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Running for a cure

by Travis Britton / Vancouver Canucks

Running is a fairly basic thing. Most humans can do it. Walk fast, then a little faster, and a bit faster still, and eventually you’ll break out into a run. That’s not the hard part.

What’s hard is doing it every day for five straight months while your parents are enjoying summer holidays at the family cabin in Kenora, Ontario. And you have to miss out on your favorite cousin’s wedding, as well as a close friend’s special day. Not to mention the strain of being away from your girlfriend for the better part of five months.

Now imagine you’re doing it all day long. Sometimes for 10 hours until you’ve got so many brutal blisters that you have to admit yourself into the emergency room in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, just to have them drained. And you’re doing it when the love of your life had just up-rooted and moved to a new country to be with you, and she’s all alone back in her new adopted town. Oh and let’s not even talk about your favorite hockey team being on the playoff run of a lifetime.

That’s what Dr. Riley Senft did – 71 kilometers worth of it every day until he covered every stretch of road between Cape Spear, Newfoundland, and the Olympic Cauldron at Vancouver’s Coal Harbor.

Senft covered 6,621 kilometers spanning from coast to coast, burned through eight pairs of running shoes, and lost 40 pounds, all whilst raising over $500,000 and bringing awareness to prostate cancer, a disease that has been taking a toll on his family.

“My Grandpa and my Uncle died from prostate cancer and my dad just got diagnosed with it for a second time and I wanted to do the biggest thing I could possibly think of to not only raise money, but awareness as well,” said Senft, who was nominated for Local Hero recognition on this month.

Although men are at a higher risk to get prostate cancer than women are to get breast cancer, Senft belives it’s a disease that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.

“Too many men hide from an unpleasant test, and are left to face much more serious consequences,” said Senft referring to the exam used to determine prostate health. “Quite literally, one finger can save your life. ”

Senft's heroic run will hopefully save a few lives as well.

Truth be told, the run wasn't as bad as he expected. Far from it.

Senft received the key to the city of Thunder Bay. “It was pretty sweet as well because the mayor presented it to me at the Terry Fox monument, as Thunder Bay is where Terry had to stop running because his cancer had returned, and he was a huge inspiration to me.”

Senft got White Hat’ed in Calgary and in Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made a proclamation making October 6th, 2011, “Dr. Riley Senf’s Step into Action Prostate Cancer Awareness Day.”

And who wouldn’t like a day named after them but they all paled in comparison to the highlight of his run.

It occurred when Senft was passing through Kenora, Ontario, where his family has a cabin. His Irish girlfriend, Sarah O’Conner, who he’d met in med school, drove out to meet him on the lake. The two then canoed out to a little island on the lake where they had a romantic picnic and Senft asked her the most important question he would ever ask her.

Will you marry me?

He got the answer he was looking for, just like he got the end result he was looking for out of this run.

When asked what Senft would listen to anytime he hit a wall or faced the unbearable heat and terrain in Southern Ontario to keep himself going?

“Whenever I was facing daunting mountains or brutal headwinds I would play the opening to ‘Where the Streets have no Names,’ it was shockingly effective to keep me going.”

An inspirational song not only to a hockey team, but for a local doctor with a dream to cure prostate cancer.

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