Nothing gives a medal more meaning than the story behind it.

People run, walk or roll in Canada Army Run for many different reasons. Some are trying to break records or achieve personal bests.  Some come in memory of parents or grandparents who spent their careers in the military, or of loved ones who lost their lives in the line of duty. Many are honouring sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, or mothers and fathers who are in the military today. Others come to salute Canada’s injured soldiers who participate in the 5K and half marathon events and demonstrate for all the true spirit of “soldiering on”. And thousands of others come to simply thank the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces for all they do at home and abroad.

Here are some of their stories:

On February 1, 2000, I was hit head-on by a drunk driver. On November 7, 2004, while stopped at a light, I was rear-ended by a drunk driver. Both were on the same divided highway, both at expressway speed and both vehicles were written off.

The first crash left me rattled with a few bumps and bruises, but I wasn’t so lucky with the second. The driver’s car hit mine with such force that it pushed the rear of my car up to the back of my seat and broke it from the frame. I came to, confused and cold, sitting on the floor staring at my steering wheel. That experience changed my life, and the lives of those around me, forever.

My “new” life comprised of appointments. There were appointments for treatment of my physical injuries, ranging from loss of neck rotation, to cervical and thoracic vertebrae and disc damages, to tinnitus and days of migraines. Treatments included physiotherapy, acupuncture, osteopathy and Botox injections. There were appointments for treatment of my emotional injuries as well, ranging from PTSD, to anxiety, depression and driving phobia. I spent hundreds of hours in counselling, on medication, and in driver re-training post-crash. And there were more appointments with insurance companies, specialist tests, lawyers and to attend court hearings.

It changed me. Although I still look the same, I am not. I lost many of my friends, nearly lost my husband, lost the ability to lift my 2-year old son and the lost opportunity for a second child.

Several years later, I reached out to my girlfriend looking to rekindle our friendship. Upon reuniting, I was amazed to see the transformation she had taken during our hiatus. She had become a runner. Her physical transformation brought with it a great confidence and clarity. I questioned it. I pondered it. I wanted it. She convinced me to give running a try by tempting me with a run for a cause near and dear to my heart: MADD Canada’s 5K Strides for Change. I agreed to do it with her. Let’s just say my performance was less than stellar, but I did it and got the t-shirt!

This was the start of my running journey. Before I knew it, I moved from 5K’s to my first 10K. It was nearing the end of that run that I shared with her why I grew to love running. I explained that I saw and appreciated the benefits of my new found lifestyle both physically and emotionally. But it was more than that. Each and every time I cross that finish line, I say to myself: “You may have slowed me down, but you didn’t stop me!” I know I will never be my old self, but I can work to be my very best new self.

This year we are not only running our very first half-marathon, but we are pushing the envelope and going for the Commander’s Challenge. Celebrating Canada’s 150th with Canada Army Run is the perfect venue.

Giving incentive to reach the next milestone. Running with fellow runners. Surviving with fellow survivors. Check out the blog with our runs here (third party content available in English only): http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/runjunkie/1/tpod.html

Photo: My uncle in 1944 standing with his buddies in their Second World War uniforms in front of the Vimy Ridge Monument.

My first race I ever ran was the Canada Army Run in 2010 in memory of my husband with my son and several friends, calling our team the “Angels in the Airfield”. I started training just a month before the race, increasing my distance by counting how many street light posts I could run past, feeling successful after passing the count of the previous day by one streetlight. This was the start of many more Army Runs, increasing my distance from my first 5K to the half-marathon.

Last year I signed up and ran the Commander’s Challenge and I was planning on running it again this year but with the announcement of the new Vimy Challenge, I decided I would really like to participate in this challenge due to my family’s long history of being in the military (First World War: my grandfather, Second World War: my father & uncle, the Cold War: my father-in-law, Afghanistan: my husband and present day: my son). With the introduction of this new event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, I decided running this event would be a great race to recognize all of my family members.

I am looking forward to another great day running in Canada Army Run 2017!

Christina Walker (widow of Colonel Carl Walker)

Our sexagenarian (a person who is from 60 to 69 years old) parents ran their first race in nearly 50 years in support of their son-in-law who is a Warrant Officer in the Canadian Army. It turns out that our dad was a provincial champion cross-country runner in his high school days – something he never told us – and our mum was also a competitive hurdler. While there were thousands of runners who finished with faster times, seeing our parents trot out unexpected “bursts of speed” was epic! Running this race as a family was a special way for them to pay tribute to their son-in-law, and finishing holding hands together is a memory we will all cherish.

