Long Run


Nathan Cooper runs alongside the Trans-Canada Highway west of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Cooper's first race was the Canadian Death Race in 2006, a 125-kilometre run that crosses three Rocky mountain summits. He injured himself at the final checkpoint and limped across the finish line for 13th place out of over 150 competitors. It took over 17 hours.

That's just a few kilometres shy of three marathons back to back, all in one day.

“I've never run a marathon,” Cooper says. He laughs. “I've never run anything that short before.”

Cooper is tall and lean. His hair sticks up and loops over his head as though a deranged stylist weilded sweat and fierce winds against him. He selected every piece of gear, down to the last battery, for lightness, comfort and efficiency. He carries water on his back, his GPS device updates his website at the push of a button, and every piece of clothing hugs his body, including his five-toed shoes.

This cross-Canada adventure is Cooper's 30th birthday celebration.

He began in February on Vancouver Island and ran to Hope with his belongings in his backpack. The mountains beyond Hope were too snowy and dangerous, so he took a bus to Calgary, where he and his father built his cart.

The well-balanced cart, which weighs under 23 kilograms, doesn't hurt his knee as badly as a backpack. However, it hinders him when he climbs hills, runs over unpaved surfaces and faces this year's unseasonably contrary winds.

He's been sleeping in hostels and, more often, camping by the side of the road.

The problem now is money. Cooper's cash reserves are dwindling, so he'll have to cut corners. One such corner may be a detour in Manitoba along the American border, part of the Trans-Canada Trail, which was part of his original plan. Cooper may choose to cross Manitoba along the Trans-Canada Highway instead, especially because of this year's flooding. He may choose to buy a bicycle to accelerate some of his journey, too, which would save weeks' worth of food money.

No matter how much Cooper eats, he can't seem to replenish his energy.

“Once I get to Regina I'm going to have to make some hard decisions,” he says.

You can follow those decisions here: http://project30.ca.