B.C. ultra-athlete to run 24 hours on North Shore to raise money for search and rescue team

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Joel Payeur is a volunteer for Lions Bay Search and Rescue. Payeur will be fundraising for the team by running a grueling 24 hours through the team's turf this weekend.  (Submitted by Joel Payeur - image credit)
Joel Payeur is a volunteer for Lions Bay Search and Rescue. Payeur will be fundraising for the team by running a grueling 24 hours through the team's turf this weekend. (Submitted by Joel Payeur - image credit)

For someone who says he doesn't really like running, Joel Payeur sure does a lot of it.

Payeur, 39, is an amateur ultra-athlete who has played professional junior hockey and endured grueling multi-day races like the Costa Brava Stage Run in Barcelona, Spain.

"I've always been into athletics," he said. "Something that I've always really enjoyed is moving."

Long-distance running was a sport he took on for training, he says. And then he started signing up for endurance races around the world.

But with most of his races cancelled because of the pandemic, Payeur decided it was time to find a new type of challenge.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Payeur will run for 24 hours hours to raise money for Lions Bay Search and Rescue, where he has volunteered for about the past five years.

Submitted by Joel Payeur
Submitted by Joel Payeur

The team is one of several volunteer groups in B.C. that help rescue hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts from the wilds and return them to safety.

Payeur plans to run throughout the team's turf from Porteau Cove on Howe Sound north of Vancouver to St. Mark's Summit and the Howe Sound Crest Trail in the North Shore mountains. Payeur estimates he'll cover about 90 kilometres along with a steep ascent from sea level.

Regimented schedule

It's a grueling course, even for Payeur, who has never run for such a long time without a break.

"I'm very regimented in my schedule," he said. "If I'm not sleeping by 9 p.m. my body says, 'Hey, what are you doing?' "

Payeur enlisted friend and fellow ultra-athlete Marina Striker to run with him at night to keep him company. It turned out that Striker's training schedule called for a 90-km run around that time, so she will be joining him through the entire experience.

Also accompanying them for part of the trip will be Payeur's dog, a vizsla named Eli.

David Gallagher, training officer for Lions Bay Search and Rescue, says the $3,000 Payeur is hoping to raise as part of his run will go a long way to help the team with training and equipment costs.

"I'm delighted that he's taking on the challenge and kind of a little nervous to see how it runs," Gallagher said. "But he's a very driven chap. So when he puts his mind to it, he'll do it."

Donations can be made directly through the team's website. The Lions Bay Cafe and General Store will also be donating some of its proceeds to the team while Payeur is running.

Rescue teams busy

It's been quite a year for most of the province's search and rescue teams. During the pandemic, more people have headed to the hills to seek recreation in their local regions. As a result, search and rescue teams say they've never been busier.

But finding and training new volunteers to keep up with demand isn't easy.

Volunteers like Payeur train for about one and a half years before they become fully fledged members of the team, and often do specialized training beyond that. Gallagher says most of them donate at least two full days a month of their time plus administrative work, but many put in far more than that.

"Height of the summer and height of the winter, it's pretty full on," Gallagher said.

Submitted by Joel Payeur
Submitted by Joel Payeur

Payeur says he decided to volunteer a few years ago as a way to give back to the community that supports people like him and keeps them safe in case of emergency situations in the backcountry.

One day he saw a recruitment poster for a search and rescue team, which piqued his interest. Then, while working as a carpenter to build a house, he met someone who was on the team who encouraged him to sign up.

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