Written By Calvin Chan
When I started the sixth grade, I was given a piece of paper and told to write down 3 goals that I wanted to accomplish in my life. I can only remember one of the things I scribbled that day – “I want to finish a marathon before I turn 16.” When my brother Ernie, who had done a run of his own in Halifax, told me about Steve’s website, I was 15 years old. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to run for a good cause, show off my city, and also follow through with the goal that 12 year old me set out.
I have to admit that 42 kilometres (or 26 miles) seemed pretty crazy to run, but I decided it would be now or never to meet my goal. I knew I would need help and motivation to get me through my run, so I enlisted the help of my friends to run “legs” of my marathon with me between each of the landmarks.
My route proudly shows off the beautiful city of Mississauga, the place that I have called home for my entire life. Mississauga is the 6th biggest city in all of Canada, and is a suburb located in the Greater Toronto Area in Southern Ontario.
The week leading up to my run had been filled with miserable weather, with Superstorm Sandy passing through. It had rained every single day leading up to the morning of my run, so as I crossed my fingers to at least have clear skies throughout the day.
So two days before my 16th birthday, I took off bright (well, it wasn’t exactly bright) and early from the house that I had lived in for all 15 years, 11 months and 363 days of my life. I ran 12 kilometres in the brisk November air to hit my first checkpoint. Straight in the heart of downtown Mississauga is a place called Celebration Square. Sitting at the foot of the steps of City Hall, the Square is home to numerous outdoor events that run in the city. It boasts a main stage equipped with a state of the art lighting and sound system, an amphitheatre, 2 large digital display screens, and a large central lawn. In the summer, it is home to things like concerts, art shows, exhibitions and much more. In the winter, the lawn transforms into a beautiful outdoor skating rink open for the public to enjoy.
My first thank you at this stop goes out to my Mom and Dad. Mom, I know that we are hard on each other a lot of the time, but in the end I know that you just want the best for me and for me to reach my full potential. Dad, what can I say other than… NUZ! (inside joke, don’t ask). Ever since Ernie left home, you’ve I’ve needed someone to fool around with and hang out with, and other than the fact that there’s about an 83 year age gap between you two, I guess you’re doing fine in his place! My mom and dad are the best parents I could ever ask for, they do everything for me and more so I can have every opportunity I desire in life. So much credit goes out to you two for me being who I am today!
From there, I took off on my second leg of the day along with my friend Leah Bracey. We ran 6K together from Celebration Square, down to the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus. UTM holds a lot of significance for me personally, as it was the site of my summer camp, Peel Summer Academy, that I attended every summer for a number of years. The memories of playing games on the football fields, swimming in the pool, eating lunch in the cafeteria, and taking part in activities in the classrooms are all still fresh in my head. Our stop point here at UTM was in front of the student recreation and activities building.
Here, my thank you goes out to two other very important family members, my Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma, you are a wonder to have in my life. No matter what, you always have a smile on your face and tell me how proud you are of me every time you talk to me. I’m so glad to have you around to share your wisdom and advice with me! Grandpa, even though you’re no longer with us, I know you watch down on us every single day. I still remember how I used to make you play hockey with me in our basement, and no matter what you were always willing to do it with me. I think I was to little to know it then, but looking back, you played a big role in my life, and I miss you every single day!
At this checkpoint, I met up with my buddy and football teammate Lucas Steger, who joined me for my third leg of the day. Huge kudos goes out to him for sticking with me through…. well let’s just say an adventurous 10K run. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to get through to my next checkpoint without him urging me along, staying by my side despite the agonizingly slow pace. We did in fact finally make it to the next checkpoint, Lorne Park Secondary School. Founded in 1957, Lorne Park High is the oldest school in our school board. With its longstanding tradition of academic, citizenship, and athletic excellence, I am very proud to call this school my second home.
A very appropriate thank you goes out to the whole LP Family at this stop. Stepping in the doors of high school for the first time, I literally knew about 3 kids going into the first day. I’m so thankful to the each and every student and teacher that I have come across throughout my 3 years at this school, that helped me come out of my shell and really enjoy the high school experience. I can honestly say that the people of Lorne Park have played a huge part in making me who I am today. Major shout-outs have to go out to a few groups of people. My Spartan football team, we’re a band of brothers and I love you boys! Clarissa and Mackenzie, my mentors of sorts when I was a grade 9, thank you for inspiring me to get involved and be an active part of my school! And of course, thank you to all my friends, both old and new – you know who you are – you’re the best group of people I could ever wish to spend 5 days a week with for 10 months out of the year!
From the school, I met up with David Parsons, who would join me for the next 2K leg of my route. We made our way to the next checkpoint of the day, which was Birchwood Park. The park houses a soccer field, a playground, as well as 4 baseball diamonds. Birchwood is a staple in the Lorne Park neighbourhood – the practice field for our high school baseball team, a local hub for minor baseball, and a popular filming site for many projects alike.
