After traversing three provinces in three months, Rick Fall arrived in the Brandon area on Tuesday afternoon, which provided the marathon runner with a short break from his 4,200-kilometre journey across the country.
Once he stopped for a rest at Grand Valley Campground, Fall told the Sun that he has been travelling on foot since April 12, when he departed from Victoria, B.C. in an effort to raise $300,000 for Make-A-Wish Canada and Childhood Cancer Canada.
"I dealt with a lot of kids with cancer in the school system, so I thought ‘why not?’" he said while enjoying a cool beverage in the shade. "My mom had also passed away from cancer in 2013, so that was a reason to stick with the cancer theme."
So far, the 61-year-old has put more than 2,000 kilometres behind him and has managed to raise just under $50,000 for his charities of choice, with the hope of filling that $250,000 gap by the time he reaches his home of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in August.
However, Fall says that the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered his ability to raise awareness about the campaign, since he and his wife Colette — who has been following along in an RV this entire time — must abide by each province’s health guidelines.
"The COVID has prevented us from doing any presentations in schools or service clubs, so that’s hit us a little bit in terms of exposure and the fundraising side of things," he said.
Outside of this fundraising hurdle, Fall maintains that the journey itself has been a positive experience so far.
Having taken part in several long-distance races in the past — including the Boston and New York City marathons — Fall said he has been able to complete an average of 42 kilometres a day since this cross-country run began, although he will occasionally take some days off to rest.
Even though Fall has travelled across the Prairies before, he said travelling on foot has really exposed him to some sights that he has never noticed before, with Manitoba providing a particularly scenic leg of the journey.
"It’s another beautiful part of the country, where every hill or corner you go around exposes how things are a little bit different," he said. "So it’s going to be an enjoyable stretch as well."
Fall originally came up with the concept for this cross-country marathon around 10 years ago, taking inspiration from famous figures like Terry Fox, Rick Hansen and British adventurer Jamie McDonald.
While he originally planned to kick-start this campaign in the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak put these plans on hold for a full year, since he didn’t know what stores or services would be available once he and Colette hit the road.
But Fall now sees that that outcome was probably for the best, since it gave him an extra 12 months to mentally and physically prepare for such a demanding feat.
"This past winter had excellent running conditions in Sault Ste. Marie, so I was able to get the extra training in and was able to do a fair amount of hill training in preparation for the mountains, which I think really helped a lot," he said.
Despite the fact that he has around 1,600 kilometres to go, Fall told the Sun that he still feels healthy and mentally sharp at this point, which gives him confidence that the rest of this charitable campaign will go smoothly.
"Getting into Winnipeg is going to be a real turning point as well, because it’s the last big city before hitting the Ontario border," he said. "So it’s going to be a milestone there, where I can hopefully stop and visit a few people … depending on the COVID restrictions."
Anyone looking to financially support Fall’s campaign can do so by visiting fallorick.com.
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson