Words by: Quinton Jacobs
We’ve been back for a few weeks, and the scope of what we accomplished is only now starting to sink in. I suppose on some level we’ll be reflecting on layers of the trip for many years to come, but right now there are some key bits that stand out and make my heart smile…
We ran as a team, non-stop, from Toronto to New York City!
We built a tremendous community of support with the goal of raising awareness and money for Skylark, a Toronto-based organization dedicated to serving children, youth and families struggling with mental health and developmental needs. We chose this charity as mental health is a cause which is dear to our hearts. To date this initiative has raised almost $15,000, and we intend on leaving the donation page open until the end of the year.
From its inception, ‘Escape to New York’ was a wildly unique and challenging endeavour. The more we initially flirted with the idea, the more it gained traction in our heads. The distance, the border crossing, running adjacent to the finger lakes, the challenging hills after Ithaca, and of course the NYC Marathon two days after we’d arrive. We chose New York as a destination because it held so many new challenges and uncharted territory. The opportunity became impossible to pass up.
From a project point-of-view, there was no clear or definite daily schedule that we could follow. Sure, the running in relay format was straightforward and at times even monotonous, but all of the other trip logistics where taxing and unrelenting. There was no daily ‘punch-out’ time. No designated drivers for the RV’s or the support vehicles. And no way of knowing how the teams would fair physically, mentally, or emotionally, especially in the later stages of the event.
What we did have were 28 precious moving pieces that needed to be accounted for over three days and three nights, 24-7. Twenty-eight people that got tired, irritable, and after a few days, pretty smelly… But people who also brought a special kind of energy and inspiration to each-and-every moment of the journey.
We took off on the evening of October 29th, a Tuesday at 6:45pm, with just enough time for our friends, family, and supporters to see us off at the base of the CN Tower. Some even came dressed to run, and celebrated the event by running the first 10km leg with us.
From there we had 900kms which were broken into 90 segments by a rotating line up of runners who stopped only when we reached our final destination.
We had 90 finish lines, 90 not-so-mini-celebrations of the human spirit, 90 opportunities to park how we were feeling as individuals at any given moment, so we could lift up our fellow teammates with as much spice and vigor as we could muster.
What made E2NY different from other ultra-relays had very little to do the running, and everything to do with the magic that happened at every single transition.
As soon as runners were expected to arrive at the end of their running segment, we’d scamper for our coats, slides, cowbells, and vuvuzelas and dash out of the RV’s to receive our fellow teammates.
(If the residents of Shoreacres in Burlington, VT are reading this, apologies. I’m sure it sounded like a circus at 2am on October 30th. That was us, lol.)
We carried that momentum all the way to New York City.
Through residential neighbourhoods and farmlands. Through sunshine and merciless rain storms with flood warnings. Even through an RV mishap that had one of our RV’s ditched and in need of towing.
The team persevered as athletes do, but HOW they did it, the sparkle they delivered along the way, THAT is what made E2NY what it was.
I say “we.” “We ran…,” but the truth is I didn’t run a lick. After spending almost a year planning this event with my co-founder Andrew Abley, I tore my achilles in the weeks leading up to our send-off and just like that, my participation shifted. I opted to see it through with the team, and the experience was life-changing, even without running a single step.
We said from the beginning that our purpose was to inspire connection.
Throughout the execution of E2NY we down-played the exorbitant amount of running that would be required and instead focused more on the people involved and the energy we were creating.
We also spent much of our time and resources building our E2NY community fundraisers that lead up to the main event. These offered opportunities to raise awareness and money for the beautiful and important work that Skylark is doing in our community, but also a chance to laugh, sweat, and revel with people who were excited about what we were up to. People who through their love and support, ultimately became the biggest and most important part of the journey.
There is a South African philosophy called “Ubuntu.” It’s tied to the belief that we are defined by our compassion and kindness towards others, that we were created for togetherness.
The 900km ultra-relay part of E2NY was the mechanism. But what I’m most proud of, as a co-founder, is that E2NY was built on community.