Here, my thank you goes out to my running partners for the day, specifically the boys – David, Mike, Steger (along with Matt, who I’ll mention later). Thank you guys so much for not only being willing to help me with my run and take part in it, but also sticking with me through the struggles of it! These guys have been like brothers to me since I first met them, I can always count on them to give me and hand with anything. Davey, what can I say, you’re just a fun guy to be around! Mike, my partner in crime and fellow class-clown for 3 years running, school wouldn’t be the same without you! Steger, you’re the most enthusiastic person I know, and it rubs off on everyone around you! And finally Matt, who unfortunately couldn’t join me on my run because he was up in Sudbury for a hockey tournament. The kid is a wonder, one of the most gifted athletes I have ever met and also one of the nicest guys around! I know you would have been there every step of the way if you could have buddy!
For my next leg, I met up with Mike Crews, who I mentioned just before in my post. Together we did a 3 kilometre leg to Jack Darling Park. Jack Darling is a beautiful park situated along the shore of Lake Ontario. Its many playgrounds and open fields, beautiful scenery, and stunning Waterfront Trail that winds through it make it a popular attraction for families in Mississauga to picnic, run around, or just have a nice afternoon lakeside walk.
Thank you Part II for my running partners go out here, to the girls this time, Leah, Catherine and Jade. Much like what I talked about with the boys before, thank you to these three for sticking with me through the run and helping me get through it! They are always willing to lend a helping hand, and do it with a smile on their faces too! Leah, my grade 10 math buddy, it won’t be the same this year not sitting beside you! Cat, you’re such a good sport, you’re always in good spirits and it puts a smile on my face to see it! Jade, I don’t think there are words for you! You’re just an overall great friend, you’re so easy to talk to and you’re always there whether I need someone to whine to, or just talk to if I’m bored! Thank you all for being there for me!
I ran my next 4K leg with Catherine McDougall, who I also mentioned just above, and our route took us to Port Credit Memorial Park. The park boasts many different features. The hockey arena sits atop the hill at one end of the park, and a newly converted lawn sits next to the Credit River, which cuts through the middle of the expanse. The park lies right next to the Marina, where the Credit River empties into Lake Ontario. It is all highlighted by a lighthouse that overlooks the park on one side, and the Marina on the other.
My thank you here goes out to my brother Danny. He is one of the biggest sources of inspiration in my life. My brother lives with autism, but despite that he goes through every single day of his life with a smile on his face. Living with him really gives me a broader outlook on life. He teaches me that sometimes, you just have to sit back and appreciate the little things in life. You never cease to amaze me Danny, we have always said you are the most gifted brother out of the three of us – the smartest, most athletic, and most talented! No matter what, at the end of the day, I can give you a handshake and a hug and know that there will always be a bright and happy spot in my life with you around!
So this brings me to the final leg of my run – probably the longest 5 kilometres I have ever ran in my life! This route took me along the shore of Lake Ontario down to the Lakefront Promenade Park, which also happens to be the finish line of the Mississauga Marathon every year. The Promenade boasts 40 hectares of beautiful waterfront developments, including numerous hiking trails, cycling paths, boardwalks, beaches, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
Last but definitely not least, my final thank you goes out to the most important person in my entire life. My brother Ernie is many things to me – a mentor, a role model, and my best friend just to name a few. Ernie, you are the whole reason I decided to do this run. You inspire me every single day to strive to be the best possible person that I can be. I model myself completely after you, because to me you are the coolest person on earth! (despite that grade 8 haircut of yours) It’s been tough on me these last couple years since you moved away, not having my best friend around to talk to and joke around with. I know it has been hard with both our busy schedules to keep up with each other, but you will always be the biggest part of my life. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss you, and I’m just counting down the days until I get to pack up my things and come live with you like we’ve always talked about! You are the best brother that anyone could ever ask for, thank you isn’t enough to sum up what you have done for me and what you mean to me!
I’d like to finish off my post by highlighting a restaurant I didn’t get around to featuring along my route, the Clarkson Pump & Patio. “The Pump” as we call it is a local staple, the favourite post-game restaurant of my high school football team the Lorne Park Spartans. The wings here are unbeatable!
So with that, ended my epic journey of 42 kilometres around Mississauga! I would like to take the chance at the end of this post to highlight my cause for this run. I decided to donate to the organization Community Living Mississauga, which is a group that provides assistance and support to special needs individuals in the city.
It was a massive long haul, but I am so glad that I took the time and effort to complete this run. Thank you to each and every one of my friends and family who backed me on this run, I means so much to me to have such great people rooting for me. I literally could not have done it without you all! I hope you get the chance to visit the awesome city of Mississauga, the place that I call home!