works at Black Toe running apparel, and is the Runway club’s most experienced hoofer, will tackle the longest legs, with an estimated average length of 9 to 14 kilometres for each of the rest of the group. Support vehicles and staff will stay in touch with the active runners, who will also have cellphones for any emergency. The last 10 km are straight uphill.

“There will only be a couple of times when the runners are out of view,” Weldrick said. “I know what my runners can and can’t do, but I wanted this to be inclusive for as many people as possible.”

And he’ll be thinking of Buchanan all the way to Montreal.

“Colin is a big part of this. He loved adventure and he loved running and I saw how well he was treated at Kensington House.”

An accompanying fundraiser featuring musicians Shawn Brady, Don Campbell and Jeff Eager will be held Wednesday, Oct. 11 at The Hideout in Toronto. To donate, go to runningtherunway.com.

LHornby@postmedia.com