Yukon’s Member of Parliament left his Whitehorse office after Canada Day to run around the territory and raise money for diabetes.
“It’s a unique and new way to do my annual summer tour, instead of driving to all the communities I’ve taken the cleaner, greener route,” MP Ryan Leef said.
Leef was moved when a young man came to Parliament to speak about juvenile diabetes and realized how much the sickness affects the North.
Leef calls the campaign the Border to Border challenge, as he started running at the N.W.T. border with the Yukon and will end up in B.C. before making his way back to Whitehorse.
Indeed, he’s giving a people a run for their money. He will jog a total of approximately 1,200 kilometres in the span of 20 days, running 84 km on most days.
He’s prepared for the event by running the Ottawa and Boston marathons this year. He’s always been an avid runner, and once represented Canada at an international running championship.
So far, he’s raised close to $3,675, according to his fundraising meter on the Canadian Diabetes Association’s site, which will receive all the proceeds from the run.
The run also includes meetings with constituents in the various communities he will pass through and having discussions with them about their health issues, Leef said.
He talks to people about balance, living a healthy lifestyle, and food security at the events, he said.
But it’s not about preaching. “I’m not running around telling people don’t have a Big Mac and don’t have a beer,” Leef said.
It’s about inspiration. “I’m obviously not trying to encourage people to run 1,200 in km in 20 days. What I’m trying to demonstrate is you can do things that are a little bit beyond your control, a little bit beyond your capabilities to achieve a new path in life,” he said.
Diabetes is a disease that affects aboriginal people three to five times more than other Canadians, which is another reason why Leef chose to raise money for it.
Ironically, he’s also missing the annual general meeting for the Assembly of First Nations in town, which MPs, chiefs, and aboriginal leaders all over Canada are attending. Leef did make it to the opening ceremony, but left shortly after.
Grand Chief Ruth Massie told the Yukon News that although Leef attended, he did not say anything.
But Leef said it was something he had to do, even if it coincided with the AFN’s annual general meeting. “It’s difficult because there’s only one summer and only one Member of Parliament and I’m it,” he said.
Leef will also run the Border to Border challenge the next two years, wherein he will ask communities what they see as solutions to diabetes. He plans on being the first MP to complete 3,000-km worth of running in the name of diabetes.
Asked if it’s even feasible to run that much mileage, Leef said, “I think it’s a typical media approach to sow a seed of
discontent into something like this and I think it’s unfortunate,” he told the News. Leef said his odometer and staff are evidence enough that he has practially run the length of two full marathons every day, in the span of almost 20 days.
“I’m out there on my own, with my own integrity and my own word to do this.”
He only gets into his truck on his way the community events, to find a camping spot, or to eat, he said.
He drove up to N.W.T. on July 2 and ran to Eagle Plains, Dawson City, Moose Creek, Mayo and Pelly Crossing. After leaving the AFN’s opening ceremony yesterday, he headed to Carmacks and is slated to run to Twin Lakes, Carcross and the B.C. border.
Contact Krystle Alarcon at