I was a late bloomer; I started running at the “young” age of 52 in 2005. Having been diagnosed a couple years earlier with genetic Type II Diabetes, as well as losing a sister to complications from diabetes, running became an avenue for me to raise awareness of this ever-increasing dreaded disease. After four full marathons and numerous half marathons, I was excited to learn about the Canada Army Run in 2008 and to support such an important program – Soldier On. The military (both Canadian and U.S) has been a part of my life: my grandfather and brother served in the U.S. Army, my father was commissioned through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at university and my husband served 22 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force. I have participated in every Canada Army Run since its inception, running the half marathon every year and the first Commander’s Challenge in 2016.

During the 2016 race, I ran into some difficulty along the way. Not long after I passed the half-way point in the half marathon, I began to experience sharp back spasms and eventually my upper body was tilted to one side at a 45 degree angle. I had to walk more often and was fighting back tears due to the intense pain. Along Colonel By Drive another runner and her young son noticed I was in much pain and offered to accompany me the rest of the way. I graciously refused their kind offer, saying I would be fine. Needless to say, their compassion gave me the motivation to keep “soldiering on”. You simply do not give up when the going gets tough. What pain I was experiencing was nothing compared to what our injured soldiers have endured. With 200 meters to go and with fierce determination, I found the energy and started sprinting. I crossed the finish line, in my worse time ever recorded, with my head held high and I was so proud to receive that medal placed around my neck by one of our brave soldiers.

As soon as registration opened, I signed up again for the 2017 Commander’s Challenge. I will continue to participate in this race as long as I am physically able to do so. See you at the finish line!

There are two reasons that I decided to try the 2016 Canada Army Run half-marathon.

One-hundred years ago, on or about September 18, 1916, my grandfather, Private F.W. Sheppard, was wounded at the Battle of the Somme while delivering a wagon load of ammunition to the front line. Despite a broken arm and coming under fire, he kept control of his team of horses and finished the job. For this act of bravery he was mentioned in dispatches. He survived the First World War and served in the Canadian Artillery overseas for all of the Second World War as well. I was raised by him and I walked the half-marathon as a tribute to his memory.

Also, as retired member of the Navy and a cancer survivor, at 69 years of age, I walked the half-marathon to prove to myself that I could still meet the challenge. I chose to wear my combat boots. They were well broken in from successfully completing three Nijmegen Marches in the late nineties. I am training to walk one of the 2017 Canada Army Run challenges.

Our son, Private Jason Renato Simon, passed away on February 15, 2016 at the young age of 20. Jason was fighting depression and lost his battle to it. He is our hero for many reasons, but mainly because he has helped many others who are fighting their own battles. Through our grief we’ve met other military families who’ve lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives in war, at home or to diseases or depression. We are running for our Jason and for all the others.

Our family has shown a deep love for the city of Ottawa since our first vacation there in 2009. In 2014, we decided to pair up a family love of running with our favourite city and signed up for the Canada Army Run 5K. Having members of our extended family who have served in the military made it an extra special adventure. When we arrived in Ottawa for the weekend, we were immediately swept up in the energy of the city and the patriotism felt by all. Chills ran up and down our spines as we stood for the National Anthem. We had never before seen a race where just about everyone wore the race shirt during the event, and did so proudly. Being cheered on by members of the military was both moving and humbling. When the finish line came into view, my wife and I watched proudly as our son and daughter forged ahead to finish strong and with a salute at the end. There is no better feeling in running than to have a dog tag put around your neck by a soldier. As we gathered together at the finish for the traditional photo, we all knew it was an experience unlike any other and that we’d be back. 2017 will mark our fourth consecutive year participating in Canada Army Run, and we couldn’t be more proud or honoured to do it.

As I was approaching my 70th birthday in 2015, I decided that this milestone was a good time to get out and start doing some different things. Canada Army Run 2015 became my first endeavour and, while I no longer run, I set my goal to walking the 5K at my own personal best on the day. I supported Soldier On, and walked in memory of my Grandfather (First World War) and Father (Second World War). But I especially walked in support of serving military friends from the Chaplaincy Branch, many of whom were also participants in the 5K or half-marathon. As a retired civilian lawyer, I am proud and privileged to also support these padres in a voluntary professional capacity and admire and respect the work they perform, while often carrying their own burdens. 2015 was a great experience; the thousands of participants inspirational, many with injuries visible and invisible. Canada Army Run 2016 was even better – my personal best was two minutes faster than the PB of the year before. The camaraderie is infectious and I am signed up again for 2017. Thank you to all who serve.

I’m 71 years old, started running at the age of 65 and ran my third Canada Army Run in 2016 with my 21-year-old grandson. I’m not fast but we did pass a few other runners. He kept telling everyone: “She’s 70 years old and she’s running a 5K!” He was so thrilled to be running with me. It was a once-in-a-lifetime treat to run together; unforgettable.

