The Firth Sisters

Posted by martin.parnell |

Next Quest:

TransRockies Quest 888 (Quest #8)

  • 6 months (May to October 2013)

  • 9 trail running, mountain biking, road running and road biking events

  • Target: 888 race kilometres

  • Completed to date: 8 events, 772 race kilometres

  • Next up: TransRockies Moab Rocks Oct. 12 to 14th

In early January this year, I received an email from the NWT Recreation and Parks Association. They wanted to know if I would like to do a keynote presentation at their September Conference, in Fort Smith. The theme was "Playing It Safe vs. Taking Risks" and they wanted to hear how this applied to the Quests I had undertaken, as fundraisers, for Right To Play.

I told them that it would be a pleasure and early morning on Wednesday September 25th, I boarded the first of my three flights. The final flight from Yellowknife to Fort Smith was in a twenty-seater, prop plane. In flight entertainment was at a minimum but I did find an interesting article in the local News / North newspaper.

The title was "My running is my truth" and it was about a fellow called Brad Firth. Brad had spent twenty years battling addictions but the turning point came when he saw a poster for the 2005 BMO Vancouver Marathon. Not only did he run it but he came in 743rd out of 5,000 athletes. Shortly before the article I was reading was published, Brad, whose running name is "Caribou Legs", had just finished an incredible ultra-run. He left Fort Smith on September 4th, ran 740kms and arrived in Yellowknife on September 14th. Brad stated that "Running and sobriety have a lot of the same things, there's commitment, desire and discipline".

Arriving in Fort Smith I was met by Lauren and we went directly to the NWT Recreation and Parks Awards night. The highlight of the evening was a presentation by spoken word artist, Shane Koyczan. Shane had performed at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He is an incredibly powerful performer and he held the group of sixty transfixed with a rendition of "To This Day". An animated version of this poem on bullying has had over 10 million views on YouTube.

The next morning, I had an early appointment at a "Trailblazing Walk". It was scheduled to start at 7.00am and at 7.10am three of us were heading toward the Slave River. Amanda and Sharon were down from Yellowknife and when Sharon told me her last name was Firth I was blown away.  I had read a lot about Sharon and her twin sister Shirley. Both sisters were the product of a pioneering program, in the mid to late 60's, to introduce skiing to Canada's Aboriginal peoples (First Nations and Inuit).  Her career was an outstanding testimony to the dedication displayed by her, in achieving a level of excellence very rarely attained by any athlete in this country.

Sharon and Shirley were members of Canada's national cross-country team for an unprecedented seventeen consecutive years, competing on the World Cup circuit.  Between them, they won 79 medals at a variety of racing distances at the National Championships and competed in four Winter Olympic Games, in 1972 at Sapporo, Japan, in 1976 at Innsbruck, Austria, in 1980 at Lake Placid, New York, USA, and in 1984 at Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. Shirley had passed away earlier this year from cancer. Then I asked if Brad Firth, "Caribou Legs", was a relative and she said he was her brother.

The keynote went well and that afternoon, as I left Fort Smith, I could only wonder at the experiences I had had and incredible people I had met during my 24 hours in Fort Smith, NWT.

Quote of the Day

"My running is my triuth"

Brad Firth

Going for an early motning walk with Olympian Sharon Firth in Fort Smith, NWT.

Sharon Firth


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