The following is a conversation that took place between myself and some mean friend earlier in the year.
Friend: “Dude you should Pogo stick somewhere!”
Me: “Ah yeahhh. I’m going to Pogo stick through Winnipeg!”
Friend: “Yeah you are!”
Me: “Pogo the Peg sounds good doesn't it?”
From that point on pogo-sticking through Winnipeg became a talking point in regards to interesting modes of transportation that I would use on the journey. I had always thought that it would be the silliest, stupidest (pain and risk of injury), and smartest (media attention and buzz) mode of transport that I would use.
It was in the plans from the beginning so I approached the best Pogo stick company around. Flybar was interested and supportive so they became the first official sponsor of the Routes of Change expedition. I was stoked.
I had never pogo sticked before. They put me in touch with the world record holder for completing a marathon on a pogo stick in 16 hours. Knowing that it was possible made me think I should give it a go if it felt right. Before I contacted Jack Sexty I assumed he would tell me I was nuts to consider going for it without a significant amount of training. That turned out to be the case.
Here’s some of the encouraging words from the World Record Holder:
“I’m not sure anyone can truly understand this level of silliness though! I wouldn't expect to go any further than a mile when you've got the hang of going forward, if you're starting from scratch I'd expect it will take a month or so to get to this point though
...there's so many things to consider for this record, I'm not in any way trying to discourage you but just be prepared to experience every type of pain you have ever felt, plus some you didn't even realize you could feel... And if you do it (I really hope you do!) you won't be doing any circumnavigating for a good week afterwards! Keep me updated and if you want to skype/discuss in more detail then I'd be happy to help!” Jack was great help. Check out the video of his Marathon at the bottom of this blog.
With that in mind I arrived in Winnipeg eager to get on my shiny new Flybar Superpogo and see what I could do. Unfortunately the Pogo sticks were stuck in Customs and were being held because they didn’t believe they weren’t for resale. On my way to work it out and pick them up I passed a Purolator truck that was close to the curb at a stop light and my big but empty backpack lightly touched their sturdy mirror. I looked back and waved a smiling sorry as I turned the corner up the street. Seconds later the truck came freakishly close to me almost tossing me off my bike and I heard the driver yelling incoherently out the window as she drove. She then swerved directly in front of me and into the bike lane and stopped. I was stunned and pulled up beside her as she yelled “you can’t do that! you hit my truck! You hit my mirror you can’t do that!.” I was shocked and responded “Wow now. You can’t do thaaat. You almost killed me and drove me off the road!” I started to bike on as I could tell she was a lost cause and she aggressively blurted out some more nonsensical words and then said “oh yeah watch me!” and then swerved into the bike lane in front of me once again. I got the plate and let Purolator know. They gave me a 5 lb shipping coupon and didn’t respond when I told them I was about to ship a 40 lb box and would appreciate a bit more help.
A rough start to the day that got worse when I stepped into the Border Services office. They had all the info about my non-profit and the reason for doing it but in the end they lived up to their reputation of being unfriendly and cold and made me pay $80 in order to get my sticks. You’d think they could focus their energy on corporations who are dodging millions of dollars of taxes every day. Ah well. I had my Flybars on my back and was feeling heavy but happy to have them.
I then went to the Aveda Salon to get a haircut on the house from a new family friend and the day was much better!
The next day I took my first hops and was moving in the direction I wanted within a few tries. Due to a later arrival in Winnipeg which meant less time to train I had already been thinking less about a Marathon. Jack was great help and told me what I would need in order to do a successful long distance hop; Two Superpogos, replacement foot pegs, replacement rubber ends, some bolts, and kneepads to protect the knees when they bump up against the stick. The next day I hopped about a km and was feeling fine afterwards.
I made the decision that I would aim to go 10km across Winnipeg the coming Sunday. Usually when I say I’m going to do something I’m pretty confident that I can do it. In this case, I had serious doubts that I would make it the 10 km without feeling the need to stop due to pain. I was not going to injure myself with repetitive strain in order to complete this. I would have loved to have more time to train but again the winter was fast approaching and it was mid October in Winterpeg.
There was also another and perhaps more important reason why I wanted to attempt it so soon with only a few days of training. The Federal Election. www.fairvote.ca I had wanted to avoid being too political on this journey until the much later stages but I was honestly concerned that If I/we didn’t do everything we could to change the government that I may return to an unrecognizable wasteland. It was time to do the goodbye Harper hop.
I went to bed on Saturday night feeling a bit nervous to say the least. This wasn’t going to happen the way I had hoped. I hadn’t found a support/film crew and I had no idea if the press were going to show up or if anyone was even going to pay attention to me. The smartest aspect of this mode of transportation was not looking so smart…
In the morning I biked the 12km to the Museum of Human Rights where I was to begin hopping. Thankfully I was not completely alone and a new friend was there to support me in hopping and attempt to hop along with me. I had told the press I was going to start hopping at 10 am and by 10:15 nobody had showed. I was feeling like a bit of a failure for not organizing more in advance but I was also looking on the bright side of things. I was about to live my dream of pogo sticking through Winnipeg. The dream that was planted by some @#$!head friend.
