VANCOUVER — Sebastien Sasseville's journey to run across Canada began on a snowy day in St. John's in early February. After 9 1/2 months and over 7,500 kilometres, it ended on a brisk mid-November morning with the sun shining in Vancouver's beautiful Stanley Park.
His goal? To raise awareness about diabetes and motivate the three million-plus Canadians afflicted with the disease.
Over the time he and his best friend Patrick St. Martin, who drove the team RV, were on the road, every day brought on a new set of physical, mental, and environmental challenges: the East coast's freezing winter, the sticky summer in the Prairies, the altitude of the Rockies. In total Sasseville ran the equivalent of about 180 marathons.
"I feel drained but I've been dreaming about today for a long time," said Sasseville. "This run is about what it means and the people and the cause and coming together to overcome obstacles.
"Life's not always easy but I think we all have huge potential to do great things. That's what I wanted to show. I wanted to make it easy for people to dream big while having some fun on the way. We had no idea if I would even be able to finish. You can't promise that you're going to run 180 marathons uninjured. We took a chance and persevered. It was such an incredible journey."
It's a journey that was over a decade in the making. When Sasseville was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a 22-year-old living in his hometown of Quebec City, he decided to embrace the difficulties it would bring to his life, even if his body wasn't quite ready to handle it.
"My first run, I ran about 250 metres," said Sasseville, now 35. "I was not fit when I was a college student."
From there, with a smart and sharp focus, he's gone on to complete six Ironman triathlons, climb MountEverest, and race across the Sahara Desert. But none of those accomplishments have held the same personal significance than his latest physical challenge, especially since his arrival in Vancouver coincided with World Diabetes Day.
"It was tough because it was a lot longer and that obviously takes a toll on your body. This feels better than Mount Everest for the simple reason being that Everest is a personal achievement. What I'm very thrilled to see today is what we've built. People feel like they own this a little bit, like this was our run, and to be surrounded by that is phenomenal."
The symbolism of the trek across our great country still resonates deeply with people from coast-to-coast. Through the events he hosted throughout his trip Sasseville inspired many, perhaps none more than Jack Poisson, a young boy from Windsor, Ont., living with Type 1 diabetes who flew to Vancouver to run the final stretch alongside his idol.
It's because of kids like Poisson that Sasseville knows that while the run may be over, his efforts are paying dividends and his work is just beginning.
"I think starting next week things will start to cool down a little bit. I want to take a good moment to see and make sure I process it correctly," said Sasseville. "I want to continue to leverage, spread, and support this message and I think this finish line could be a starting line for a lot of things."
For more information on Sebastien's run and his cause visit www.outrundiabetes.ca.