CALGARY (660 NEWS ) — Skylar Roth-MacDonald is on a path to join legendary athletes like Terry Fox and Rick Hansen. In the last 18 days the 24-year-old has run more than 1,000 kilometres from Victoria to Crowsnest Pass in the first leg of his cross-Canada journey.
His plan is to continue his run with the finish line in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The 24-year-old ultra-runner will be covering more than 7,000 kilometers to get Canadians talking about mental wellness.
“I think anyone can relate to mental health struggles in one way or another,” he said. “Especially during the pandemic, I know I can.”
Roth-MacDonald also has a personal reason for dedicating the run to mental health awareness.
“I’ve lost two really good friends to suicide and I see the impact that leaves on a community,” he said.
LISTEN: 660’s Devon Banfield speaks to Skylar Roth-MacDonald on Day 19 of his adventure
Roth-MacDonald told 660 NEWS he’s been training for this feat for a while. He adds that overcoming his own battles with mental health has also helped him prepare.
“This run is a lot like dealing with depression,” he said. “But you push yourself to put one foot in front of the other, and that’s how you get to the other side.”
Statistics Canada reports that every day in Canada, 10 people die by suicide.
The Canadian Government reports that men and boys make up more than 70 per cent of suicide deaths in people aged 15-64 years old. They make up 80 per cent of suicide-related deaths in those over 65.
Roth-MacDonald told 660 NEWS that he is also attempting to show people that you can do whatever you put your mind to, including running across the second largest country in the world.
“I’m showing people that anything is possible if you do it one step at a time,” he says.
The journey has not been without hiccups. Day nine saw him separated from his crew for hours, without any cell phone service. As he was preparing to camp outside for the evening, he sensed he wasn’t alone.
It was the end of the day’s run, and Roth-MacDonald was being stalked by a mountain lion. Mace in hand, he was able to ward off the wildcat, and his crew found him soon after.
“It had me a little shaken up,” he said, adding that a member of the crew joined him for the first leg of the next day’s run to help him push through.
During his run, Roth-MacDonald is hoping to raise $50,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association. He is documenting his adventure on his Instagram, and you can read more about his story on his website.