Finishing a 130-kilometre race through the mountains of British Columbia is no small feat, but it’s even more impressive for Dan Meades — just shy of four years ago, he was paralyzed.
“It’s a beautiful, brutal race. I was really glad to get across the finish line this year,” Meades said of the two-day, 130-kilometre Squamish 50/50.
Only a few years before crossing the finish line, Meades was dealing with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a nerve condition that left him paralyzed.
Through the support of family, friends and medical staff Meades learned how to walk again. He began running to get back in shape and started increasing his distances — first with local races like the Tely 10 then once he was ready, the East Coast Trail Ultra Marathon.
“You got to put in the work. It just takes a tonne of hours of running on trails, and lifting weights and getting strong in any way you can think of. The most important bit is getting that muscle between your ears ready for a really long day out,” he said of the long races.
“When things get hard, and when it gets cold and when your body hurts you can come up with an awful lot of reasons to quit in the middle of a race. If you get that muscle between your ears strong enough you can do just about anything.”
A second attempt
In the race, athletes run 50 miles through the mountains of British Columbia on day one, then 50 kilometres on day two.
Meades said he attempted to run the Squamish 50/50 in 2018, but a leg injury he sustained on the first day of the race left him unable to complete the course through day two.
He was 100 kilometres in when he had to throw in the towel.
“So going back this year I had a few of those kilometres I really wanted to pick up, and I really wanted to finish this thing,” Meades said.
However, a familiar challenge presented itself on the first day of the 2019 race. The same injury, in the same leg, began to flare up and cause discomfort, forcing Meades to question whether or not he could push through to the end.
“I thought, are we doing this again? Is this how this thing is going to go? So that was a pretty tough moment to think about, training for a full year to get this thing done right,” he said.
But Meades forged on, and crossing the finish line after putting 130 kilometres behind him in 24 hours was a beautiful moment, he said.
Now back in St. John’s, Meades said he’s going to take a little bit of a rest, but knows there’s another massive, 110-kilometre race in British Columbia on the horizon in three weeks.
“I think I might head back out there and see how it goes,” he said.
“My body is holding up pretty good.”