Runner who ran distance of Canada 10 times credits 1980 brush with Terry Fox as inspiration

·3 min read

When Alasdair Veitch was attending Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, in April 1980, he remembers coming out of a downtown bar and seeing some guy running along the road, followed by a white van.

The man was Terry Fox.

It was the first day of Fox's Marathon of Hope, the journey that would capture the attention and the imagination of millions of Canadians, including Veitch.

Last week, more than 40 years later, Veitch wrote on his Facebook page that he just ran his 5,529th run and logged 55,000 kilometres.

In that time, he's run 31 marathons and 20 half marathons.

Submitted by Alasdair Veitch
Submitted by Alasdair Veitch

Veitch started running about a year and a half after encountering Fox.

"I was thinking one night, you know, saying, 'Alasdair, you've got to get off the couch, do something.' And I thought about seeing that young man who had chosen to run across the country and I guess foolheartedly, I was only 23 myself at the time, I thought 'I want to run across Canada.'"

He bought himself a map of Canada and started recording the distance of each of his runs.

"My goal was to record a run across Canada," he says.

Depending how you measure it, Veitch has now criss-crossed Canada about 10 times. Someone told him he had run the circumference of the globe 1.3 times.

"So yeah, I guess I got some distance behind me now," he says.

19 years in Norman Wells

Half of that running was done in Norman Wells, N.W.T., where Veitch lived for 19 years.

His most common run was up the road to the dump and on the walls and back. He figures he's probably done that run 2,500 times.

"You pretty much get to know every rock," said Veitch.

"But there's a view from the Norman Wells down looking out over the Mackenzie River and Mackenzie mountains, it's one that I always cherished and it's one of the things that I miss most now that I'm no longer able to see every day."

Submitted by Alasdair Veitch
Submitted by Alasdair Veitch

One of his running highlights in N.W.T. was when he and a colleague from Yellowknife ran on Bear Lake.

"It was a beautiful, sunny day," he said.

"The ice, you know, you could see forever … I remember we kind of stopped and we looked at each other going, 'we're running across one of the biggest friggin' lakes in the world.' And we got the place to ourselves. It was really wild. It was just one of those moments. I will never forget it. You know, it's very special."

Logging runs the old fashioned way

Veitch, who now lives in New Glasgow, Nova Soctia, credits his scientific training for having recorded the distance of each of his runs.

"I still keep my running stats now in 2021 as I did back in 1983," he says, adding all he uses is a day timer and a pencil.

He says recording every run has been one of his best motivators.

"I don't want to see zero too often in the day's tally," he says.

'Core of my being'

Now 61, Veitch couldn't imagine not running.

"Well, gosh, first thing I'd say is I'm a better runner now at 61 than I was when I was 23 or 24, and there's not too many things that I'm better at now than I was as a young man," he says with a laugh.

"I probably identify myself as much as a runner as I do, you know, as a wildlife biologist or anything else," he says.

"It's been the core of my being, just part of who I am now. I can't imagine life without it … It's a great physical activity but it's also a great mental activity as well for anybody."