Canal Pursuit for Mental Health passing through Peterborough & Kingston Aug. 21-22
August 10, 2023
A relay run will pass through Peterborough later this month as part of a 700-kilometre trek along the Trent-Severn Waterway and on to the nation’s capital in support of mental health.
The ninth annual Canal Pursuit for Mental Health run relay, supported by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada and led by Clay Williams, from Elmira in southwestern Ontario, as part of his Defeat Depression Campaign, will begin Aug. 19 at Port Severn on Georgian Bay.
The goal of the annual fundraising event is to raise awareness about depression and end the stigma surrounding mental illness, while encouraging people to reach out for help. Williams organizes the event as a way of honouring members of his family impacted by mental health issues.
From Port Severn, the run will continue along the Trent-Severn Waterway before reaching Peterborough.
“A runner will end the day on Aug. 21 at the Lift Lock parking lot around 6:30 p.m.,” Williams explained in an email to The Examiner.
“The next runner will start at that same place the next morning, Aug. 22 at 8 a.m. We expect around 45 runners in all. Each runner shows up at their start point, runs their section, then goes home, so they are never all at the same place. It’s not a big group travelling together,” he continued.
For the first two years of Canal Pursuit for Mental Health, Williams ran the entire route, covering an average of 90 kilometres each day. Since then, he has led a team of relay runners.
Participants will run 10 kilometre-long segments — for an average of 80 kilometres per day — giving them time to speak with local first responders, community groups and representatives from schools, sports clubs and health groups along the way in a bid to keep the conversation about mental health going.
This year’s run will have a special focus on recognizing military personnel and first responders. The relay will highlight Canadian Forces bases in Borden, Trenton and Kingston, while acknowledging paramedic, fire and police services along the way.
After passing through Peterborough, runners will make their way to Trenton. From there, they’ll head to Kingston and travel along the Rideau Canal to their final destination in Ottawa.
Runners are expected to reach Parliament Hill around 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 26.
Williams plans on bringing a special flag to Parliament.
Before embarking on the first run in 2015, he asked people to sign a Canadian flag so that they “didn’t have to carry their burdens alone.”
“I’ve had the honour of carrying the same flag, now with about 400 signatures, up onto Parliament Hill eight years in a row, and I carry it across the finish line of all of the races that I run,” he said.
There are two main points Williams hopes to convey through the days-long journey.
“First, if you’re struggling with a mood disorder, talk to someone you trust,” Williams said.
“The second part of the message is that physical activity can help make many symptoms of mood disorders more manageable, fitting in with the national Defeat Depression campaign. We all have an important role to play in removing the stigma around mental illness, so that people can feel comfortable reaching out to seek treatment.”
Donations in support of the Canal Pursuit for Mental Health can be made online at canalpursuit.defeatdepression.
An interactive map of the run’s route is posted at plotaroute.com/route/2019797
Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.