TORONTO -- Despite light snowfall, several running groups are braving the cold for a 650-kilometre ultra relay race.

Five teams are currently competing as part of the 3rd Annual Run to Montreal, which kicked off Wednesday night at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square and will end at Montreal’s Mount Royal on early Saturday morning.

The spirit of the event’s tagline -- “do something epic and raise some money for charity” -- was echoed by several competitors spoke to by phone during their running breaks.

“It’s been a long 20 hours so far but it’s been so much fun,” said Nigel Fick who’d just completed one of his legs of the race. Each team can have between five to 12 runners.

“You’re full of exhaustion from something you’d normally be doing with eight-hours sleep, once a day -- (which) you're cramming into four or five times in one day with 30 minute sleep in between,” he chuckled. “It’s amazing the power of a cup of Mr. Noodles.”

Each runner takes on 10-km stretches before being replaced by a teammate and getting scooped up by their team’s RV driving alongside them.

“It’s such a crazy personal challenge that you can do to push those around you to do something great together,” he said, adding his team “RUN. LIKE. HELL.” had just taken the ferry from Glenora, Ont. into the Greater Napanee area.

He owns the boutique store Culture Athletics which sponsored the event last year. But he joined this year as a competitor because he’d been so impressed with the runners’ joy and perseverance. “It’s just something run to do with your friends.”


Lead organizer Darren Weldrick said the race began as a way to honour one of his late friends, Colin Buchanan, who passed away from brain cancer.

“He had a ‘larger than life’ personality … and passed away way too young. Very resilient,” he said in a phone interview with, as he was preparing to start his team’s 26th leg of the race.

Weldrick said “the idea of doing this race in his name was very apropos.”

According to the event’s website, the four-day sponsored event grew from a small affair to one inspiring “runners of all speeds and experiences to test their mettle” and fight for “bragging rights.”

Buchanan spent his last days at Kensington Health Centre, which is now one of the recipients of the funds being raised.

The event is also raising money for Good Foot Support Services which employs people with developmental disabilities, and Start2Finish Canada which promotes literacy and fitness education for children.

But each team is free to raise money for whichever cause or group they choose.


Weldrick’s “Run the Runway” teammate Lawrence Colsell jokingly called the wet snowfall on early Thursday morning “an early present.” He chuckled saying the snow didn’t bother him now that he was warmly inside.

He also pointed out that while the cold is less of an inconvenience for runners. “Well, you get hot pretty quick, so (it’s not bad) as long as there’s not a strong, strong wind,” he said.

Colsell explained that while some runners slept after their turn, others have to make sure to motivate the runners outside “by poking at their pride a bit.”

He loved seeing the camaraderie from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa teams when the race kicked off. “It’s not too often that these local groups come together … so we got some teams running home and some others running from home,” he said.

But he stressed that being from Montreal, he definitely didn’t want other teams arriving at the finish line before him. “It’s what drew me to it,” Colsell laughed.