Indigenous teen overcomes past and raises $5,000 for local food bank with ultra-marathon

COVID-19 may have been the impetus for many people to take up a new pastime, but for one Merritt teenager, the activity he chose seemed unlikely, even impossible. Darius Sam, 19, who had never entered a 10K run, raced a bicycle or swam much at all, decided to run an Ironman Triathlon.

The coronavirus lockdown had cancelled all formal competitions — made up of a five-km swim, 180-km bike ride, followed by a full 42-km marathon. So Sam ran his own, on his own.

“I did a self-made Ironman,” said Sam, whose two friends witnessed the race, considered one of the world’s toughest one-day competitions. “I just wanted to test my mental and physical limits. I’ve always been fit. But there was no training.

“I didn’t run, I didn’t bike, I didn’t swim,” he said. “I had just bought a bike a month before.” He is now ready for another challenge. “I was looking for something else, crazier, harder.” He decided on a 100-mile (170-km) ultra-marathon and to raise money for charity.

Outside the Nicola Valley food bank, he saw a senior in the long lineup on her scooter. “I asked her how she was. She said she was hungry. I knew right there and then (which charity to fund).” He picked June 13 to run from the Nicola Lake rest point to Spences Bridge and back again and expects to complete it in under 24 hours. A GoFundMe page goal of $1,000 has since been upped to $5,000, and by the middle of last week had reached $4,500. He researched 100-mile runs online, for tips on hydrating and eating, what to bring (extra socks) and what to expect (“You could get a pulmonary edema, or collapse, or get a knee inflammation.”)

“It’s not natural. I don’t think humans are supposed to be running 100 miles in under 24 hours,” said Sam. “People think I’m crazy. They think I’m absolutely nuts.”

His friend will be driving behind him. The road doesn’t have any cell service and if they need medical help, they will drive to the nearest hospital.

Sam has received advice from Merritt personal trainer and nutritionist Mark Nendick, who said, “I heard about what he was doing for the food bank and I thought it was awesome.”

He has offered to pace Sam for the last 30 miles because the 70-mile mark “is when people start falling apart.”

“Eighty per cent of running a 100-miler is mental,” he said. “He has been doing a lot of physical training, and I think he’s mentally able to do it.”

“I don’t have any quit,” said Sam. “As long as I can run, nothing will stop me.”

The five-foot-10, 170-lb. teen was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and grew up in a foster home.

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