“I have been running for a very long time. I do it simply because I love to run and I love how it makes me feel. But Canada Army Run is not about me. For that one day, we run to thank all the men and women who give their service to our country. I will run it as long as I can, then I will walk it. Just being there to show our support is what this run means to so many.”

“On January 2, 2000, I had my second heart attack. At the time I was overweight, smoked and did not exercise. I was a heart attack waiting to happen. After my recovery period, I starting walking to work and changed jobs. I started watching what I ate and chose to eat a more healthy diet. After I retired in 2009, I joined a running club, the Ceevacs Roadrunners. The first year I did the walk clinic and the Times Colonist 10K. In 2011, I started running and training for the Canada Army Run. This was my first half-marathon.

“Since then I have done 14 more half-marathons and numerous other races from 5K to a marathon. I have logged 10,000 kilometres between training and races. Of all the races that I have done, Canada Army Run has been my favourite. I have signed up for the Commander’s Challenge this year (2017).”

“I have run the Canada Army Run 5K many times. It is my great privilege to participate in this unique heart-warming experience. I run to honour and thank the many soldiers who bravely and selflessly serve Canada all over the world. I am inspired by the courage displayed by young soldiers running this race despite missing limbs and those whose injuries are not visible but are equally challenging and debilitating. I have run the 5K with my daughter, two granddaughters and one of their friends, and this year introduced my niece from Toronto to an experience where all participants feel that special energy and love that comes with being part of the Canada Army Run. I am 77 years old and a daughter of a Second World War veteran and I thank him while I am racing. I have already signed up for the 2017 Canada Army Run and hope to continue to make it an annual event for many more years. It is my way of saying thank you. The picture is of my granddaughters Colleen and Claire and their friend Carlie who participated in their first Canada Army Run in 2013.”

“In 2004 I had a ski accident while working as an instructor of a handicapped ski program. I wasn’t certain if I would ever walk again but through the examples of many of my students I put things back together. There were many things that I could no longer do but so many others that I could. I heard about the Soldier On program from some participants in the program. I wasn’t certain if I could walk the Canada Army Run 5K but really wanted to try it. In 2016 I completed my second Canada Army Run two minutes faster than my first. A small improvement but to me it is proof that I can do anything if I am willing to push my limits.”

“We are a family of seven, and six of us participated in this year’s event. Initially it started as a great event to participate in as a family. We wanted our teenagers to witness and experience the ‘Army Run vibe’, and we wanted them to appreciate and thank the soldiers who protect this great country of ours.

But in early September, our 17 year old was put on a priority list to have the Ross procedure done (double valve replacement). All his physical activity came to a halt. He could not elevate his heart beat or blood pressure. This was very difficult for him emotionally, mentally and physically. We contemplated not participating in the event because of the news we received.

As a result, instead of running, Cameron walked, trotting slowly along with his sister on one side and myself on the other. My feet were moving forward but my face was towards my son so make sure he wasn’t overexerting himself. We crossed the line with our arms in the air and smiles on our faces. I was able to meet up with my husband and run the other 21 kilometers for the Commanders Challenge.

The 2016 Canada Army Run was more than a run. We ran for our son, his siblings ran with him to make sure he crossed that finish line, and it brought our family together to make a memory that they will not forget, the medals/bibs hanging proudly in their rooms. We have signed up for 2017, and look forward to it. Thank you!”

“The 2016 Commanders Challenge was probably the most memorable race I’ve ever run. I was training for my second marathon and it was supposed to be just another long run for me. About a week before the race, I ended up with a foot injury during a routine weekday run. Somehow I made it through the 5K race, but at the eight-kilometer mark of the half marathon, I was in pain and pretty sure I would be unable to finish. I have never not finished a race, yet I was on the side of the road with my shoe off in tears. That is when a friend of mine basically picked me up off the side of the road and said: ‘this is our new start line’. He pulled me through the rest of that race with good conversation and encouragement. We crossed the finish line together and I can 100 per cent say I would not have made it without him. The Canada Army Run is such a special race. It brings people together and there is just something about receiving your medal from a member of our Armed forces that makes all of the pain and work of getting through those hard kilometres feel like nothing in comparison. I cannot wait to conquer the Challenge in 2017 and finish strong and proud.”

