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Have you ever had one of those days where your body just couldn’t keep up with your mind?  Today was one of those for me. You could say my body was running a steady 8 minute mile, while my mind was zooming at about a million miles an hour.  Here’s why.

This morning ultra ultra marathon runner and all round inspirational human* Ray Zahad called me up to tell me he was excited about my project. He wasn’t talking about the teeny tiny Edge to Edge marathon I am training for (still a formidable task for this little runner), but the idea I had for a relay race the length of the Proposed Enbridge Pipelines. Here’s an interactive map of the proposed pipeline route: http://pipeupagainstenbridge.ca/index.php/learn/map

Not only was he supportive, telling me it was doable (yes!), but he also wanted to meet and discuss the details- when he gets back from running across South America. I’m not kidding, he’s really going to run across the continent of South America (about 1700 km, no bigee) in the AndesRun (http://andesrun.com).

He already has many suuuuuuuper long runs to his name, including the 111 day non-stop run across the Sahara that was documented in the film Running the Sahara (produced by Matt Damon) (“I’m Matt Damon”). The best part is that he uses his running to raise awareness about important issues, like water and health or sanitation, that impact the areas he visits on his runs, AND he involves youth in learning about those issues as they run with him. Amazing.  (For more on Ray, check out: http://rayzahab.com/adventures/upcoming)

Quite frankly I was blown away to hear from him. I had heard him speak at a sustainability-oriented event here in Whistler in November. He was funny and captivating, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that his story had planted a seed in my subconscious imagination. It made me think about running in a new light; how running can be a vehicle for effecting change. Running as transformative action- it works on so many levels- the personal, the communal, the planetary.

So I wrote him an email explaining as much and thanking him for providing the seed for my brain child (Don’t worry, I didn’t quite phrase it like that!). It was one of those ‘message in a bottle’ emails, the kind that you toss out on the sea of possibilities without any real expectation that it will come back to you.  Well it came back, in a big way.

Now my brain child won’t give me a moment of rest and though my exhilaration is quickly turning to  exhaustion, I am still madly plotting its future (not unlike a real infant and hopeful parent).

The thing that is so wonderful is that it isn’t just Ray that is supportive. It’s virtually everyone to whom I’ve mentioned this idea. Husband, Running Buddy, Family, Friends and Colleagues, most are non-runners that instantly say “sign me up” or “how can I help?” then proceed to offer the most brilliant suggestions for making it a success. It’s just incredible.

Building a pipeline that will carry the world’s dirtiest oil, in the absence of a national energy strategy, in violation of First Nations’ rights and wishes, that threatens our climate, our water, our air, our communities, our economy, livelihoods, natural areas, biodiversity, endangered species and our reputation as a democratic nation that acts in the best interests of its own citizens not oil companies or the foreign oil markets they depend on is many wrongs rolled into one mega offense to Canada (and really Offense to the World). No wonder this is an issue that people care deeply about.

And it’s about even more. Despite the Joint Review Panel Community Hearings that are taking place across BC and Alberta, there is a general sentiment they are mere tokens. There is a sense of desperation that regardless of the public outcry, this proposal is as good as approved. Why?

Let’s look at the Review Panel. The official party line on the Review Panel states:

The Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project is an independent body, mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board. The Panel will assess the environmental effects of the proposed project and review the application under both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act.(http://gatewaypanel.review-examen.gc.ca/clf-nsi/nwsrls/2012/nwsrls01-eng.)

This sounds nice and impartial except that in actuality the panel consists of 3 individuals, none of whom reside in or represent BC. See a profile of each in this article in the Vancouver Observer.

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/sustainability/2012/01/30/enbridges-northern-gateway-pipeline-joint-review-panel-explainer

And just 3?! I had more people evaluating me at my last job interview.

The strong stance of the Federal government in support of the tar sands and all of its attendant infrastructure projects is most troubling of all. The fact that anyone opposing that stance has been labeled a “radical” or “environmentalist” (oh the horrors, the horrors) shows how little Harper and his cronies care for true public dialogue and the democratic process.

If we as Canadians have no mechanism to change a system that panders to industry- industry that is hell bent on destroying our natural and social capital-what are we left with? The gripping realization that we have become a Petro State, “where the price of oil and the pace of freedom always moves in opposite directions” (Thomas Friedman, The First Law of Petropolitics. 2006).

Running is a pure expression of freedom. Let’s run to make our commitment to freedom be heard.

Who’s with me?

 

(* though perhaps something of a freak of nature for his endurance capabilities)

It never failed. Whenever I was studying for a test, my Dad would ask me if I knew the definition of the subject. So there I would be madly cramming and stressing out about the intricacies of social contract theory or constructivism vs deconstructivism and my Dad would be like: “Do you know what politics even means?”

Um, not what I need right now, Dad.

But, I have to hand it to him; looking up the meaning of a subject provides contextual information that can come in pretty handy (and occasionally get you bonus points on exams!). So while I am all too familiar* with what a marathon is in theory- a whopping 42.195 km distance that you run, walk (or crawl)- I knew nothing of the origins of the word or history behind it until I looked it up. (Thanks Dad).

Allow me to share a little bit about this incredible tradition.

The modern Athens Marathon commemorates the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield at the site of the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C., bringing news of a Greek victory over the Persians. Legend has it that Pheidippides delivered the momentous message “Niki!” (“victory”), then collapsed and died, thereby setting a precedent for dramatic conclusions to the marathon. (Source: http://www.athensmarathon.com/marathon/history.html)

Here’s hoping that my own dramatic conclusion to the race isn’t death. Although being able to exclaim “Victory!” over Enbridge and the forces that want to bring oil tankers and pipelines into the Great Bear Rainforest-one of the most pristine places on earth would be amazing.

Sadly, it feels like a marathon, though a tremendous personal goal, is not newsworthy enough to gain the  the necessary publicity. I’m starting to think I need to run a longer distance, maybe 1177 km- the same length of the proposed Enbridge pipelines? This may be a bit ambitious for my little legs. But maybe it could be done as a relay race?  30 people each running 40 km across the province of BC? Enbridge sponsors “Ride to Conquer Cancer.” This could be a “Run to Conquer Enbridge.”

I wonder if there is anyone out there who would be willing to join me? Seriously.

*Since signing up for the marathon, I feel like the number 42.2 km has been burned into my cerebral cortex. Quite frankly, I’m just in awe of running that far. My brother Derek said he was driving the other day and measured the distance.  “That’s really far!” he exclaimed. “You’re like a super hero!” Which is just about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

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