Last month's post had been written with a greater than usual sense of anticipation and anxiety, as I was feeling inadequately prepared for the first leg of the Mountains and Marathons challenge; riding from Jasper to the Calgary Marathon in one day. It is with a significant amount of relief, a huge amount of satisfaction and an inordinate amount of thanks, that I can say it was a tremendous success.
Since the initial concept of Mountains and Marathons swirled through my mind (riding my bike through the mountains, one mile for every student, non-stop), there was an incredible amount of preparation, collaboration and planning to make the challenge happen. Not to mention the few serious discussions I had where concerned people pulled me aside and quite rightly asked "are you sure you want to (can) do this?"
From the outset, the goal of Mountains and Marathons was about ensuring we raise awareness about individuals and families living with Learning Disabilities, raise funds and generate interest in the necessity of the bursary program and Foothills Academy, and show all of the students, families and stakeholders of Foothills Academy Society that we, the staff and leadership team, understand the challenges faced daily by our students, and that we will do anything to support them; like almost literally going to the ends of the earth and back.
In true Foothills Academy style, our community rallied together, in a manner that would have been appreciated and encouraged by Founders; Tom Aylesworth and Gordon Bullivant. Many people played an integral role in ensuring that the Marathon weekend turned out to be such a success. From the early planning stages where people gave up time for brainstorming, to the planning of the launch, bringing in the marathon and media, creating rather splendid schematics around the gym walls, organizing t-shirts, helping so many people with entry fees, engaging stakeholders, setting up fundraising messages, managing entries and donations, engaging the local news media, rallying up students in classes, bringing in friends and families to the event, setting up an intensely energetic assembly and pep rally, challenging students and staff to fundraise and set goals, and so much more.
The support from the wider community was incredible, as people from far and wide became involved in the Mountain and Marathons intitiative, not because the Executive Co-Director was undertaking an absurdly difficult bike ride; but because people were captivated by the cause of doing everything we can to ensure that the amazing students and families of Foothills Academy are supported so that we can help make a difference in their lives. Centron Construction, and their President Mr. Wayne Benz, were big partners in this challenge, as Wayne was the second leg of the event. I was the Mountains part, and Wayne was the Marathons part, running 26 miles for 26 of our students.
As for the ride itself, it panned out very nicely, although for someone who spends the better part of 11 hours a day sitting behind a desk, I felt justified to have some sense of apprehension (and perhaps a little bit of dread) about the challenge. Having left Jasper at 6am on the Saturday morning, it was a blissful ride south up to the Columbia Icefields. There wasn't a soul on the road, which made for an interesting, and slightly heart raising, experience when I pedalled past a couple of hungry bears by the edge of the road; fortunately, they were not interested in a skinny British fellow on a bike. Clearly, I wasn't worth their time for a snack. Brad Weible and Dan Williams were a tremendous support on route, helping with food, and ensuring the bike was in working order. After a couple of pit stops to switch over water bottles, the magnificent Columbia Icefields were behind me, and it was a 75kmph descent down to Saskatchewan Crossing. A stiff climb up to Bow Summit followed (the highest part of the journey) which was halted midway by a 30-minute delay due to a road closure as rocks were being basted onto the highway. This impacted my overall time, but the legs were happy for a little respite. A pot of tea greeted me at the top of Bow Summit, followed by a pacey ride down to Lake Louise, and a delightful home stretch through Banff, Canmore and onto the TransCanada Highway to the Saddledome. A quick stop at Highway 22 to put lights on the bike was necessary, as I didn't beat nightfall to Calgary, and then we finished at the Saddledome before midnight. A few hours sleep followed, and then it was back to the marathon to cheer on Wayne as he did his part.
However, this was never about the bike, or about Wayne Benz's awesome marathon. This was always about the needs of our students and families; so I thank you all most very sincerely for being a part of this wonderful initiative and supporting it in a manner that has seen our fundraising for the Mountains and Marathons / Calgary Marathon close in on $150,000. Everyone involved with Foothills played a huge part in making Mountains and Marathons happen, and be so successful. So I thank you all so very much for making a difference.
My only concern now is, what to do next year? I hear rowing across the Atlantic is pleasant in May.
With most sincere thanks and appreciation,