“I am an ordinary runner who took up running at the age of 57. I work 12 hrs a day, five days a week, so I hardly get any time for training. I am inspired by many fellow runners who are chasing a Boston dream, and run different practice distances, from 5K to full marathons. The Commander’s Challenge was one of those preparation runs which helped me run three consecutive marathons in three weeks. I think of the men and women of our Army who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe 24/7/365, the war veterans who fought for our nation and gave their lives, and the proud selfless parents, spouses, siblings, friends and family members who sacrificed their loved ones for our country, and trust I am able to show my sincere gratitude and pay tribute to them through this race. With more than 75 medals, including a few age group gold and silver awards, and counting to my name, the Commander’s Challenge shield is my biggest and brightest memorable possession which I will cherish forever. As a citizen of Canada, I had a great feeling while running this race. Please join me to celebrate my 60th birthday along with the 150th birthday of our great nation in Ottawa to pay our homage to the bravest men and women of our country serving in the Canadian Army.”

“Since the start of the Canada Army Run I have participated in all but one (when I was deployed). I have done the 5K only and last year I was determined to do the half marathon. Then the opportunity for the Commander’s Challenge (CC) came up; why not partake?! So I dragged my boyfriend to Ottawa to do the CC. As a retired Petty Officer, 2nd Class in the Royal Canadian Navy, I look back at the challenges I faced and with the determination I had facing those, I went into this race with both feet. The 5K felt great and I had beat last years’ time, then the butterflies set in for the half marathon. During the first part of the race I was fine. During this time we met and encouraged people along the route. My boyfriend thought it was weird but I said: ‘in the military, when we see people pushing themselves, we encourage them to go further’. As we were going around the 15 km mark, I felt like I wanted to give up and the ‘demons’ started to show. Then the volunteers were doing something that I was doing throughout the race. For a moment, I forgot the reason that I was walking this. The big reason is to do it for the people that can’t and to prove to myself once again that this is a challenge that could be beaten. Thank you for letting my boyfriend and I partake in such a great race. We will be doing the 10K this year with the same determination as last year (and more training). I have told myself that I will be running in this race until I cannot in remembrance of the people (comrades/friends) that cannot. Ready Aye Ready!”

“In the summer of 2014, I was training for my second Canada Army Run half marathon. Despite being a mother of four boys and running a full-time home daycare, my training was going pretty well.

On a Sunday night, while finishing a 12 km run, I felt a sharp pain in my left foot. I didn’t think much of it at the time. A few days later I tried to run again. The pain was still there, but somehow manageable. It was six weeks prior the race. I decided to slow down the training.

On race day, I showed up with my husband, Marc, who was also running the half marathon. I could feel some heat on my foot, but it was at the 8 km mark that it became almost unbearable. I took some acetaminophen and kept going. While on Sussex Drive, going toward the General Governor’s house, I heard a voice behind me asking me if I was ok. The man was wearing a Soldier On shirt. His name was Ethan and he was in the Army. He had a sore back, but wanted to finish the run. We ran together, he is the one who kept me going. The thought of giving up never came to my mind, since I was surrounded by men and women who had been injured while serving the country and others running with their military gear on their shoulders.

Ethan and I ran to the finish line holding hands. The very next day, an x-ray showed a broken metatarsal. It was the most painful run I had ever done, but the most rewarding one. Thank you Ethan!”

“When I started running regularly in early-2015 with a couch-to-5K program, it was primarily to meet goals in fitness for myself and my family, to enjoy something that got me outside year-round and to develop a hobby that continually challenged me to do better.

In the time since 2015 I have learned to run not just 5K but 10K distances and most recently a Half Marathon by myself and in races large and small throughout the Ottawa area. There was a time in 2015 when I wasn’t sure I would make it to 5K and I pushed on and succeeded. When the weather turned cold and I thought I was going to have to stop for the winter, I pushed on through the ice and snow and thrived. When the heat of a hot, humid summer last year wore down my enthusiasm, I pushed on and built my stamina and endurance. When I thought I reached the peak of my pace/speed abilities, I pushed on and became faster. Each time a challenge presented itself, I paused and took it not as the end but the next step forward and was rewarded for it. This is what running has taught me in life and fitness and what I tried and enjoyed sharing through my photos and stories.

Since deciding that I needed to change and get fit, I’ve lost 75 pounds, become stronger and healthier and feel confident that I will be able to watch my young children (3 and 1) grow up and be there when they are ready to help them enter the world on their own.

It’s not what I’ve worked hard to accomplish, it’s not what I’ve celebrated; it’s what’s yet to come.

I started to run for my health and for my children, and I was surprised to discover a part of me that I didn’t dream existed. Running gave me a sense of place, purpose and happiness. I’ve joined clubs, made friends and run in races that only a short time ago seemed like a thing other people did. It’s only been two years but look how far I’ve come. I’ve gained a complete change in mind and body, energy and outlook on what comes next. I’m faster, stronger and still progressing in my abilities and setting new goals. Where I am now is a result of a few small steps forward.

