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Elmira ultra-marathoner will run for three days in support of mental health charity

Instead of covering a lot of ground in New Jersey next weekend, Elmira ultra-marathoner Clay Williams will be going around in circles in a Kitchener Park looking to run the same 200 miles.

“I registered for a race in New Jersey called Three Days at the Fair. It’s a 72-hour timed race at a fair that happens in New Jersey and is usually held in early May each year,” he explained. But with borders closed due to the coronavirus, the event was pushed back until October 1. As the borders are still closed, Williams was determined to find an outlet for all the training he’s been doing to prepare.

Dubbed Three Days in the Park, his chosen outlet will be a one-mile circuit through the Huron Natural Area in Kitchener. He’ll be looking to cover 200 miles in 72 hours starting at 9 a.m. on October 1.

“For the first 30 hours, I’ll be going nonstop. And then I’ll take a three-hour break.” Williams has done some research on the REM sleep cycle and is determined that a 90-minute nap will be beneficial to complete the weekend.

Williams, 60, is no stranger to running to extremes. A late convert to running, he gradually began covering longer distances. Taking part in the first Canadian 200-mile run, he had to bow out after 150 miles. “Ever since then, I’ve had this kind of bee in my bonnet about finishing a 200-mile race.”

Inspired by the canal run from Erie to Buffalo, he launched an ambitious run of his own, the Canal Pursuit for Mental Health.

“Each year for the past six years, I have run or led a relay run from Port Severn to Ottawa along the two canals – from Port Severn to Trenton along the Trent-Severn Canal, across to Kingston, and then from Kingston up to Ottawa on the Rideau Canal. It’s about 780 kilometres. I ran it the first couple of years, and then I’ve set it up as it relates to getting more runners involved, a little more publicity,” said Williams, noting this year’s event was held in August.

As with many of his recent ultra-marathons, Williams will be raising money and awareness for mental health issues, specifically for Mood Disorders Society of Canada.

The issue of mental health is one Williams knows well – like many of us, Williams has family members dealing with mood disorders and depression. Williams lost two of his older brothers to suicide. His wife, older sister and two daughters have all struggled with depression. Mental health issues have thus played a prominent role in his life.

“Each year since 2005, I’ve dedicated my longest run or my hardest run to charity: Habitat for Humanity, Water for People, Arthritis Society. When I got to 2015, the first year of the canal pursuit, as I learned about mental health issues – the mental health care system in Canada, all the fractured availability of resources, and all of that – I knew I had to stick with it. There’s so much more work that needs to be done in mental health in Canada,” he said.

Since 2015, he has partnered with Mood Disorders Society of Canada

“They’re a really great organization. They help train people in that peer support. They put together resources for helping people understand depression and anxiety, a lot of direction to resources and they try to make connections between people who need care people who provide care, and some of the agencies that provide some of the funding.”

To support Williams and his efforts towards the Mood Disorder Society of Canada, visit the website.

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