Chatting about their Sun Run experiences this April over a post-run breakfast are, from the left, Katherine Petrunia, Dr. Doug & Diane Clement — founders of The Vancouver Sun Run — and Janette Shearer.
Running is about wellness, of course, but also so much more: Some connect to nature or their urban surroundings, it can clear your mind, some enjoy a runner’s high.And when you’re talking trail running and Indigenous culture, it brings about the marriage of the physical with the spiritual.To honour First Nations culture, Dr. Doug Clement has come up with the idea of the inaugural Rainforest Trail Run, a five-kilometre run/walk event to be held on Sept. 29 through Central Park and at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby.It’s the first Sunday after the fall equinox, a celestial date that has significance in all Indigenous groups, Clement said, a perfect time to hold an athletic event with a festival atmosphere.The idea came to him in the middle of the night late last year.“It was a spontaneous thing. There is a lot of this reconciliation stuff and I don’t think it makes anyone feel better, anyone. It doesn’t engender positive thinking.“We have a lot to learn from them. Indigenous culture is not really understood by the public.“I don’t even want to use the term reconciliation. We need to do something beyond reconciliation, maybe without even bringing up reconciliation.Clement and his wife Diane began The Vancouver Sun Run as well as the Harry Jerome International Track and Field Meet and Richmond-based Kajaks Track and Field Club. And their Achilles International Track Society is behind the Rainforest Trail Run, with encouragement from the First Nations Health Authority.“Our words for the outdoors are friendly,” Dr. Evan Adams, chief medical officer with the First Nations Health Authority said from his home in Tla’amin traditional territory near Powell River. “The word for tree, for example, and the word for cousin are the same, jehjeh.“Outdoors to us is a friendly, beautiful place, not a place you can get hurt. The outdoors have spirit and they have feelings and emotions.”
Professor emeritus of sports medicine at UBC Doug Clement. Clement started InTraining, the walk-run program to help people train for The Vancouver Sun Run. Photo: Arlen Redekop/Postmedia
Arlen Redekop /
Organizing the event took some doing.“I don’t think a lot of people understand what happened to Indigenous people and I don’t think they understand a lot of the cultural things on the Indigenous side,” Clement said. “In my mind I hope to see this being a bridge. Instead of being separated, we need to be together. The devastation of Indigenous culture by the European colonials … it’s absolutely insane when we start to look at it.First Nations runners for decades before First World War had success, the pinnacle coming when Tom Longboat (Cogwagee in his native Iroquois) won the 1907 Boston Marathon, running the final Newton Hills mile uphill and into a blizzard in four minutes and 40 seconds to smash the record of the then 11-year-old race by almost five minutes.Two hundred thousand people met him when he returned to Toronto and the 19-year-old Onondogan-Canadian was given the keys to the city, yet the Canadian newspaper coverage portrayed the young man in incredibly racist terms despite his being the best long-distance runner in the world at the time.“When I was a kid, I was made to run a few miles as an eight- or nine-year old, very unusual for a child in the early 1970s but it was our way.“Whether you walk or run, we encourage people to focus on the beauty of (Central Park), and of course I love it that the run has an Indigenous theme.“It’s a wellness event, a community event, it’s more than just a physical activity, it will promote Indigenous cultures and reconciliation.”Clement has said he hopes to raise awareness of cultures that have “been here for thousands of years and in our history we have just blanked (them) out.”Eventually, he would love to see the Rainforest Trail Run become a festival that attracts Indigenous people from up and down the Pacific Coast, from Alaska to Peru. That’s his dream, he said, and Year 1 is a foot in the door.“Can you imagine if a group from Peru or Chile came and took part, how important that would be considering the global significance?“On one hand I feel confident, on the other hand I feel frightened, but if no one tries this it isn’t going to happen.”firstname.lastname@example.org/gordmcintyre