• Mark Villani


Challenges are meant “to be fun” ... said NO ONE EVER. 


It’s just after 12:30 p.m. on a brisk October day.

The sun is shining, the clouds are clearing and I smile just a bit brighter knowing that perhaps on this afternoon I could get outside for a relaxing run along the banks of Calgary’s Bow River pathways. 

I know what you’re thinking.. the words “relaxing” and “running” in the same sentence? It doesn’t add up.. but for a guy like me that’s always “on the go”.. it just makes sense. 

Running is my meditation. It calms me down, it wakes me up, and it breathes new life into my day. It’s become quite the routine and something that truly makes me “happy.”  

When I run, I feel like I’m floating in thin air... I get lost in my imagination, I lose that sense of what’s stressing me out or bothering me and I remember that I can accomplish anything if I just take this moment to slow down. 

Don’t get me wrong.. I’m still a fast runner.. I’ll kick your ass ;).... but this is the part of my day where I can stop competing with everything around me in the world and look deep inside myself. 

It’s an emotional experience and whether I’m running an easy 5k or a full marathon with thousands of people cheering me on... the feeling stays true. 

But on this warmer than usual fall week in late October (if minus 10 Celsius counts as warm)... I find myself wanting to push this worn out body of mine just a little bit further as I prepare to get back into the swing of marathon training. 

It’s been a tough year for us crazy runners out there who enjoy pounding the pavement for hours on end, travelling insane distances, and always chasing that next big goal. 

For me, that goal is a sub 3 hour marathon and qualifying for the biggest race of all: Boston. 

I’m not quite there and I feel like I’ve been inching closer to qualifying, but never good enough for the past few years now...

I’m trying my hardest and this pandemic made it difficult. I was more prepared than ever to put my fitness to the test for the Hamburg Marathon in Germany this last April.  

My body was in peak physical condition thanks to my coaches Travis and Ashley-Schiller Brown at Personal Peak Endurance Coaching, but sadly the race was cancelled. 

Everyone’s race was cancelled... and for a time I had nothing to look forward to. 

It’s been depressing knowing all your hard work was “lost” and sure we did virtual races and all sorts of fun events to fill the void, but it’s just not the same. 

What never changes though, is the bond us runners have with one another.

We push each other when times get tough, we wrap our arms around each other and we never leave anyone behind. 

So as I start up my next marathon training journey... I threw out a challenge to my running friends. 

“Can you run 70 kilometres in one week?” 

That’s 10 kilometres each day if you want... 3.32 half marathons... 1.66 marathons... or one 70 kilometre run if you’re one of those crazy ultra runners *cough DAVE PROCTOR *cough

It seems easy enough if you budget your distance each day, but it's just enough of a challenge to make things a little "uncomfortable."

That's kind of the way I like to live my life -- out of my "comfort zone."

So I nominated 20 of my running pals and although not everyone had the time or the physical ability due to injuries, I was still overwhelmed with the support. 

It was amazing to see old friends tackle the distance.

Some of my friends like Sheldon, David, and Blair all ran 70K this week with me... while others like Tammara and Joelle are in for the challenge next week!

Brayden and Margaret (the super couple ) didn't quite reach their goal... Instead they decided to sign up for an "Ironman" together... so I'm gonna go ahead and say I "inspired them" anyway ;)

Oh... and they just eloped and got married!! A couple of beauties in the picture below -- congrats to two incredibly motivating and overall wonderful human beings!

All the while, I received so many kind messages of support each day from some of my closest family members, friends and those I haven't spoken to in years (you all know who you are).

That made me smile more than anything -- knowing that I wasn't alone in my journey.

I often don't realize it, but I spend hours of my work week physically isolated while I write, shoot, and edit interviews for the local or national news.

I wake up at 3am in a blur to deliver YOU the cold hard facts on TV! If you're up early enough to watch ;)

I never know what to expect, what kind of curveball I'll be thrown or whether I'll succeed... but that's half the fun.

Running around like a chicken with its head cut off has always been "me"... I cram meetings, personal projects, web seminars, French lessons, boxing, family, friends, and relationships all into one...

Ironically though, it's "running" that slows me down.

The sport has changed my life and who I am as a person.

It's been my crutch on some of the worst days I've ever had, my stress relief, and my happy place.

I know I'm certainly not the most talented or the most coordinated athlete, but staying active is what brings me true joy.

I've failed more times than I can count.

I've given up when I know I can give more.

AND... I've collapsed at the finish line unable to move..

Those physical experiences have taught me more about myself mentally than I could have ever imagined -- they're what keep me going each day to be the best human being I could ever be.

So whether it's a little jog in the park, 70K in one week, or a full marathon... . I'm always up for "the challenge."

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