Prejudice for the homeless, and always trust your gut: Lessons from Woodstock, New Brunswick.
Updated: Aug 6
Trans-Canada solo Marathon days 84-89:
In Woodstock, the local ribs festival was on and it was Saturday night. I love local food festivals (the more commonplace the produce, the more interesting the festival!) so after my 35Km day in the stinking hot sun, I took a load off and enjoyed some bbq ribs and live music. Outstanding!
Next day I picked up some better clothes for running under the hot, hot sun. Long, loose and breezy is the key (and fashion doesn’t come into it) which resulted in me buying a cheap, oversized business shirt for the top, and pyjama pants as bottoms… complete with lots of little bright red motorbikes.
Left the clothing store and walked back to the point on highway130 to carry on where I left off yesterday. I had my t-shirt wrapped around my head + neck for sun protection, my sunglasses on, and Crocs on my feet (my comfy shoes for when I’m not running).
Did my exercises, swapped the Crocs for runners, and began the days run.
Miles came easy along the tranquil St John river, despite it being hot enough to fry an egg on the tarmac.
2 hours later, nature called. Loudly!
I’d tried a new hydration/fuelling powder that afternoon (always a gamble) and by the looks of things, my stomach was rejecting it.
I knocked on the door of a nearby house, deliberately removing my hat and sunglasses, and the shirt wrapped round my head, before knocking.
A car was parked in the driveway.
A lady in her 60’s answered the door. As I began to speak, I sensed something was off. Call it a gut feeling.
She listened politely enough as I explained my situation, but my gut (in addition to telling me it was about to paint this doorstep all sorts of undesireable colours) told me something else; it told me something wasn’t quite right, about her, about this situation. I recognized the quiet, subtle voice, and I trusted it.
She told me to wait, and ducked inside to speak to someone else.
Returning a minute later, she ushered me in. I hesitated for a moment, but was busting, so decided to take my chances. Beggars can’t be choosers.
After using the bathroom, I paused on my way to the door and had a pleasant chat with the couple. I saw that I’d interrupted their dinner, and apologized. They ensured me it wasn’t a problem. They seemed sincere in that.
So what had I picked up on earlier? Something was off.
I trust my intuition, and standing there chatting - pleasant as it was - I sensed I was unconsciously positioning myself near the door.
As the conversation went on, everyone in the room had the chance to talk, and we all relaxed a bit more. I explained my Trans-Canada run, my inspiration for the project, and my dual desires to both explore Canada and raise spirits for children bravely fighting a cancer diagnosis. They, in turn, had the chance to tell me about themselves. They were a lovely couple who’d lived in the area for decades; both retired, and now farming a small plot of land to supply potatoes to the nearby McCain Corporation (of “Aaaahh McCain, you done it again!” fame) with its global headquarters just a few Kms away in the picture-postcard little village of Florenceville.
I was enjoying the chat, curious about their lifestyle in this beautiful corner of the world. It turned out they had a particular interest in my project, as they’d had a young family member who’d had - and beaten - brain cancer.
But the question-mark still remained in my mind. And as they opened up more and more, finally it came out.
The lady (I’ve forgotten her name, unfortunately) couldn’t take it anymore. She said,
“We saw you walking the streets in Woodstock earlier this afternoon. My daughter and I were in town doing errands. We thought you were a homeless man, possibly on drugs, with clothes like that, and pushing your stroller around. It was so hot and we thought you had a baby in there. We were so concerned for the poor thing."
"Then an hour later we were driving on the road back to the house, and we saw you again! But this time you were 10Km from town in the middle of the countryside, and you were running… fast!"
"We couldn’t believe what we were seeing! We thought to ourselves, ‘My gosh! That’s the fittest homeless man we’ve ever seen!!”
We laughed. She looked like a weight had lifted from her shoulders.
I thanked them for letting me use the bathroom. She took a selfie with me. We said our goodbyes.
For more than one reason, that greatest piece of life-advice I'd repeatedly heard from Mum over the years rang loud and true in my ears that day - "always trust your gut!”