Never stop. Never think it can’t be done. Never think that you can’t change where you are and where you’d like to go. Our lives are short and you’ve discovered how to make more of it for yourself and your family. Get up, get out, get going and go.”

“My first Canada Army Run was last year (2016). I am a retired Army Master Warrant Officer, retired out of Ottawa PMOLAV. Retiring after 30 years, I moved back to New Brunswick and have been living there since 1999. My daughter-in-law called me from Ottawa and asked me if I wanted to come up and do Army Run with her. We decided yes and would do the 5K. It was the most fun I have had in a long time. It was so well done, everything was perfect. Now this year she wants me to do the 10K (actually walk fast for me, not run) but I am definitely going to go up and partake. This is one of the best times I have had since retirement. I turn 68 in June and as long as I can take part, I believe I will. I would like to thank the organizers and anyone who has anything to do with this event. It is wonderful. Thank you.”

“‘Running releases more than just sweat’—a quote from a running magazine that I have experienced to be more than true. As a 26 year old, I have run two 5Ks and nine Half Marathons; six of those being the run that feels like home, Canada Army Run.

Back in 2011, I ran my first kilometre as a ‘runner’, something I’d wanted to call myself for a long time. I made posters and collages at home of inspiring quotes and images from magazines as inspiration for my dream. Running started as a form of exercise and developed into a need. A need for something that made me feel like I was doing good, something where I could reflect on my stance in life; where I came from, where I was, where I needed to be; it gave me some ‘me time’. I began with weekly morning grinds starting at the Rideau Canal at Somerset Street in Ottawa. The summer, the crisp blue skies; I soon fell in love with running and knew this was becoming a part of me. This led me to sign up for the next run available in my hometown of Ottawa; the Canada Army Run 5K, my first, and what a race it was! The supporters, the cheer stations, the energy, the runners around me, were so inspiring and the race so exhilarating. Only 26 minutes later it was over and I was eating my well-deserved breakfast, or so I thought until I tried my first half marathon one year later at the same race (‘well-deserved’ got a whole new meaning). Not only was Army Run my first 5K, but also my first Half Marathon! Army Run has resonated with my as my very first race ever and I have ran every single Army Run Half-Marathon since then. This run is more than just a run to me.

I started running as a means of finding my way back on track. To me there was no better way to reevaluate where I am in my life, no better way to relieve stress and no better way to reflect on goals and dreams for me than training hours on the road for Army Run. Since 2012, I have run two Half Marathons every year, Army Run always being one of them. As a One Young World Ambassador from 2016 in Ottawa, I make my way in the world, addressing small changes to make a bigger difference. Running makes a big difference, to me and those around me. Army Run is like a piece of home that I always come back to. Just this last year when a soldier presented me with my dog-tag medal, he asked me if it my first Army Run. I said in delight and exhaustion: ‘no it’s my sixth!’ He replied: ‘I can’t wait to see you next year!” Without a doubt I know I’ll be there because Army Run helped me get to where I am today, and I wouldn’t be here without it.”

“I’ve registered for every Canada Army Run and have run in all but one due to a strained calf muscle. I have done the Half and the 5K. Each September it is so humbling to watch our wounded heroes start early and know that their permanent physical sacrifices or ongoing mental health issues (sometimes PTSD) are far greater than anything most of us, thankfully, will ever have to face or endure. In each race I’ve been tired and challenged but carried on knowing that each footfall on the pavement of our National Capital Region was a heartfelt ‘thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you’ to the legacy of our Forces and their families. Our freedom is not free; lest we forget.”

“Canada Army Run has been on my personal bucket list of races to run for about 6 or 7 years. I remember flipping through a running magazine and seeing a write-up on Canada Army Run and thinking: ‘this is a race for me!’ Everything about this race spoke to me. I decided right then that I would add this one to my bucket list, and I promised myself that one day I would make it to Ottawa, a city I had never visited, so I could run this race. I told my Mom, who is also a runner, and she agreed that this was a bucket list run for both of us. Being from Winnipeg, it wasn’t going to be an easy race for us to sign up for. It would take planning, perfect timing and some saving up.

Each year the race weekend would approach and we would let it pass us by. It never seemed to line up just right so that we could go.

I spent the spring and summer of 2016 training for a full marathon in Grand Forks N.D. I kept seeing posts on Facebook about Canada Army Run, how the planning was going, how close they were to selling out and what the race shirts were going to look like. About three weeks before race weekend for the Army Run (four weeks till my Full), I casually mentioned to my Mom how we were going to miss it again this year. We pondered it for a few minutes and about 24 hours later, we took a leap and were signed up for the Half Marathon, the flights and hotel were booked and we were set to go!

