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Canada Army Run is much more than a running race

Annual event, virtual in 2020, raises critical funds for groups that support soldiers and their families

The virtual edition of the always-popular Canada Army Run is set for Sept. 12-20. Although the race has shifted formats, participants can still show their support anywhere across the country. But there is more to the story. 

Canada Army Run is more than just a race. It's a community, a camaraderie, that brings together Canadian Armed Forces members and their families with the public. Since 2008, more than $3.6 million funds raised from the event directly benefit both Soldier On and Support Our Troops.

According to Major Simon Mailloux, for veterans, especially those who have been injured, Canada Army Run is much more than a sporting event. And the organizations that benefit from the fundraising efforts are vital. 

 

Mjr. Simon Mailloux participating in the 2017 Invictus Games

 

On Nov. 16, 2007, Mailloux was injured during a mission in Afghanistan. He lost his leg below the knee and suffered numerous broken bones after an IED exploded. When he got back home, he spent some time in hospital recovering before beginning his rehabilitation. That’s when Soldier On stepped in. 

“After what happened, I still wanted to be in the Armed Forces, I wanted to redeploy. I wanted to be a full-time member,” Mailloux says. “Soldier On was kind of a big part of that because they showed me that rehab doesn't need to be done in a medical setting, in a hospital bed, that kind of thing wasn’t for me. It can be done with the Forces and it can be done having fun as well, which made a big difference.”

Soldier On is a program of the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group that supports veterans and serving members to adapt and overcome permanent physical or mental health injury or illness through physical activity and sport.

When asked where Simon would be without Soldier On to help him through his rehab following his injury in Afghanistan, he says he isn’t sure. But he understands how hard it can be for soldiers to be injured, to lose limbs, to struggle. He’s seen it first-hand, and for that reason, he’ll always support Soldier On as well as the Canada Army Run, its main fundraising initiative. 

“It would have been way more difficult for me,” he says. “There are some people that probably would have been at risk of suicide, I have to be very honest. I know some people that Soldier On really brought back to understanding that their injury was all-encompassing. It was a problem that was affecting them, but they weren't alone, right. Where would I be personally? I don't know. Maybe I would never be deployed again without them. And maybe now you'd be talking to a guy who was bitter because it is like a dream that I didn't accomplish.”

Canada Army Run participants can choose any race distance for this year's virtual event

 

Not only was Mailloux back on his feet in quick order, but he was also back running and within two years he was once again deployed with the Canadian Armed Forces. He also competed in competitions such as the Invictus Games, for which he served as the co-captain of Team Canada when the international competition was held in Toronto in 2017. 

He credits Soldier On with understanding the military and what works for soldiers.

“They know that we are competitive and we like to be challenged while sometimes rehab personnel or doctors are refraining from that because they're worried about other risks and other dangers,” Mailloux says. “And they say, you know what, maybe the next time having your run is more important than maybe getting injured and then you start focusing more on your abilities than what could happen. Right. So the focus changes and they're good at that because you understand that we need to perform as veterans or as still serving military members.”

The organization also supplies specialized equipment whether it be a handcycle or blades to allow people like Mailloux to continue to blaze down the track. That takes funding, and people to do the fundraising. 

Enter the Canada Army Run, which has provided millions of dollars of crucial funding for both Soldier On and Support Our Troops. 

The virtual Canada Army Run allows participants to run this year's race from anywhere

 

Nineteen-year-old Georgia Brown, for example, received a scholarship from Support Our Troops in 2019 to pursue her studies in French at the University of Ottawa. Her dream is to become a French teacher. 

“I was awarded money for school and I was just really thankful for it because the military's been such a large part of my life,” she says. 

Brown’s father served 35 years with the Navy and her twin sister is now a Reservist.

“I sacrificed a lot of time with my dad growing up. He was away a lot of my childhood for months at a time and that scholarship just made me feel thankful. It made me feel extremely proud to be the daughter of a Veteran.”

She credits the military community with helping out their own growing family in the early days when her mother was at home with three young children.

“When I was young, there were support programs in place. That was a really big help for my family,” she says. “I just learned how important this organization [Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services] was because it helps families in the military who have struggled with people being away.”

Brown has registered for Canada Army Run: Virtual as the captain of the Navy Brown team. She is working hard to recruit her close friends and family, at a distance, of course. She understands how important it is to continue to fundraise and keep the spirit of the race alive and well. 

This year, it’s easier than ever to participate now that the event is virtual. It is also going nationwide, providing more people with an opportunity to take part in Army Run from their locations instead of having to travel to Ottawa and fundraise for these important organizations.

The virtual event offers the same race disciplines as previous events — 5K, 10K, 15K, 21.1K, and 26.1K. Each distance comes with a unique clothing item, a finisher’s certificate, a challenge coin, and products from Xact Nutrition and Nuun Hydration. 

For more information or to sign up to the event go to Armyrun.ca.

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