Just as I was about to start CBC showed up and made it all seem a little bit more worth it. I put a plug in for www.yourcier.org but I assume they didn’t include it in the final cut. They are doing some great work and I suggest you check them out. CBC aired a brief segment that night (which I haven't seen) and wrote an article that was full of errors. They also said they would find me later in the day at the end spot, which they didn’t. Perhaps their attention was respectfully focused on something else.
Let the hopping begin! I started hopping beside the statue of Ghandi as what I was doing was obviously comparable to the salt march…..
I was off to a good hop!. It felt great and I was cherishing every moment. I wasn’t looking forward to the pain or failure that I expected to come, but for now I was happily hopping along. I had made a schedule in order for press and supporters to meet up with me along the way if they felt so inclined. With the CBC delay I was left with about six hours to finish on schedule at 5pm. I figured this would be plenty of time to cover the ten km if my body didn’t break down in pain.
Jack could tell from the videos that I could use some improvement on my balance. I like to think that it was a bit more challenging for me because of my long legs. The handles don’t sit nicely above my thighs but instead rub directly on them every single hop. It wasn’t long before I could sense that my skin would suffer from the constant friction.
I averaged close to a foot every hop and was traveling along at a brisk average speed of about 2 km/h, including breaks every 15 minutes or so to chat, snack, or laugh at myself. I had my tracking device, phone, some energy gels/snacks, and a water bottle on two running belts around my waist. My one man support team quickly realized he couldn’t hop along with me on the spare pogo stick and left me after about two hours of much appreciated and needed support.
I was amazed that some people walked by me and didn’t even look up or smile. What is wrong with the world when people don’t find a man pogo sticking through a city worthy of a smile? A few people came up to me and said they had heard about me which made me think I had done something right. At the time I didn’t think to ask where but I assumed it was simply word of mouth as I didn’t know of any media attention.
I didn’t have the time to scout my route out in person but I assumed that it was going to be flat considering I was in the prairies. After hopping for three hours I came to a small valley in a park. This would be the first time I had ever pogo sticked downhill. It was tricky to move forward and prevent myself from going all the way forward to flat on my face. I think with a slightly steeper slope I wouldn’t have been successful at descending. Then there was an uphill, another first. I made it up without a problem and was starting to feel confident that I could actually do it.
My route had taken me from the Museum of Human Rights up the Trans Canada Highway and through the Manitoba Parliament grounds. As I passed through the Wolsely neighbourhood I met up with an employee from the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources. We had a good chat and I passed her my phone to charge and return to me a few km’s down the route. I crossed the Assiniboine River on a pedestrain/rail bridge and the view transported me to a dream like state. Hop, boing, hop, boing. The kilometres were falling away and I was feeling great, even though I was all by myself.
One of the concerns I had prior to first hopping on a pogo stick was it’s potential to give me a headache. I played a ton of lacrosse, football, and rugby, when I was growing up, in addition to skateboarding and being a teenager. I feel my brain is a bit sensitive these days as a result. I’ve experienced some minor concussions while surfing in heavy water in recent years and feel I need to protect my head as much as possible. Thankfully the repetitive bouncing didn’t shake my brain enough to cause any problems. Ha!
As I approached the final km I passed a field of young soccer players and received the best cheers yet. I’m not sure what they were yelling but I’ll assume it was good. Shortly after that, CTV showed up to do an interview and further boosted my energy for the final km of sticking it.
I was now ahead of schedule in Assiniboine Park feeling like anything is possible. I hopped past surprised and smiling onlookers. A lady stopped me and offered me what she could. An $8 gift card for Sears. After a brief and positive chat she left me with warm thoughts. She soon returned with a cash donation.
Bouncing towards the finish line I could hear the crowds cheering excitedly but I couldn't see them. That’s because they weren't there. You were there in my mind though. I did thankfully have a one man welcoming party. My “adopted Dad of Winnipeg” had suffered a heart attack a few months prior and that day had just completed a half marathon. It was great to see him there but I was a bit concerned that he should be resting instead of me asking him to run around me shooting video. It was a perfect way to end the bizarre day.
Every time I bounced off of the pavement and flew through the air I was forced to smile. I’ve always believed in the power of positive thought and how it can shape your life. I’ve also dealt with depression and experienced how tough it can be to have a positive thought when it is most needed. I think I have found the solution! Pogo sticking. I honestly believe that the inherent nature of the sport to produce a smile on my face played a huge part in enabling me to continue hopping throughout the day without any pain but a light skin chaff from my hands rubbing on my thighs. The hand cycling was also likely very helpful in conditioning my arms and shoulders for the task.
I completed the 10km hop through Winnipeg in a little over 5 hours. I felt like I could have kept going. When I finished I felt my body and wiggled around in search of a pain that I couldn’t find. I was amazed that I was able to do it. I still am amazed.
The next day I felt like the entire country took a big hop towards the change that I am working towards. If there was one good thing that Harper left it was the inspiration for people to become more politically active. It is no time to be complacent with our future, we risk losing it if we are.
When I present to students I often ask them if they think they are changing the planet. I then tell the kids who don’t put their hands up that they are wrong. I wish we would all come together to appreciate and act on that fact. It doesn’t need to consume all of your time and sacrifice your whole way of life, but if we don’t come together and act now it most certainly will.
There’s no one way to approach it. Have fun with it.
Here’s what you can do now:
Solutions are everywhere!