By Paul Gains
Jean-Paul Bedard made an incredible impact at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last October when he successfully completed a 'Triple Toronto' in order to raise awareness for survivors of sexual violence.
En route to completing this 126.6km odyssey he was joined by well wishers including Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne who ran five kilometres with him to help promote her government's #ItsNeverOkay campaign.
Remarkably, Bedard took just one day to recover from the twelve-hour run and was back training with renewed vigour.
Encouraged and, evidently, not satisfied with this fantastic achievement, Bedard has announced the formation of "JP's Team" and is inviting others to join him as part of a year-long fundraising initiative in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge. It will begin with what he has dubbed 'the Ultimate Canadian Double Double' at the 2016 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend May 28/29.
The 49 year old Toronto resident will run the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon course twice on Saturday and then repeat that effort on Sunday, the official race day.
Training, team building and fund raising will continue as he then sets his sights on a return to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon October 16. Over the race weekend he will run the course - which by now he knows intimately - twice on Friday, twice Saturday before completing the 'triple-double' on the official STWM race day Sunday. That's an astounding 253.2km in three days.
"My wife, Mary-Anne, looks at me and I think it's almost a simultaneous look of absolute horror and, at the same time, absolute love and awe for the fact that I am willing to put myself out there," Bedard reveals with a laugh. “There's nothing saying that I will be able to do this. But I believe I can do it.
"And that's all the message has to be, is someone willing to try this? Is someone willing to put herself or himself out there and do something that really pushes the boundaries of their emotional and their physical and their psychological boundaries? That's what all this is about."
Earlier this year Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Race director Alan Brookes met with Bedard and encouraged him to enlist support from the running community which has embraced him wholeheartedly as a survivor of sexual violence.
Bedard was forced to deal with addictions as a result of the violence which he was subjected to as a child. Three years ago he completed a victim's survival program at The Gatehouse in Toronto.
Brookes pointed out that the New York City Marathon has a 'Fred's Team' named for the late founder of the race, Fred Lebow, who died of brain cancer in 1994. It raises money for cancer research. Bedard was impressed with the fact that Lebow's legacy continues even after his death. This led to the formation of 'JP's Team' through which Bedard hopes to raise $100,000 for two charities, The 'Gatehouse' and the Edmonton based 'Little Warriors' which assists child victims of sexual violence.
"We are launching 'JP's team' and it will be hosted as part of the Scotiabank Charity Challenge on both the Ottawa and the Toronto Waterfront Marathon sites," Bedard reveals. “People will log onto 'JP's Team' and they will be able to register for these races and they will get a discount when they register. They will be able to create their own fundraising page under the 'JP's Team' banner.
"It will look identical in both places in Ottawa and Toronto. They will see a few buttons: 'JP's Team Run Toronto,' 'JP's Team Run Ottawa' and a third button 'JP's Cheer Squad.' That one is for the people who are not running but who want to raise money in their own platform. But it will still enable 'JP's Team' to raise money for The Gatehouse and Little Warriors."
Brookes has clearly been one of his biggest supporters and it was he who initiated contact with President and Race Director of Run Ottawa John Halvorsen in an effort to expand the reach.
"We're greatly moved by JP Bedard's decision to expand his crusade against childhood sexual abuse, and run a triple-double Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2016 as his grand finale," says Brookes. “Last year, JP's triple STWM showed the world that "victims" are not victims but "survivors" who are indestructible.
"This year's message is to build a team, who will tell the stories of other survivors and provide team support, and to raise money for the broader cause at two important local charities. We're honoured that STWM and the Scotiabank Charity Challenge can build a stage for 'JP's Team', and look forward to sharing their journey."
John Halvorsen was equally enthusiastic about the launch of 'JP's Team' at this year's marathon.
"We are very happy that JP has chosen the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon to complete his four marathon weekend in support of survivors of sexual violence," Halvorsen declares. “His efforts are incredible and so helpful to generate both awareness of the cause and the race. He has the incredible ability to take a cause for a difficult situation and turn it into something so positive."
Since last year's Toronto Triple Bedard has found himself popular with local running groups. 'Fun Runs With JP' have become a regular occurrence. Just this week he ran 10 kilometres with a group at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. Eighty-five runners turned out to meet him.
In preparation for these ultramarathons Bedard expects to increase his weekly training volume to roughly 215 kilometres in a week. On Saturdays and Sundays however he will be running 60km each day. At this rate Bedard will go through a pair of shoes every three weeks.
The training also requires practice with fueling. He learned from the 'Triple Toronto' he ingested too many gels and not enough solid fuel. The final of those three back to back marathons he said was the worst. During the long training runs he will experiment with different combinations.
"It's a bit nutty," Bedard admits of his ambitions. “I started thinking, why are people kind of connecting to this? Literally, I get on average between 20 and probably 75 messages a day from people around the world talking to me about the stuff they are going through and what they have worked through.
"So whatever I am doing seems to be resonating and I am trying to figure out why it's resonating. It is resonating with survivors of sexual violence, that's understandable, but it's having a bigger impact on the broader community.
"I think they can somehow identify with the physical suffering I am going through during these extreme events. They are able to get into my head and see the suffering I was quietly going through for my whole life; the suffering that many survivors of sexual violence quietly go through their whole lives."
For further information: RunJPRun.com.
The 2015 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend welcomed 49,439 participants in six races, including the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, the Scotiabank Half-Marathon, the Ottawa 10K, the HTG Sports 5K, the 2K and Scotiabank Kids Marathon. The Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is one of only two running events in the world to host two IAAF Gold-label races - the Ottawa 10K and the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. The 2016 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend will take place on May 28-29, 2016. Visit us at RunOttawa.ca.
About the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon:
An IAAF Gold Label race, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is Canada's premier, big-city running event, the National Marathon Championships, and the Grand Finale of the 8-race Canada Running Series. In 2015 it attracted more than 26,000 participants from 63 countries, raised $3.5 million for 173 charities through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, and contributed an estimated $35 million to the local economy. The livestream broadcast regularly attracts viewers from over 100 countries, and in 2015 the event also hosted the international Bridge The Gap movement of running crews. STWM.ca.