It was a pretty big gamble for me. Signing up for this race set me up to race three weekends in a row. First a 10 miler, then the half marathon at Canada Army Run on a course I had never been on, followed by a Full Marathon in the states.

BEST GAMBLE I’VE EVER TAKEN. Travelling with my Mom, visiting Ottawa for the first time ever and running this race was such an amazing experience. Canada Army Run is doing everything right. The whole thing from signing up right through to crossing the finish line was just amazing! We had such a great time, and we’re hoping to return sometime in the near future.”

“I signed up for this run because the season was beginning and I wanted to be ready and in the spirit of competition for my half marathon. So I did the Canada Army Run’s five-kilometre course. The volunteers were really nice and friendly. All along the course, people were cheering us on. The Canada Army Run is such a great experience. I will definitely take part in it again next time, maybe even in the Commander’s Challenge!”

“2010 was a turning point for me because that’s the year I decided to start running. I was more of a couch potato at the time, so I needed to change my lifestyle if I wanted to realize my dream of running a marathon. To get there, I had to change my diet, train for hours on end and take part in competitions. So what’s my favourite run? Definitely Canada Army Run! Every September since 2010, I can’t wait to run the half marathon, and every time I beat my own record. This year, I’ll be taking on the Commander’s Challenge because I always like to push my own limits. They’ll reach a new high in 2017 because this running fanatic decided he wanted to become a triathlete. Keep the challenges coming!”

“I am proud to say that this year will be my fourth time participating in Canada Army Run. My spouse is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), and he is the one who got me involved in this run. The first year, he was really nice; he stayed with me for my entire five-kilometre course! I was shy, so I didn’t want him to leave me by myself. He would do short sprints here and there and then come back to me. He must have run 10 kilometres that year! He even let me cross the finish line first (nice, eh?). The first two years, I alternated between running and walking because I had bronchitis! I had to slow down, use an inhaler and then start running again. The third year, I walked the whole time because I had three fractured cervical vertebrae! Yes, you read that right: fractured. My doctor never told me not to walk, so I did. I talked to Natacha Dupuis (a retired Master-Corporal from the Soldier On program) and she said to me: ‘What matters, Carole, is doing it right to the end, not giving up!’ So that’s what I did. This year, I’m going to walk it again because I’ve had a major neck operation. One step at a time, I will walk my five-kilometre course by myself. Now I do it by myself like a big girl and let my men run up ahead. By the time I get to the finish line, they’re usually finishing off a coffee that they had time to go get nearby. But at least I finish it!”

“The reason why I chose the Army Run as my first run and have kept going all these years is because of everything it represents. My spouse is a CAF veteran with over 27 years of service, my son‑in-law is a CAF member, and we are surrounded by CAF members. My spouse and I are members of a group of veterans here in the Outaouais region. Even though several of them are physically or psychologically injured, I NEVER hear them complain! Not one word.”

“From the moment the race starts until the medals are awarded, my thoughts are with all those people who belong to this large CAF family, from serving or retired members to the families of members. I laugh, I cry, but most of all I tell myself that for all these people I must keep going and cross that finish line. It’s the least I can do to thank them all. No matter how hard it is for me, it’s nothing compared to the sacrifices these extraordinary people have made.”

Chris_KochBorn missing both arms and both legs, Chris Koch participated in the inaugural Commander’s Challenge at the 2016 Canada Army Run on a longboard. Here is Chris’ story, in his own words:

“I was born and raised in the small farming and ranching community of Nanton, Alberta. It was clearly established early on in my life that I would not be raised with pity or sympathy. Within hours of when I was born my grandma was informed that my parents gave birth to a healthy baby boy however, I was missing both arms and both legs. Without any hesitation whatsoever she simply pointed out the fact that, “Bruce (my father) never did finish anything he started”. I attribute that dry and quirky sense of humor as the reason why I can honestly say that growing up without arms and legs was quite easy. My family could have treated my disability like a total tragedy but instead chose to take it all in stride and make the best of the situation. After all, I still had a good head on my shoulders… and with that, anything is possible.

I grew up just like any other small-town kid. I played road hockey and baseball with all the others my age. I caused mischief at school and got in trouble from my parents when my grades weren’t good enough. I helped out on my grandpa’s farm operating equipment whenever I could. Life was pretty normal. Sure, I had to do things a little differently and maybe took a little bit longer to complete tasks. But I was determined to be just like the rest and I was always treated just like the rest.

