On Oct. 5, Micah Todd will embark on a 121-mile (194.7 kilometres) ultramarathon from Centennial Park to Kamloops in hopes of raising awareness on suicide and mental health.
“At the beginning of the year, I had a goal set to do an ultra marathon. It’s something I’ve become aware of over the last year, I’d say,” said Todd. “I think it was something good to do through my own life that’s going on. I was putting it aside not doing it – I’m going through a divorce, all that stuff. And then this happened during the summer.”
Todd is referring to a local teenager who died by suicide in late July. The ultramarathon is named the A.J. 121 in honour of that teen. Todd was close to the boy’s family and worked with the father for six years. The two families often spent Christmas together and the late teen often babysat Todd’s two sons.
“It really gave me perspective on my own life, on my two beautiful sons. They’re healthy and happy, so I go ‘my life isn’t that bad. I got to do something.’ I’m a super athletic guy, not only that, [but] we’re all grieving in our own way.”
The 36-year-old said his goal was to dedicate this run to the teenager and others who have been facing the struggle of depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety and fears of life.
“We’re seeing suicide in young men, especially, go up and I’m not sure why that is but I’ve been there myself. I was there when I was a young man in my twenties. I struggled a lot with depression, drug abuse and alcoholism… I found my way out through martial arts, through exercise and just positive thinking. Self-talk is huge. I used to tell myself I was a loser all the time. I didn’t have any value, that kind of stuff.”
According to Statistics Canada, ten people die by suicide each day and roughly 4,000 each year in total. Across all demographics, it’s the ninth leading cause of death in Canada. In people aged 10 to 19, it’s the second leading cause of death with males accounting for 41 per cent of 10 to 14-year-olds, and 70 per cent in 15 to 19. Suicide is also the leading cause of death for 20 to 29-year-olds with 75 per cent of those deaths being males.
Todd said he has been training for the marathon for seven weeks and will try to complete the 121 miles in 30 hours or under. His mother and stepfather will be setting up a station every 30 miles, allowing Todd to top off on water and nutrition. He will be also wearing a hydro pack (a backpack full of water) while running.
Todd said he is approaching the run as a professional, pacing himself out and he knows when he will need his nutrition. He adds that he’s never actually run a marathon before but added he is confident.
“I’m going to make it, 100 per cent. I don’t know how I’m going to feel at the end. I have no idea. But I see pictures of ultramarathoners’ feet and their knees. Sometimes they have to pull out. Their meniscus can’t hold up. It’s going to take a toll on me, 100 per cent. I’m not going into this blind. I know it’s going to suck.”
He’s also taking note of the weather, mentioning he won’t get snowed on but the weather will be a little cool in the morning. He anticipates the first 60 miles (96.5 kilometres) will be the worst due to the elevation, but once he gets to Clinton the decline to Kamloops shouldn’t be “too bad.”
“It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a grind, for sure.”
He said almost all feedback on his plans for the ultramarathon has been positive and understanding. The only negative feedback, he said, was from family members worried about him running along the highway and the impacts that him getting hurt could have on his responsibilities.
He said he’s been running about six to six and a half miles per hour, and if he can keep that pace, even if he runs through the first 90 miles and limps through the last 30, he should be able to manage it.
“It’s going to be something, but I think I have to show that to the family. It’s in the hardest of hardest times we can be strong. We can be positive,” said Todd. “To the kids out there that are messed up, there’s another way. You got to believe in yourself. If you don’t have people around you that will help, find one. Reach out to someone on social media. Reach out to me anytime.
It’s just about strength for me, it’s about raising a little bit of awareness… It’s a hard thing because nobody wants to talk about this. Really, it’s got a huge stigma around it – ‘you’re weak if you feel that way.’ People think just pick yourself up by your bootstraps. We have to be sympathetic and have some empathy for people that feel that way. We have to have some support for those people. So that’s pretty much where I’m coming from, just a place of love.”