By Andrea Arnold
Former Dunster resident, Caleb Reimer, had a goal to complete a Ironman Triathlon in the summer of 2020, and to use that event as a fundraiser for two causes that are very important to him: dealing with abuse, something he has experienced personally, and mental health. When that event was cancelled, his desire to support these causes didn’t wane.
“I wanted to raise awareness for something that has been shadowing me, even subconsciously, my entire life and hasn’t been something I have been able to come to terms with until recently,” said Reimer. He said he wanted to contribute by doing something challenging, since dealing with abuse and mental illness are challenges themselves. “What people deal with daily is the true marathon.”
The idea to complete a 4x4x48 challenge came about six weeks ago from one of Reimer’s personal motivators, David Goggins. Goggins is an American ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete, public speaker, and author. The idea is to complete 4 miles every 4 hours over a 48 hour period.
“I saw his challenge and how close it was to being a double marathon for mileage and I wanted to complete that,” said Reimer. He converted the distance to kilometers, and set a goal of 6.5 km every 4 hours.
He began his training immediately, running 6.5-10km in the morning before work and 7-10km at night, with weight training on the weekends. The training he’d done to prepare for the Ironman gave him a leg up.
For charities, he chose the Boost Child and Youth Advocacy Centre Against All Abuse and the Canada Mental Health Association.
“As a fundraiser, I felt this had powerful symbolism, as people going through mental illness and dealing with abuse, PTSD, tend to feel as if they are running away from something, someone or themselves—a lot of the time without even knowing why,” he said. “I thought it would make for a powerful statement and drive me to come out about my own abuse in the past.”
Reimer laced up his shoes and began the intense challenge at 5:00pm on March 5, 2021, the day after his 28th birthday. “It was the way I wanted to bring in my birthday,” he said. “This weekend was fitting.”
He had carefully planned out his route, and timing, with the majority of the running in Prince George’s Moore’s Meadow, about half a block from his house. This allowed him to return home between legs to stretch, refuel, shower and change clothing. During those breaks, he also tried to dry his running shoes, but with the constant exposure to water and snow, he ended up with wet shoes for most of the event.
“It is time to retire them,” he said.
He tried to dry his clothing between legs as well, and even attempted a load of laundry, but was unsuccessful, resulting in wet shirts for the last three legs of the two-day challenge. Fortunately, the weather was mild.
“I would have finished the challenge throughout any weather however,” said Reimer. “I just lucked out that it wasn’t -30.”
Reimer completed the final 6.5 km while wearing a 40lb weighted vest. “It was to represent me taking charge, outing something uncomfortable that truly isn’t talked about in our society which is sexual abuse in men,” he said.
“That extra 40lbs was to represent that heaviness that everyone has who has dealt with any type of abuse period and it was at the end of my double marathon to show how worn down and how much of a burden it holds over you.”
During the 48 hours, the motivation to keep on didn’t always come easy.
“At one point I really didn’t want to go,” he said. The weather had turned, and he had spent 2km battling shin-deep water, and was dealing with frozen shoes. “I just wanted to be back inside or done, but right before that leg I had looked online at the fundraisers and saw I was over $1500 between the two causes, and it reminded me that people believe in this, there were people cheering me on, even though I was out there alone I knew I wasn’t.
That’s a powerful feeling. That was a motivator, but I also knew going into it that I would complete the journey, every time I didn’t want to put my shoes back on I told myself I had to. I was testing my mental strength.”
Sunday morning’s 8a.m. leg was extremely difficult. “That’s what I prepared for,” said Reimer. “They say when you get to that exhaustion that’s when your so-called demons come out, all those voices that tell you you can’t and doubt and negativity and that’s what happened. But in that darkness and pushing on you truly find yourself and your meaning and in a way that’s what I was looking for. I can tell you that when I finished and going over it in my mind since, I am truly humbled. I found a piece of me I didn’t know existed. Looking for that piece was also what kept me going and pushing through. What I was waiting for. In a way I feel like I gained a part of my innocence back that was stolen from me as a child.”
Reimer was overwhelmed by the support that he was shown throughout the event. From his girlfriend, who helped him train and plan, stretched him out and prepared him for the next leg, his siblings and a friend who joined him for a leg to his dogs, who joined him for 34 km. His parents, Rod and Deb Reimer checked in with him before he set out for each leg.
“We are extremely proud of his achievement,” said Deb. “Not just the physical part, but mostly for the causes he was running for, and the courage he had to do it. And to raise awareness. He’s a true hero of ours.”
Reimer was able to surpass his $500 goal, raising a total of $2,018. “I am so blown away and thankful for everyone’s support,” he said. The event specific donation option closed 24 hours after he completed his run. However, direct donations to either the Boost Child and Youth Advocacy Centre Against All Abuse and the Canada Mental Health Association are accepted at any time.
“Thank you to anyone who reads this,” Reimer said. “Anyone who has helped, donated or reached out. No one is alone in their sorrows; we get stronger through dealing with what brings us down and together we can create freedom. A heavy weight has been lifted off of me and I hope to have inspired or helped even one person.”