After I graduated high school I moved up to the city of Calgary to pursue my postsecondary education. After a few years I moved east to Ottawa where I continued to study History and Psychology at University as well as working with The War Amputations of Canada. The War Amps was always, and still continues to be a very important influence in my life. Their Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program has assisted thousands of kids across Canada who were either born missing limbs or lost them due to accidents or for other various reasons. CHAMP was started in 1975 by Cliff Chadderton, a man who devoted his life to making the lives of others better. Cliff was and always will be a great mentor in my life and the example he set for me and so many others, is one I continue to follow today. I cannot begin to talk about the successes I have had in life without giving Cliff and The War Amps as much credit for that as I do my family, friends and the community I grew up in. It was, and still is an absolute pleasure to give back to an organization that has given so much to me.

After being away from home for about five or six years it was time to move back to southern Alberta. When I moved back to Calgary I had the opportunity to work with one of the most amazing companies there is, WestJet. I was able to work in the airline industry as well as get back into working in agriculture like I had growing up. Being back in southern Alberta also gave me the opportunity to start working on “If I Can…” It had originally started off as a travel show idea that my good buddy JR Comstock and I came up with. JR and I still hope that idea of a travel show will come to fruition; the “If I Can…” motto has morphed into an even larger project. It has since evolved into a message that I deliver via the videos on YouTube as well as speaking at schools, conferences and various other venues.

Fast-forward to today and I still continue to work in the farming and ranching industry. When I’m not out in the field I am travelling around as a motivational speaker. This allows me to fuel my passion for travel as well as share my story and my experiences in the hopes of encouraging others to live their lives to its greatest potential, because If I Can…”

Dupuis_Invictus_soloMaster Corporal (retired) Natacha Dupuis has come a long way since being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) seven years ago following her second military tour in Afghanistan where she witnessed the deaths of two comrades. In the aftermath of that horrifying day, she suffered a number of mental health issues, including nightmares, panic attacks and flashbacks.

Although she still suffers from PTSD, today she understands her triggers, practices daily meditation and stays physically active. She is also back to work in a civilian role with the federal government.

Natacha credits Soldier On for the critical role it has played in her journey to recovery. Several years ago, Soldier On bought her a good quality mountain bike which got her active again and has since provided many opportunities for her to network with other ill and injured soldiers. It was also Soldier On that invited her to be part of the Canadian team at the 2016 Invictus Games held in Florida in May. She brought home to Canada two gold medals (for the 100m and 200m track and field events) and a bronze in powerlifting.

At the 2016 Canada Army Run – her fifth – Natacha ran the 5K and half marathon as part of the inaugural Commander’s Challenge event. She was also be a guest speaker at the Pasta Dinner where she shared her inspiring story with about 600 people in attendance.

Christine-Gauthier-Worlds-banner“The first time I kayaked, I felt liberated,” said Bombardier (retired) Christine Gauthier, 46, who is today a five-time world champion in parakayaking. “Being in the kayak in the middle of the water, I feel like everyone else. No one sees my wheelchair or even knows I have one until I get back to the dock and have to get into it again.”

Not long after joining the military at the age of 18, Bombardier (retd) Gauthier severely injured her knees, hip and spine during a training exercise, when she jumped into a six-foot trench containing rocks. After many surgeries, she returned to work, but was medically released in 1998. “After my release, I was inactive and isolated for ten years which threw me into a major depression.”

She credits kayaking and Soldier On for “saving my life”. Soldier On brought her to her first Canada Army Run, has provided her with opportunities to try many sports (including cross-country and downhill sit-skiing and sledge hockey) and has given her the opportunity to meet other ill and injured soldiers. She saw many of them again at the 2016 Canada Army Run – her fifth – where she hand-cycled the 5K and half marathon as part of the inaugural Commander’s Challenge event.

12SO-ArmyRun-McIntyre_and_sonSergeant Jamie MacIntyre was seriously injured in Afghanistan in 2010 when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated at a vehicle checkpoint. As a result of the blast, he suffered injuries to his face, broke all of his fingers and lost his left leg below the knee. He faced a long road to recovery, but his attitude – and some help from Soldier On and others – helped speed the journey.

“Soldier On provides equipment and coaches, as well as a safe environment that helps those of us who are ill and injured challenge ourselves and to get moving in ways we may not have thought possible,” says Sgt MacIntyre, who has served in the military for the last 20 years.

Through Soldier On, he participated in the 2012 International Four Days Marches and competed in the first-ever Invictus Games in 2014 with ill and injured soldiers from countries around the world.

Today Sgt MacIntrye is the Ontario regional representative for Soldier On and helps organize and run regional and national events that play such an important role in the recovery of other ill and injured military personnel.

Sgt MacIntyre ran the half-marathon at Canada Army Run 2016.

