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Halifax Runner Covering 75km a Day for Heart & Stroke Foundation

Photo from Ryan Keeping's Instagram

“From the time I started running a year and a half ago, I was preparing a lot, and it really ramped up for probably four or five months… I trained full-time, and now we’re here.” 

“Self-belief is the most important thing you can have,” Keeping told me as he strode past the 5,000km mark in Manitoba. 

Ryan Keeping, a 27-year-old from Halifax, has been running across Canada for more than 70 days to raise money for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada. What he expects from himself is to make it across the country in 99 days, running 75 km every day for a total of 7,386 km from coast to coast. On April 1st, Ryan started his run from St. Johns, Newfoundland, and on June 6th, he passed through Winnipeg.  

Since childhood, Ryan has been inspired by Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. After seeing what Terry was able to accomplish despite having lost his leg to cancer and battling cancer while he ran as far as he could across Canada, Ryan decided he, too, was going to run across this great country. While Ryan is inspired in large part by Terry Fox, he has his own personal inspiration for which to run.

While Terry raised money for cancer research (which continues posthumously), Ryan is inspired to run for his loved ones, confronting the consequences of heart disease. Heart disease hits close to home for Ryan, whose father, grandfathers, and both siblings are affected. On his website, Ryan says he wants to help his and other families dealing with heart disease. 

Ryan is accompanied on the road by his friend, Josh Pinfold, and his dad, Scott Keeping. His team is small, but the run wouldn’t be possible without their support, helping plan the day, preparing meals and booking hotel stays, among other jobs. While he’s running, his family comes to mind often. The thought of them and the good his fundraising is doing help him to take on this Herculean task.  

“Terry Fox did it because he had cancer…So I thought, okay, what’s something that runs in our family? It’s heart disease.”  

Ryan continues.

“For him to be able to do that at that age with cancer, with one leg, I can never complain about any of this.” 

Stories like Fox and thoughts of his family are part of what keep Ryan inspired on the road.  

“There are a couple of YouTube videos [about Terry Fox] I always watch. There’s a line in one that ‘the determination of Terry Fox is making believers out of the skeptics.’ I like that line.” 

Another primary driver for Ryan is a personal obsession with seeing just how far he can push himself.  

“I’m just obsessed with seeing how far I can push things and my limits because, really, I don’t believe that we have any. Of course, people have limits; I couldn’t go run 500k right now. But whenever you push yourself, your limit goes farther and farther each day.” 

Ryan believes the right mindset can conquer any situation and overcome any obstacle.  

“Self-belief is the most important thing you can have. It’s really almost like a drug to believe in yourself, like the effects of it. I’d say I have supreme self-confidence. I believe if someone else has done something, I can do it. I might need a lot of time, but you can always do it. That’s the mindset I take. Believe in myself to the fullest.” 

Ryan had been preparing for months to take on this massive run. He took to training three times a day, which is similar to the three 25-kilometre chunks he breaks his daily runs into. It was only a year and a half ago he began running, entering multiple ultra-marathons within days and weeks of each other. He realized what he was capable of and began training specifically for this journey. 

“From the time I started running a year and a half ago, I was preparing a lot, and it really ramped up for probably four or five months. I quit my job, took a line of credit, bought a van, trained full-time, and now we’re here.” 

To make his daily 75km mark, Ryan runs at a pace between a walk and a run. 

“Sometimes it’s almost harder to run like this because it’s in between a run and a walk. It’s just that ultra-marathon pace. But yeah, we just do this all day.” 

While he runs, Ryan keeps a smile on his face, talking enthusiastically with whoever wants to join him for however long. Some vehicles passing by would honk and wave or pump a fist, and Ryan acknowledged every one of them while he carried on running. The run has become a daily routine where days start “at 5, start running around 6. A late day would be finishing at 10. It’s a double full-time job, pretty much.”

“The first two weeks were the hardest because your body is getting used to it…Day four or five was probably my hardest day, but I knew it would be, so I didn’t get scared. I just embraced it and just kept going. Really, I don’t care how long it takes me in a day, how hard it is or how much pain I’m in; the 75k is gonna get done. So, why wouldn’t I do it the best I can and feel good while I’m doing it.” 

On his social media, Ryan has a phrase you hear fairly often: Flip the Switch. While he puts 75km underfoot every day, Ryan wants to let others know the value of making the change they’ve wanted to make, pursuing their dreams and making their best life become a reality. 

“Go out and do in your life what you know you have to do. Everybody has a dream life that they want to live, and not many people live it. I tell people the world’s a better place when more people chase their passions. So just get out and do what you know you’ve got to do, whatever it is. Don’t care if people don’t like it or don’t understand it. Just go do it. And also just be a nice person. It’s pretty easy to just be nice to people.” 

It was a year and a half ago when Ryan Flipped the Switch in his own life. 

“I was just at a point in my life where I knew I wanted to do more. I wasn’t really happy with what I was doing, and I kinda just said, screw it. There’s no worst-case scenario. You go chase your dreams, and maybe it doesn’t happen right away, but you just keep going until you get it. The worst thing you can do is not try.” 

By the end of the day we met, he had run 67 consecutive days and had surpassed 5,000km. He has since surpassed 70 days and 5,500km. 

Ryan’s run is unsponsored, relying on donations and his personal savings. Of the money donated to Ryan’s run, 80 per cent goes directly to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada to be used “towards improving diagnosis, care, and support for heart disease patients.”  

20 per cent of the money raised will be used to cover the expenses of the run. 

Those who cannot afford to donate are encouraged to spread the word about what Ryan is doing and share the link to his donation page. Ryan has thus far raised nearly $110,000. 

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

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