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Why is this wacky Brit running across Canada - by himself?

The Motivator is a recurring series that features one spectacular reader – someone who's an inspiration to others. Know a motivator? E-mail community editor Amberly McAteer and share your story.

Jamie McDonald, Gloucester, England, 27

My story: As a kid with a rare spinal condition who was in and out of hospitals for nine years, moving my body was the only thing that relieved the pain. We were born to move – you just have to look at any child's face when they're running – and it makes me think, why have we ever stopped?

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I've always been compelled to give back to children's charities through whatever I can do. I hold the world record for stationary-bike cycling, and I've cycled from Bangkok to Manchester. Both adventures raised thousands of dollars for British children's hospitals. On my journey, I met some backpackers in Thailand who told me that Canada was the best country in the world – the people, the sights, they said, were not to be missed.

I wanted to see this beautiful nation, but also keep fundraising. So I started my biggest adventure yet: On March 9 of this year, to fundraise for the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, I dipped my hand into the Atlantic in St. John's, and started running westward. I'm running 8,000 kilometres from coast to coast, by myself – no support crew, no video editors, no team. I run about a marathon a day: I'm currently in spectacular Thunder Bay – more than the halfway point, with about 90 marathons left to go. My visa expires Dec. 18, so I have to make it to Vancouver before then.

I'm posting YouTube videos and updates on Facebook and Twitter as I go – a full-time job in itself – and sleeping in a tent for about five hours a night. I'll be the first person in history to run across Canada unassisted.

My darkest moment: Just about everyone I told about this project warned me about a certain section of the run: the mountains near Thunder Bay, Ont.

They were right.

I hit this area on Sept. 1 – and storm after storm continually soaked me to the core; the bitter wind from Lake Superior was relentless. Not to mention the hills sucking the life out of my lungs, legs and brain. I couldn't feel my feet, and my next rest – a motel that was offering a night indoors – was 55 kilometres away. I wanted to stop, but stopping wasn't an option in this weather. Mentally as well as physically, this was the darkest place I've been.

The only thing that got me through this trek was the thought of Terry Fox – who had to stop running on this very day, near this very spot. I kept saying: How do you think he felt? I kept running, in his foot steps, fuelled by the inspiration he left behind.

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My inspiration: I've always heard how nice Canadians are, but it really blows me away, the kindness every person has shown me. Whether it's offering me a home-cooked meal (I usually eat cold, tinned fish, for quick fat and protein) or extending a hot coffee on the side of the road.

Every single Canadian has been inspiring – but the person that's moved me the most, and really shown me why I'm running, was a sweet lady named Cindy in Sudbury. I had given a talk in the city, about who I am and why I'm running, while on a rest stop. She caught up with me a few days later, with trinkets in hand.

"I haven't shown you enough how much I really love what you're doing," she said. She told me her eight-year-old son had died nine years ago. She gave me a handmade, beaded alligator key chain that her son had made while at Sick Kids. "Mommy, this one is for you so you will never be alone," he had told her.

The second item was a gold medal that the hospital gave him for being strong.

"I want you to have these," she said. "The alligator because I don't want you to be alone and the gold medal because you are my hero."

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More


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