Anything for Alzheimer's Fundraiser: Amanda Nelson
Running a daunting 87.5 kilometres for her grandfather
By GEOFF DALE
Amanda Nelson is an experienced runner but her extraordinary 87.5-kilometre ultra trek this month honoring her grandfather while raising funds for the Alzheimer Society of Oxford was a deeply personal moment-in-time she’ll never forget.
Readily admitting she could not have achieved her goal without much-needed support, she thanked her ultra-running colleague Mickey Scott who joined her for the full venture; his wife Cricket bringing food and water to refuel their bodies and her husband Dan with his constant emotional support through both training and the run.
“My granddad Jim Haas Sr. (his Dutch name is Jacobus Joannes Haas) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about five years ago,” she explained. “It’s been difficult for us because he has struggled and lost so much of his memory. Since the pandemic I visit him through Face Time and the last time he seemed so distant.
“It’s so sad because I’m not sure if he even remembers me. This run was really all about honouring him, demonstrating the love we have for him. It was wonderful to complete the 87.5 kilometres but the greatest personal feeling was knowing this was for him.
“I was proud to have raised $1,550 for the Society, more than we had expected, so many thanks to all those who contributed.”
The idea for the run was firstly to recognize her grandfather– envisioning a single kilometre for every year of his life thus far – but Amanda also wanted to explore the strong link between both Alzheimer’s disease and her demanding project.
“Ultra running, which is any distance beyond the standard 42.2-kilometre marathon, also has a lot to do with mental strength,” she said. “So, to me it was the perfect way to test my training and running skills and, maybe in some way, put myself in my grandfather’s position.
“Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks the brain so I see such a strong mental connection between this kind of a run and the condition that affects so many. This exploration was on a personal level for me, showing how I feel about my grandfather and his current condition.”
Living just north of Woodstock and milking cows in a dairy farm parlor, she is no stranger to physical challenges outside her work. Already logging five marathons, she realized this ultra-run would present both physical and mental challenges.
With all her upcoming scheduled marathons canceled because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, she knew there would be plenty of additional time to train for this highly personal event.
“I was nervous but with the great assistance I got from Mickey, Cricket and the amazing emotional support from my husband Dan, this was a success,” Amanda said. “I wanted to feel that mental struggle and I really did.
“This was like taking on almost two marathons back-to-back at one time. With the necessary breaks it was an eight-and-a-half-hour effort, with seven-and-a-half-hours of actual running. It took us through Embro, Hickson, Innerkip, Beachville, Oxford Centre and back home. It was such a good feeling, especially knowing this was for my grandfather.”
So, will Amanda undertake more projects for the Alzheimer Society of Oxford and could there even be another ultra-run in the offing?
“I’ve been to the Walk for Alzheimer’s on two occasions, this past year and the one before,” she said. “So, I’m not sure at this moment but I could possibly be involved in more ways down-the-road. The Society’s Executive Director Shelley (Green) said this was a huge honour for my grandfather.
“My friend suggested we do this again but next time as an 88-mile run, which would be 141.6 kilometres. I remember when we had about ½ kilometre to go before reaching home I thought I might as well go all the way to reach the 87.5 mark.”
Those still interested in donating can do so by going online to her Facebook page.