On Friday, Sept. 8, Brian Fairfield-Carter will embark upon one of the most physically and psychologically challenging trail races he’s ever done.
Fairfield-Carter will be running in the Finlayson Arm inaugural 100 kilometre trail race, which begins at Goldstream Provincial Park, and takes participants through the trails in Goldstream, up Mount Finlayson, before connecting to Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, to Mckenzie Bight and up Mount Work.
Once there, participants turn around and return to the start line, where they’ll complete the loop a second time.
As part of the 100K run, participants begin at 5 p.m. and run overnight and for the better part of 24 hours. It will be a true test of endurance and will power for Fairfield-Carter.
But the pain he’ll endure is nothing compared to what his son, Cole, went through nine years ago.
In 2008, Cole, who was just two years old at the time, began exhibiting signs of the flu. He had sniffles and would throw up. Those symptoms soon escalated to the point where he was off balance and would tip to one side as he was walking.
An MRI revealed Cole had a 4.5 to 5 centimetre medulloblastoma brain tumour. Two hours later, the young family was flown to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where they would relocate for the next nine months, while their little boy received treatment.
“[The diagnosis] dropped the floor out from under the whole family,” Fairfield-Carter said.
After two significant surgeries – one for roughly 11 hours, followed by a second four-hour surgery the next day – the doctor was able to remove the tumour, however, Cole’s treatment didn’t end there.
He spent two weeks in the intensive care unit, where he was hooked up to a respirator.
Once he recovered, he also went through several rounds of chemotherapy over a six-month period to kill any remaining cancerous cells.
Now, at 11 years old, Cole is cancer free.
Fairfield-Carter hopes to use the pain his son endured as motivation to complete one of the toughest trail races on Vancouver Island.
While he’s no stranger to the Finalyson Arm trail race (he completed the 50K race the past two years, finishing last year’s race in nine hours), Fairfield-Carter believes his biggest challenge will be preserving enough energy to get through the second 50K lap.
But when times get tough and he’s thinking about giving up, Fairfield-Carter will remember one moment in particular that he hopes will push him through the pain.
After the surgeries, Cole had started to regain mobility and Fairfield-Carter remembers watching as he used a walker to take a few steps – his first in months.
“That’s an image of real endurance,” said Fairfield-Carter, adding he trains five to six days a week and hopes to complete the run in roughly 22 to 24 hours.
“There’s no guarantee that I’ll make it the whole distance, but I’ll get out there and go as hard as I can and in the back of my mind I’ll always be thinking of my son, Cole, and all the other kids who are going through treatment right now. It will be my act of solidarity.”
While this is the first year the Finlayson Arm event will feature a 100K race, it’s the fourth year for the 28K and 50K races. All are a mix of single track, double track and coastal mountain trails.
Myke LaBelle, race director and owner of Coastline Endurance Running that is putting on the race, said the key to crossing the finish line comes down to training and stubbornness.
“Being stubborn is people’s best ally. You’re going to be tired, your feet are going to be sore, you’re going to be hungry. It’s just being relentlessly stubborn, to keep pushing when everything tells you not to,” he said, adding there are roughly 245 participants in the 28K race, 200 in the 50K and 45 in the 100K.
In addition to the run, Fairfield-Carter is raising funds for the Island Kids Cancer Association, an organization which provides support to families on Vancouver Island dealing with cancer.
So far, he’s halfway to his $1,000 goal. For more information about the fundraising campaign, visit youcaring.com and search Island Kids Cancer Association.
For more information on the run, visit coastlineendurancerunning.com.