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History of the Canada Army Run: common ground between civilians and the CAF.

THE MILITARY, IN so many ways, tends to operate behind the scenes on foreign shores or within compartmentalized bases, working for, but separate from, the ordinary humdrum of civilian life. Usually, it's only when called upon--when disaster strikes--that Canadians see the columns of lumbering green military vehicles parade down suburban roads to assist local authorities during a flood in High River, or a snowstorm near Sarnia, or an ice storm in Ottawa.

Despite the near ubiquitous "Support our Troops" bumper stickers and magnetic yellow ribbons seen on vehicles all over Canada's crowded urban streets and dusty rural roads, to those with no personal connection to the military or to a soldier, the relationship between the Canadian Armed Forces and the general population can be somewhat ... distant.

Canada Army Run has accomplished much in the six years of its existence, but one of its greatest triumphs is providing the perfect venue and environment for Canadians to get to know their military.

In the beginning, when Stuart Beare and Guy Thibault, both major-generals at the time, approached former Chief of the Land Staff Lieuten-ant-General Andrew Leslie about the possibility of organizing a run, they never realized how quickly the event would take off. Initially, they hoped it would unite the local Ottawa community with the Army. Today, with 22,000 participants attending from across the country, the scope of their intended purpose has widened to include a nation.

"I don't think anyone conceived six years ago just how popular this event would become, or how fast it would grow," explains Run Director Major Simon Cote. "And it's not just runners who are signing up. It's attracting people from all walks of life and all age groups who just want to be part of something very special, and often very emotional."

Canada Army Run is special for another reason too, one that may not be as evident to the civilian as it is to the military participants. Last year, Canada Army Run raised more than $250,000 for Soldier On and the Military Families Fund, the two charities the Run supports. Proceeds and fundraising efforts raised from Canada Army Run have helped Soldier On to make a difference in the lives of more than 630 injured and ill members, both serving and retired, by helping them get active again, and have also contributed to providing urgent and extraordinary financial demands for Canadian Armed Forces members through the Military Families Fund.

Major Jay Feyko, a representative of Soldier On, remarks: "To witness the growth of Canada Army Run and the support it has garnered right from the beginning has been amazing. The one message instilled in me year after year as I stand at attention listening to our national anthem proudly alongside other injured members at the start line is, 'I am not alone.'"

The first Canada Army Run was a learning experience, as preparing the logistics for the Ottawa-based event was pretty far from the Army's usual bailiwick. LGen Leslie remembers entering a debate on the correct ratio of Porta-Pottys to number of participants, something a three-star general really doesn't have to think about on a daily basis. It was situations such as this, combined with the unexpected number of participants (7,000) and the ongoing mission in Afghanistan that eventually compelled the Army brass to take on professional race organizers, an asset that has smoothed out many bumps throughout Canada Army Run's rather explosive growth.

Now, as we enter into the sixth year of Canada Army Run, the event is about Canadians and the Canadian Armed Forces--Air Force, Army and Navy--joining together in the spirit of camaraderie and community. But each runner also has his or her own reasons for participating. For Marc-Andre Ferland, a serving member from CFB Valcartier, completing the half-marathon in Canada Army Run was the next big goal after losing 44 pounds while stationed in Afghanistan. First-time runner Carole Leroux will be running to honour the memory of her father, a soldier in the Army for 22 years. "On the day of the run," she explains, "it'll be no ordinary run; it'll be the most emotional and significant run of my life."

"No ordinary runners, no ordinary race" has been Canada Army Run's slogan for the last several years, and they most certainly live up to it, all while throwing in an unmistakable military slant. Participants crowding the line, or anywhere for that matter, will quickly notice that the conventional starting gun has been switched out for something slightly larger--an impressive 10,000 pound 105-mm Howitzer.

New additions for Canada Army Run's sixth year will be wave starts, making the start safe for the increased numbers of participants, bib transfers and a new design for the shirts that all participants receive with the cost of their registration. At the finish line, each of this year's 22,000 participants will also receive a silver "dog-tag" medal, another uniquely original Canada Army Run tradition that's been with the event since 2008.

One of the most visible and meaningful differences from other runs that take place in Ottawa and around the nation will be the large contingent of current and retired servicemen and women who participate on prosthetics, in wheelchairs or on hand cycles. Canada Army Run not only gives Canadians the opportunity to meet members of our Armed Forces, it also allows them to see first hand just how much they've truly sacrificed for this country. In the words of Maj Feyko, "Canada Army Run is a humbling, patriotic experience that also reminds injured members of the great nation that stands behind us."
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Author:McNaught, Jason
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Sep 1, 2013
Previous Article:Salutations du commandant de l'Armee canadienne.
Next Article:On the run: with Chief of the Defence Staff General Tom Lawson.

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