When a friend is struck by a personal tragedy, It’s time to step up and show up

My friend Darren Johnston, owner of the very popular Café DAX, mentioned to me not so long ago that his brother, Derek Johnston, was afflicted by stage 4 non-clear cell kidney cancer. It’s the kind of news no one wants to hear!

Currently living in the US by himself and with no family around to assist him, Derek is part of an ongoing experimental treatment, which is largely responsible for prolonging his life and the 35% tumour shrinkage achieved so far is very encouraging. Because the experimental drug is part of a clinical trial conducted by the University of San Diego (CA), Derek cannot come back to live in Montréal close to his brother, minimizing in the process his US-based monthly expenses. Essentially, if he moved back to Montréal, he would have to drop out of the trial, a decision that would almost certainly end his life. Currently, Derek’s cost of living in San Diego (CA) to remain part of the study is $US 5,000 per month. For his brother’s survival, Darren has footed the bill so far, but now he must raise more money soon.

This is usually the time where most people run for cover. But some individuals, very few, raise their hand, step out of the crowd, and step up to offer their assistance.

I was very disturbed by this story and I felt it was my duty, as a friend, to find a way to help out in my own capacity. Currently, I’m on a 2-year sabbatical to plan, prepare, and train for my run from Vancouver to Montréal, and my finances do not allow me to make a significant financial contribution to Derek’s cause. Nevertheless, I still want to help. And so, I decided to push my run from Vancouver to Montréal to a later date to assist Darren in his fundraising efforts.

In the last few days, I made up my mind and I offered to run 5,000 km on a treadmill for sixty consecutive days to raise awareness and funds for Derek’s cause. This represents a “little” more than the distance between Montréal and San Diego which I will attempt to run at a rate of about 84 km per day on a special treadmill that can match the elevation of a given course. In other words, the treadmill will incline and decline based on the data it receives from Google Earth as the run progresses along the roads, between Montréal and San Diego. This special treadmill will be installed in front of Café Dax, in Outremont (Montréal, QC), owned and operated by Derek’s brother, Darren. The run will start on June 1, 2019, and will end, if all goes well, 60 days later.

As a result of this sudden change of plans, I have to quickly alter my training plan to prepare for this even harder challenge by focusing exclusively on multi-hour-long treadmill running and technique. I chose to train at the Gym du Plateau (corner of Mont-Royal and Papineau in Montréal) which is open 24/7 and where I can run hours on end without having to worry about closing times. As of this writing, I’ve already started training there and I will continue to do so until May 27, 2019, adding to the +6,000 km I’ve already run in training so far on roads and trails.

Although I was training really hard, finalizing the last logistics details, and looking forward to running my initial Vancouver to Montréal mission in support of UNICEF, in light of this very sad story, I feel this is no longer the time for personal objectives and global humanitarian efforts. This is the time to help prolong a life, and my friend needs my assistance.

I hope I’ll have your support.

Thanks in advance.


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