Running’s His Medicine

Caribou Legs has a home now, in Whitehorse. He’s lived here for about three months. He runs everyday, and he works with youth.

He’s currently organizing a jigging marathon for New Years Eve; he’ll invest the money raised on his next runs — he’s going to Inuvik, where he’ll do four youth workshops, and then run on the Beauford Delta — the ice roads — in January. After that he’ll run on the Demptster Highway, from Inuvik to Fort McPherson, which he thinks is about 180 km. After that, he’ll be back in Whitehorse to train for the Arctic Ultra Marathon, 400 miles, from Whitehorse to Dawson, from February 8 to 21.

It’s the toughest run in the world.

“ I’m excited to challenge the Europeans.”

Caribou Legs rubs his hands together when he says that he’s going into the marathon with the mindset, “I’m going to win.”

He’s got lots of gas left in his tank.

An old man told Caribou Legs to start running when he was released from jail. He was a mentor, a sweat ceremony leader from the Plains. He told Caribou Legs to do what he did when he was a kid. Caribou Legs couldn’t remember what he did when he was a kid. The old man said he ran.

Caribou Legs listened. It was a turning point in his life. He started running in parks. He was six weeks sober when he ran his first half-marathon; he came 743out of 5000 runners.

Each year he got better. Eventually he could run a marathon in under three hours. He came 46th in a half marathon in 2012.

“ I’m always running.”

Running gave him his voice, an d “it’s my duty to share my voice.” Caribou Legs talks to youth. He tells them the truth. “Sometimes they don’t want to hear the truth.”

Caribou Legs wants to teach young people to speak with a different language. They don’t know how to live. He hears a lot of cruelty in the way some youth talk, especially about women. He tells them not to be disturbed by negative facts. A lot of the youth are damaged, and he tells them that they’re responsible for their own lives.

Caribou Legs can tell some of the kids don’t listen; their minds are already closed. But that’s okay.

“ Everyone has their own time.”

He connects with kids by telling them his own story. They ask him, “How do you go from smoking crack to being an athlete?”

He tells them that running’s his medicine; it treats his character defects in a good way.

“ I need it.”

He tells the kids to find what they need to do, and then do it. It’s up to them.

He tells them he used to be unteachable. In high school he started doing drugs heavily. When he was 22 he left Inuvik for Vancouver. He worked for a construction company until crack made him unreliable.

He started living on the street, and he engaged in all kinds of risky behaviour to maintain his addiction.

He went to jail a few times, the longest stretch being three months.

Caribou Legs said he wasn’t happy, and the “biggest motivation for change is pain.”

His brother died from HIV in Vancouver. Along with the advice of the old man, this was another turning point for Caribou Legs. He didn’t want to suffer anymore.

When he started running, Caribou Legs turned his pain into joy, optimism, and hope.

“ I learned what it felt like to have desire.”

He tells the kids he went to AA, to NA, and other spiritual things.

“ Running and helping others is my cause now. And so far so good.”

The New Years Eve jigging marathon will be at the xx potlatch house. It will go from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. There will be door prizes, and prizes for the best jiggers.

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