From couch to the Boston Marathon: London, Ont. man’s running journey

Joel Kennedy and his family. Joel Kennedy

In 2015, a London, Ont., man decided to take charge of his health. Since then, he has lost over 115 pounds and has just completed his first ever Boston Marathon.

Joel Kennedy, Bear Clan member and a member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames, has participated in the Chicago Marathon a few times, but this race held a special place in his heart.

“It goes to the legacy of Indigenous runners,” said Kennedy. “I think about Tom Longboat, who won it in 1907. To know that there’s this Indigenous legacy connected to the Boston Marathon is my motivation.”

Kennedy works at the N’Amerind Friendship Centre in London, so when he set out to run the Boston Marathon, he found a big charity that’s similar and wanted to really make a difference.

“I found a charity organization that works with BIPOC youth. Their name is Peer Health Exchange. I made a really good connection,” Kennedy said.

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“They’re all about changing lifestyles, promoting health, and I felt like this is a perfect charity for me because that’s what my whole journey has been about.”

He had to raise $10,000 USD for the charity to run on their behalf. He reached the target days before the marathon and now has a total of $10,251.

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It was a challenge to raise the money, but it was another feat to complete the race.

“I had some difficulty through the event. I got to the point where I couldn’t run the hills. I just didn’t have it in me. So I had to walk the hills and then jog down the hill,” Kennedy recalled. “My family met me about 32 km into the race and at that moment, I was on the verge of giving up. I could just jump in the car with them and we could call it a day.

“I know they still love me, I know they would still be proud of me. But I’m a charity runner promoting for youth. I’m sending a message to not give up, do your best.”

His family was in awe of how he was able to push through his challenges and the speed he was going, even though he was exhausted.

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“It was one of the best finishes I’ve had. The crowd was super nice and my family was able to get a spot. They let them right in the front,” Kennedy said. “They were able to see me, I got to see them, they cheered me on. It was just an amazing experience and then crossing that finish line… Knowing that I accomplished it. It was something I’ll never forget.”

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Now, Kennedy has set out to inspire other Indigenous people to get involved in running. He has started the Indigenous Running Club and is encouraging people to come join them on April 26 at 6 p.m. at Greenway Park in London.

“Everyone’s welcome, all abilities. Walkers, runners, children, adults, seniors. I like to encourage people to say the hardest thing to do is show up. So if you can get yourself to show up, I guarantee you, you’ll enjoy it and you’ll be part of the club.”

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