LAKELAND, ALTA - Every fall, Daylan Wizniuk makes the trip to St. Paul to take part in the Iron Horse Ultra marathon. Over the years, he's completed the 100km race and the 100 mile race three times each. He also is the record holder for both races.
This weekend, Wizniuk will be back in St. Paul, using his athleticism to gather funds for a cause that has made headlines across the globe. With $3,000 already raised for the Red Cross efforts to support the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, Wizniuk is hoping to keep up the pace, and raise even more funds as he tackles four marathons over the course of two days.
On Saturday, Wizniuk will start by completing a marathon in Mundare, followed by a marathon in Vegreville. He will then head to St. Paul, where he will do another marathon, looping around the community six or seven times. On Sunday morning, Wizniuk will head to another nearby community - Glendon - where he will run another marathon.
While he now calls Camrose home, Wizniuk spent part of his childhood growing up in St. Paul, and also has extended family who still live in the area, including Glendon.
He started getting into running when he was attending university in 2011. His first stint with the sport was brief, but over time he got back into it. In 2015, he decided to run his first marathon, which took about six months of training. At the time, he was unaware that extreme long distance marathons, like the Iron Horse Ultra, even existed.
One day, he stumbled across a documentary about ultra long distance running.
"It was just kind of mind blowing to me," he admits. But, it also inspired him to try running a race longer than the traditional 42.2 km marathon.
When he found out about the Iron Horse Ultra, it seemed like a perfect fit to run in a community where he spent part of his childhood. In 2016, Wizniuk ran his first ultra marathon.
“It was quite the experience," he concedes. But, he did it, and he continues to do it.
When Wizniuk originally thought about doing a long distance run as a way to raise funds for Ukraine, he thought he would run from one community to the next, but the logistics of running along with highway were simply too hard. So, he decided to do laps around the chosen communities - each with strong ties to the Ukrainian culture.
Wizniuk's dad's side of the family is of Ukrainian heritage, and his grandparents were part of the original committee that saw the creation of a giant perogy landmark created in Glendon. Growing up, Wizniuk was often surrounded by Ukrainian traditions.
So, when war broke out in Eastern Europe, Wizniuk felt the urge to do something. While he wasn't sure what type of response he would receive, Wizniuk felt the best way to draw attention to the cause would be through long distance running.
He acknowledges that there are many fundraisers taking place at the moment, and says he chose to fundraise through the Red Cross since the organization is well-known and has a good track record of getting funds where they are most needed. There is also an initiative taking place where businesses have committed to matching donations dollar-for-dollar, up to $10,000.
He says he wants people to feel confident that their donations will be put to their intended use. And while he hasn't officially set a goal, reaching the $10,000 mark and seeing each of those dollars matched, would be great.
When he wraps up his tour in Glendon on Sunday, Wizniuk will have run a total of 168.8km.
It will be the farthest he's run at once, despite taking an accidental detour one year while completing the Iron Horse Ultra and adding on a few extra kilometres. He was still able to complete the race, giving him confidence that he will be able to tackle this weekend's run too.
As of Tuesday, the forecast for Saturday in St. Paul is +3C, with the possibility of snow.
"I'm hopeful it doesn't rain or is super windy," says Wizniuk, when asked about how he will tackle the weather conditions. He says as long as it is above zero degrees, he will be able to manage. And if it's colder? He will simply dress the part.
Since he was already set to do a long distance race in July, Wizniuk was able to slide this weekend's run into his training schedule. He's taking this week to rest and prepare, and will take a couple weeks after to recover, before jumping back in to training.
“These are races that I do a few times throughout the year," he explains, adding, he feels prepared to take on the run.
Wizniuk plans to start running in St. Paul at about 5 or 6 p.m. on Saturday, with his starting location set for the Ukrainian internment camp memorial on the east side of Legasse Park. He will likely be running until about 10 p.m.
After a break through the evening, Wizniuk will head to Glendon Sunday morning where he will tackle the last leg of his run.