Run for Reconciliation challenge met by our diocesan team Aug. 5-6

The Run for Reconciliation team completed the 2023 Death Race. (Submitted photo)

Donate to the Run – LINK

By Mark Nickolayou

There are many things in life that we aren’t prepared to do, starting from birth. We aren’t prepared to take care of ourselves, feed, clothe or bathing included. Not prepared to learn in an organized manner, maybe by watching, but eventually you will need to learn oral and written skills to expand that desire.

In all eventuality, we obtain some smattering of preparedness for survival after leaving home, finding somewhere to live, some vocation to take on and hopefully enough preparation to find a partner and develop your spirituality. It can be said that spirituality is from within, but you still need guidance, and for the coming story segments knowing how and when to pray might, just might, come in handy.

The distance of 188.2 km or 73.88 miles, comprises the 2023 Sinister Death Race in Grand Cache, AB. Canada.  There is a 42km near-death option, or you can do the ultra by yourself or as a team.

We usually walk around the bridge loop in Saskatoon, often 5.6 km, so that would consume 33.4 days of walking for us and we don’t do it every day, that’s for certain. The most steps I have ever done in a day was 29,000; this race is 390,060 so that would take up 13.5 days. That day was an impossibility to repeat that many times in a row. If the average step count for a person is 10,000, then yeah, we’re at 39 days.

The time they allow for the race is 24 hours, so now if you’re unfamiliar with these types of races or the organizations that host them, or the kind of people that want to participate in them, you are now getting a clearer picture as to what they are up against.

“Because it is there,” which is commonly misquoted by Edmund Hillary in 1954, was actually said by George Leigh Mallory in 1924 as he prepared to scale Mount Everest with wool clothing and period tools to help with the job, with no GPS or satellite tracking.  Is this the why?  Why do people challenge themselves to marathons, ultramarathons, and monumental trail runs?

Surely somebody who was a daily runner back in the day decided that running 4 or 5 km wasn’t enough and claimed we should really take this up a notch and do a couple of 42 km runs.  They certainly feel like a marathon of work, so let’s call it that and invite some friends to enjoy the challenge with us.  Now that we are bored with it, we’ll start increasing the distance and who knows what other sports we can incorporate into this type of racing discipline.  Discipline, yes, that will be useful also.

(Submitted photo)

This race has been completed by runners from Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, and even the diocese.

In 2022 Bishop Mark Hagemoen completed the race with four other men.  Bishop Mark was 60 years of age at the time and was not likely the oldest runner there.  In fact, many runners approaching 70 have completed it.

The bishop has often been heard saying that ‘your body is a temple’ and since he has completed other marathons, including a 50 km trail run in Saskatchewan, we could all be well served by taking that advice.  I haven’t had the chance to ask him why he likes this kind of demanding, athletic activity however, the reason took on a clear and definitive meaning regardless of his opinion.

That 2002 team and this year’s team were on a mission, a running mission to bring awareness to Reconciliation and to continue to raise money for the Saskatoon diocese’s portion of $1.25 million over 5 years for the Indigenous Reconciliation Fun.

(Submitted photo)

Even though the running portion wasn’t sanctioned as an event for all diocesan regions in Canada, it was something that could be done locally and may help on the fundraising side also. However, as “something that we can do at a local level, bringing awareness to a very important discussion that needs to continue in order for the healing to continue” as said by Raissa Bugyi, Catholic Foundation of Saskatoon Executive Director and team organizer.  Not her first race, and certainly not her last,

Bugyi is passionate about competitive sports, team participation, and the fire that ignites from within.  A task like this is no small feat, finding participants who are passionate or at least in support of what it means, incorporating the fundraising component and training.  As she has said, “we were very fortunate, as we had put the word out through our channels at work, throughout the diocese, and personal connections.”

(Submitted photo)

That resulted in a handful of possibilities, the final team looking very different than the initial one.  They were glad to have two other members from Saskatchewan, Daniel Albert and John Fineday from North Battleford and Saskatoon, respectively and Hiro Watanabe from Edmonton.

Initially, Bugyi didn’t think she was going to run, “as I worked on this project I left it up to God and there was one spot that we couldn’t find someone for and I thought okay I can do this, the sacrifice will be worth it”.  It may be a small gesture, but one that comes with good intentions and the desire to do something unconventional.

As discussions occur in the workplace, coffee shops and home about reconciliation and what it means to everyone, some might find that we will continue to chat about it ad nauseum with no result and others might find that we have barely begun.  We can all agree that it is easier to discuss sensitive topics from either side of the table when queries and debates aren’t initiated by politicians or bureaucrats. There is enough rhetoric propagated by those who are vote-seeking on so many topics that this is best left for those outside the ring. Certainly many would suggest that the Catholic Church should keep out of the way of those who did the suffering and continue to suffer from the trauma brought on by their policies.  Those policies, however wrong and however brought into being by past governments don’t change the past and what has happened.

Stories continue to take shape across this nation and are narrated for all the world to hear as they fill sound bites from global TV networks and social media platforms. No matter where you get your news from these days, we’ve all heard it.  No doubt the finding of so many unmarked graves at various sites has helped fuel the outrage and rightly so. This isn’t being written to bring you into the centre of a complicated opinion piece but rather to provide a link for these topics and this story.

I have had recent conversations and experiences in regard to Indigenous culture and spirituality that have turned my expectations on their head.  On one of my first visits to Our Lady of Guadalupe parish, at St. Mary Church on 20th street, I pondered the preparation for Mass and how different it might be, including the homily. Instead of feeling like I didn’t belong, it felt a little like visiting somewhere I should have been sooner.

Of course, smudging prior to Mass was an obvious difference but the welcome by everyone, including Fr. Graham Hill and Deacon Paul Labelle was gracious and inclusive.  This was further emphasized on Sunday, July 23, 2023 after Fr. Graham and Elder Gayle Weenie did a blessing for the runners,

Elder Gayle Weenie spoke and touched on reconciliation.  She said, “In order for reconciliation and healing to occur, it has to begin with forgiveness.”  That sentence touched me and all those present for Mass since often we might be approaching these conversations differently, from an adversarial or combative approach instead of one where thoughts of forgiveness happen willingly and at the forefront.

As this article was initially intended to be one piece, it became clear that a broader story could be told and one that was worth telling. I will continue this piece over the coming weeks, introducing each runner in their own segment, their thoughts on running and the purpose of this journey, and what may inspire the reader or others they know to take on similar superhuman feats.  I really can’t answer the ‘why’ as to running yet but stay with me and I’m sure you’ll find the answer as to why forgiving is so important.

(Submitted photo)