Sgt_Dan_MatthewsSergeant Dan Matthews has been “soldiering on” since October 2003, when his life changed forever. While on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, the lead vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED), killing his good friend Corporal Robby Beerenfeger and Sgt Robert Short. They were the first Canadians in Afghanistan to be killed by enemy fire.

Although Sgt Matthews did not suffer any physical injuries, his mental ones ran deep. When he returned to Canada, he couldn’t sleep, had nightmares and panic attacks, and was angry much of the time.

He credits running and Soldier On with “playing a huge role” in helping keep his PTSD demons at bay, although they occasionally return with a vengeance. Soldier On has introduced him to new sports and activities (including golf) and has helped him stay motivated and connected with other ill and injured. He also had the honour of participating on a Soldier On relay team that brought the final flag flown in Afghanistan from Trenton to Ottawa.

He will soon be medically released from the military and is looking forward to a new career in photography.

pete_bmo

Pete Strittmatter (right – Eastern Ontario Division Divisional Office) with Omar Abouzaher (Regional Vice President Personal – Ottawa East Market) at Canada Army Run 2015.

Pete has been working at BMO for 34 years, based out of the Ottawa head office. If you’ve run Canada Army Run before, you may recognize him: he has been a volunteer there since the first race in 2008, even before BMO was the event’s presenting sponsor.

Pete originally heard about Canada Army Run through his wife, who’s an avid runner, and he also has cousins that are current or former members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). His wife’s past participation as a runner, the event’s association with the CAF and BMO’s involvement are all factors that have continued to motivate him to volunteer year after year.

During race weekend, Pete works with the BMO volunteers who coordinate and provide logistical support, and assists with coordinating the race kits for each participant. “It’s a niche role, but it’s one of many things the Armed Forces really appreciate from BMO,” he said. There is “tons of enthusiasm” from BMO volunteers and employees wanting to participate in the race. “It’s nice to see the sea of blue,” he said.

For Pete, Canada Army Run is a profound event because of the symbolism around honouring our men and women in uniform. Over his many years as a volunteer, he has been continually motivated by the stories told by veterans, soldiers, event organizers and runners. Canada Army Run is the largest event that Pete has ever seen where the military interacts with the public and has a lot of fun, and where people can express their appreciation for our men and women in uniform. From a volunteering perspective, the CAF make it easy, said Pete, who claims he’s never been involved with a more organized event.

“It’s a well-oiled machine and it’s a treat to volunteer,” he said.

bmo_lisaLisa is a Branch Manager who has been working at BMO for nine years. While she has no competitive background, she has been running for years, typically focusing on shorter distances. 2016 was Lisa’s first year at Canada Army Run, where she participated in the Commander’s Challenge. The Challenge, a new event added in 2016 where participants run both the 5K and half marathon, was her first run taking on this kind of distance.

In January 2016, Lisa was approached by her colleague Tina about the possibility of taking part in Canada Army Run. Lisa agreed and Tina has been her number one supporter ever since. She was by Lisa’s side the whole time, following along with her training and inspiring their colleagues to come together and support Lisa as well.

Lisa is motivated by the military culture in the National Capital Region and BMO’s involvement with the Department of National Defence, Military Family Resource Centers, the organization Soldiers Helping Soldiers and the National Capital Open to Support our Troops golf tournament. She loves that Canada Army Run unites all of these organizations into one large family. She is also inspired to lend her support after hearing Second World War “bomb girls” speaking of their experiences and what they witnessed during the war.

“Some of the stories that I’ve heard are shocking and put things into perspective from both a personal and professional level,” she said.

Lisa gradually worked up her distance, training with a GPS watch and adjusted her pacing depending on the weather. “It’s been good to train in such hot humid weather,” she said, but hoped for dry and cooler air come race day. She trained on her own and with the support of her brother who has competed in IRONMAN triathlons. Lisa has been seeing the benefits of running, and has shed 20 pounds since she began training . She’s found that she has had more energy, has been more productive at work and has had better focus. “When you feel good, you look good, you work good, etcetera,” she said.

bmo_aimeeAimée has been working for BMO for the past seven years and took part in the 5km at Canada Army Run 2016 to support someone she became very close to leading up to his deployment overseas with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

For Aimée, training for Canada Army Run was a great way to show support for the CAF. She started training in the spring of 2016 by walking and, by summer, transitioned into a jog.  She trained twice a week in preparation for the race.

Aimée feels very fortunate to work for a company that has supported her journey from the beginning and to live in a community that comes out and support the runners every year.

SPONSORS

NEWSLETTER SIGN UP

Get the SITREP, our bi-monthly newsletter, containing the latest news, fitness tips, recipes, inspirational stories and more!