Vancouver Island runner aims to break Canada's 129-year-old 6-day running record

·3 min read

A Vancouver Island runner will begin a six-day odyssey on Sunday in a bid to break a Canadian running record that has stood for 129 years.

Jerry Hughes, 40, wants to set a new mark for the six-day run, which will require him to log more than 870 kilometres — the mark set by David Bennett in 1891 in an era when multiple-day distance challenges were popular.

"I want to show really what is possible when you put your mind to it," said Hughes, who is also trying to raise $144,000 for a children's charity through the run. The amount represents $1,000 for every hour of the run.

Despite the vast distance he needs to cover, he won't be going very far. Hughes hopes to circle a 400-metre running track in Duncan close to 2,200 times to exceed the previous record.

He said the flat track is the easiest place to mark his distance and avoid having to run up or down hills, which would make covering the 870-kilometre distance harder.

Still, he admits that the monotony of the track will be its own challenge.

"Really, the key is mental, just to keep yourself moving one foot forward, after the first two days you're no longer really running, it's more you're shuffling and you're trying to just keep going."

Jerry Hughes
Jerry Hughes

Hughes has been running seriously for about six years and has had success at long distances. He's run 100 miles (161 kilometres) in under 20 hours, but this is his first six-day race.

"I do like running," he said.

He says he wants to use his passion for good. He's raising money for the Help Fill a Dream Foundation, which supports children with serious illness.

Hughes benefited from the Help Fill a Dream Foundation in the 1990s when he was diagnosed with Gardner's syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that can lead to colon cancer over time.

His father died at age 33 from complications related to the syndrome. Hughes has had two surgeries to help him cope with it, and said his three children are at risk of developing the disease.

'I can't give up'

Over the course of the run, he will symbolically support a different child from the charity every four hours. He said it will help motivate him to achieve the distance.

"So I can't give up on any particular kid," he said.

Other people have tried to break the six-day run record in Canada. This past summer, Alberta ultra-marathoner Matt Shepard made it 551.2 kilometres.

Hughes said Shepard will be one of several runners joining him as he attempts the record himself.

A local RV retailer has also donated a camper so Hughes can live at the track for the week and use the vehicle to take breaks, eat and sleep in.

He has also recruited multiple people to act as his crew for the run. They will stay with him and help support him with food, drinks and other needs.

Hughes' progress will be marked on the web page for the event. Updates can also be found on his Instagram feed along with the Help Fill a Dream's social media pages.