Halifax Man Completes Canada-Wide Run Raising More Than $220,000 to Fight Heart Disease

Halifax Man Completes Canada-Wide Run Raising More Than $220,000 to Fight Heart Disease
Ryan Keeping on the TransCanada Highway in British Columbia on the 89th day of his coast-to-coast run across Canada to raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. (Photo by Josh Pinfold)
Jennifer Cowan
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A Halifax man has raised more than $220,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation after completing a 99-day, coast-to-coast marathon across Canada inspired by his personal hero Terry Fox.

Ryan Keeping arrived in Victoria, B.C., on July 7, finishing a more than three-month cross-country journey that saw the 27-year-old run 75 kilometres each day, often wearing a Terry Fox shirt with a Canadian flag as a cape.

Mr. Keeping received 3,900 donations through his GoFundMe page to raise $229,392 as of July 8, far exceeding his original goal of $100,000.

Eighty percent of the funds raised will be donated to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada to be used for “improving diagnosis, care, and support for patients with heart disease,” while the remaining 20 percent will be used to cover his expenses, the page says.

His inspiration for the run, which began April 1 at the Terry Fox monument  in St. John’s, N.L., was Terry Fox himself, the “greatest Canadian of all time,” Mr. Keeping said in a YouTube video.
“We filled the jug with water from the Atlantic Ocean and emptied it in the Pacific, it’s what Terry wanted and I’m happy to say I could honour my run for him,” Mr. Keeping said in a Facebook post after completing his run. “He was always my hero through my life. I’m happy to live out his and my dream of running across Canada.”
Mr. Fox famously dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean on April 12, 1980, before beginning his “Marathon of Hope” run across Canada to raise funds for cancer, a disease that resulted in the amputation of his right leg when he was just 18.

He took with him water he collected from the Atlantic Ocean with the plan of dumping that water into the Pacific Ocean at the end of his planned journey. That day never came, however.

His journey ended near Thunder Bay, Ont., when cancer invaded his lungs, making it impossible for him to continue.

Ryan Keeping (R) finishes his coast-to-coast run across Canada in Victoria, B.C. on July 7. Here, he is seen receiving a high five from his dad, Scott Keeping.<br/>(Photo by Josh Pinfold)
Ryan Keeping (R) finishes his coast-to-coast run across Canada in Victoria, B.C. on July 7. Here, he is seen receiving a high five from his dad, Scott Keeping.
(Photo by Josh Pinfold)

A Reason to Run

The Canadian icon may have been the inspiration for Mr. Keeping’s coast-to-coast run, but his reasons for embarking on such a time-consuming and physically taxing endeavour were much more personal. Members of his own family suffer from heart disease.

“My dad and grandfathers have been affected by heart disease. Recently both of my siblings have tested positive for the gene causing these heart issues,” Mr. Keeping’s GoFundMe page reads.

“I hope to raise funds and awareness through my own run across Canada for the Heart & Stroke Foundation to help other families like mine, who are touched by heart disease.”

The marathon across Canada took months of preparation and training, Mr. Keeping said in a YouTube video posted five days before embarking on his journey. He quit his job just after the New Year to focus on training full-time, taking out a line of credit to supplement his expenses.

“I’m betting on myself to the max,” he said in the March 27 video. “And I want to tell anybody watching this, if there’s something you know you got to do, don’t look for any reason it’s not going to work. Look for that one reason why it will.”

The Canada-wide run—and Mr. Keeping’s never-quit attitude—are summed up in his catchphrase “flip the switch.” He has described his “flip the switch” motto as the belief that a shift in mindset can transform anyone’s life and actions. It’s a mantra that has not only kept him going, it’s one he has shared with others each day of his journey.

The long-time jogging enthusiast even celebrated his birthday on the road while running through Regina, Sask.

“People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do,” he said in his June 13 birthday message posted to social media. “Chase down your passions. Chase down your dreams. Keep flipping the switch.”