On October 6, 2012 Cody Gillies (22) from Orangeville, Ontario completed his epic “End to End Challenge” – a solo trail run on Ontario’s 885k Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest continuous footpath that runs along the Niagara Escarpment from Niagara to Tobermory. It took Cody 12 days, 7 hours and 39 minutes – a record breaking time! Most people hike this trail and it takes them over 30 days to do it, backpacking.
TRC: I understand you decided to do the End to End Challenge to raise funds for the Pediatric Unit at Headwaters Hospital in Orangeville, Ontario. How much have you raised?
CG: To date I have raised $34,000. The day I started the run, I had only raised $12,000 and my goal was to raise $25,000, so the bulk of the funds came during the run itself. People can still donate until mid-December – please click on the link on my home page at http://endtoendchallenge.com/about-cody/
TRC: That is an incredible achievement – how are you feeling now?
CG: I am back at work now, working as a volunteer firefighter. I lost close to 20 pounds between the training and the event. I actually lost 10 pounds during the run, and I didn’t need to lose that! I am trying to recover – I think it will be about a month before I’m completely back to normal, to recover from my injuries. I have most of my range of motion back now – I have been seeing my chiropractors regularly. They actually helped me while I was on the trail – they ran with me some days and would treat me when necessary, which was awesome.
TRC: Tell me about your injuries – what happened?
CG: My ankles were the First to go – due to the high mileage and the technical terrain. My average day for the first 4 days was about 80k per day in around 12 -13 hours. But on day 4 I started to suffer. On day 5 I pretty much “shut down” and after that my pace slowed to about 70k per day in closer to 14 hours. The terrain was very technical with a lot of downhill early on (particularly on day 2) – I had set a pretty fast pace and the
muscles in the front of my foot to my shins swelled up and I couldn?t move my ankles properly. When your ankles are done, then you start using your hips to move, and eventually it affects your knees.
TRC That sounds pretty rough. You must have incredible mental toughness to tackle that.
CG Yes I would say the effort was 20% physical, 80% mental. On some days I was in excruciating pain, but you just break it down into smaller chunks to get through it. Like just go 5k at a time, trying to keep a positive mental attitude. I noticed that any time I was in a negative mood, it made me feel much worse physically, so I tried to stay “up” as much as possible. It helped when other people would join me from time to time
along the trail.
TRC What was the high point of your experience?
CG The finish was the high! And I do remember one day, I think it was close to Milton – I had run about 60k already but I ran the last 5k with 2 other ultra runners and my brother. It felt just like I had gone out for a run with a group of friends – but I had actually run about 700k at that point! I had been in pain all day, but it went away that evening. We had our lights on, it was a clear evening and we climbed to the top of the escarpment. When we got there, we turned off our lights and just stood there staring at the stars in the sky.
TRC I’m sure many people have asked you this, but what’s next?
CG When I finished I thought there was no way I would ever do this sort of thing again! My main focus in the short term is to get more education and work experience but I do plan to do a 100 miler within the next year or two. Now I’m pretty sure I can do that! I would also like to get into some more multi sport racing, where I have to navigate, like adventure racing. This weekend I’m actually going for my first run with the group from my running store (and sponsor), Running Free, although I warned them it might be more like a hobble!