Local man tries ‘Run For Gord’

Joseph Reid will be running the Toronto Marathon wearing an outfit mimicking that of Gord Downie during The Tragically Hip’s final concert last year.

By Seth DuChene

Joseph Reid, who later this month will attempt to complete the Toronto Marathon without training and while wearing garb identical to that worn by Gord Downie in his final concert with The Tragically Hip, admits he’s having a few nagging worries — despite the fact he completed the race without training last year.

“I wasn’t afraid last year until the morning of,” he recalls. “I woke up in the hotel room and said, ‘Oh boy, what did I sign up for here?’ Pretty much since I came up with this idea and ran it by the charity and found out they were on board, there hasn’t been a night that’s gone by that it hasn’t haunted me a little bit. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”

Reid’s run, dubbed ‘Run for Gord Downie’, will be to support The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund, which is dedicated to improving Indigenous communities and reconciliation efforts in Canada. In that spirit, he’ll be wearing the same clothing Downie did in his final concert in Kingston last August — complete with feathered top hat — along with an acoustic guitar on his back.

Reid says that running a marathon is never easy, even when you’ve trained and you’re wearing proper gear. When asked how the race went last year, Reid is blunt.

“Hell. Absolute hell,” he replied.

“The best part about a run is when it’s over,” he continued.

“At some point, you’re out there, and you’re just uncomfortable. Your shirt doesn’t feel like it fits right. Everything annoys you. Multiply that times a thousand,” he said.

Despite the monumental discomfort, Reid said he began hatching the idea of this year’s run while running last year’s race. Part of the reason why he attempted the run last year was to inspire people, he says, but instead others inspired him. “I saw two guys pushing what looked like their mom in a wheelchair for the entire marathon; a couple of guys went by me in costumes,” he said. “You’re not thinking of a whole lot when you’re out there because you’re in a crazy state of mind, but it stuck in my head that it would be cool to do something for Gord Downie, if I dressed up. It was always in the back of my mind.”

A few months ago, he presented the idea to his family. “They didn’t really take me seriously — or maybe they did and they just thought, ‘Oh God, here he goes again’,” he joked.

“Maybe they thought if they pretended they ignored me it would go away.”

It didn’t go away. Then Reid contacted the Downie-Wenjack Fund. “They actually didn’t get back to me for a week-and-a-half or two weeks, and I remember being angry that they didn’t respond, but I was also kind of relieved,” he said “I thought, ‘There, I had the idea, I pitched it, they didn’t like it, let’s move on.’ But then they did responded, and they said ‘yeah’. They said it sounded crazy, but go for it.”

Reid said he was spurred to try last year’s race without training as a ‘mind-over-matter’ challenge, as well as an outlet for sadness and grief he’d experienced in the preceding months. “I’ve always been good at taking that kind of energy, like the grieving process and the anger and the emotion that comes with that, and turning that into a useful form. So I thought, ‘I’m going to see if I can run a marathon without any training.’ I went out and I did it,” he said.

Those interested in supporting Reid’s ‘Run For Gord Downie’ can visit www.runforgorddownie.com/.

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