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‘My dad would be proud’: Manitoba Marathoner raises $6k for Winnipeg overdose prevention site

Caydin Cleland was thinking of his family before he crossed the finish line at the Manitoba Marathon on Sunday — the second of two goals he achieved in the event.

When the full marathon kicked off at 7 a.m., Cleland had already surpassed his $5,000 fundraising goal for Sunshine House’s mobile overdose prevention site in Winnipeg, which offers people a safe place to use substances under the supervision of trained staff.

The 24-year-old biochemistry student at the University of Manitoba wanted to run in the annual event — a Father’s Day tradition in Winnipeg — to give back and to remember his dad, Jay Hamilton, who died in 2022.

“I lost my dad about a year-and-a-half ago to a drug overdose, and it has been really hard for me and others in my family,” he told CBC on Saturday. “My uncle also passed away from an overdose, two years before my dad.”

Cleland’s fundraiser garnered just over $6,000 as of Sunday afternoon.

“I think my dad would be proud that I’m doing something that [is] fighting a fight that has impacted me.”

University student dedicates Father’s Day marathon to memory of loved ones

Twenty-four-year-old Caydin Cleland dedicated his first-ever marathon to his late father and uncle, who both died of drug overdoses. He also raised more than $6,000 dollars for a local mobile overdose prevention site while preparing for the race.

‘Mother Nature co-operated’

Cleland, who is originally from Alberta but moved to Winnipeg as a teen, says it was his first time taking part in the event.

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Manitoba Marathon executive director Rachel Munday says half of the more than 10,000 registered runners this year were first-timers, and the best part of the day is always the joy of the finish line.

“Every moment of today is going to be exciting for them, you know, we work all year for one day and this is it,” she told CBC.

Thousands hit the ground running in several races early Sunday morning, including the full and half-marathons, a marathon relay, as well as 5K and 10K runs.

A group of runners head down a path.
Just over 10,000 people registered in the annual race, a Father’s Day tradition in Winnipeg that kicked off early Sunday morning. (Gavin Axelrod/CBC)

Munday says staff were watching the weather closely with overnight rains in the forecast.

“The morning was a little bit crazy, obviously we had some not great weather this morning, [but] luckily, Mother Nature co-operated.”

Winners

Cameron Levins, who resides in Black Creek, B.C., was the first winner of the day. He won the men’s half-marathon for a second year in a row.

“I know this course like the back of my hand,” Levins told CBC after the race.

The athlete is headed to Paris this summer to compete in his third Olympics. People called his name from the sidelines as he ran, and Levins took some pictures with fans afterwards.

He hopes some of them will follow in his footsteps.

“If I’m able to inspire any younger athletes, that’s a win in my books.”

The race also served as the Canadian championship. Natasha Wodak, who has competed at two Olympics with Team Canada, won the women’s half-marathon.

A man smiles as he looks forward.
Cameron Levins, who lives in Black Creek, B.C., was the first winner of the day. He won the men’s half-marathon for a second year in a row. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Andrew Taylor, who lives in Lafayette, Ind., was the first to finish Sunday’s full marathon and says his first time in Winnipeg was great.

“The hospitality has been amazing,” he told reporters after the race.

“The crowd kept me going the whole way.”

Winnipeg’s Dawn Neal won the women’s full marathon for a second year in a row.

“I can’t even believe it,” she told reporters.

“We’re moving out of province in the next two weeks, so this could be my last Manitoba Marathon, and I’m just so grateful.”

A woman crosses a finish line with her arms raised in the air.
Winnipeg’s Dawn Neal won the women’s full marathon for a second year in a row. (Gavin Axelrod/CBC)

While he didn’t win the marathon, Cleland said he finished faster than expected and he couldn’t have asked for a better day to run, following an emotionally charged week.

He says he received encouragement from family, friends and total strangers in the lead-up to the event.

“I think they’ve been really proud. I’ve received really awesome messages and they’ve been super supportive,” he said.

The marathon was a way to make meaning of his dad’s death, but he said physical activity has also been a helpful tool to process his grief.

Cleland hopes to volunteer at Sunshine House in the future, and his advice to anyone wanting to make a difference is to “go outside and look in your community, look down your block, and see what immediate impact you could have.”

“There’s people everywhere who could use your help,” he said. “It’s going to make a difference in someone’s life.”

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