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Rainforest Trail Run to celebrate Indigenous culture

Inaugural event slated for Sept. 29 at Central Park in Burnaby
rain forest
Dr. Doug Clement and his wife Diane stand on the trails in Burnaby's Central Park where the inaugural 5-km Rainforest Trail Run is slated for Sept. 29 to celebrate Indigenous culture.

Dr. Doug Clement and his wife Diane’s remarkable legacy includes the launching of the Vancouver Sun Run and the Harry Jerome International Track and Field Meet. Now, the legendary couple’s latest project has the potential to make another lasting impact on their province and beyond.

The Clements and their Achilles International Track Society have announced the creation of the 5-km Rainforest Trail Run — set for Sept. 29 in Burnaby.

Similar to the Sun Run, all ages and abilities are encouraged to be part of the non-competitive event that will take participants through the scenic rainforest trails of Central Park. The course will start and finish at Swangard Stadium where a day of activities to celebrate and recognize the Indigenous culture is planned.

“It was probably nine months ago when I woke up in the middle of the night and came up with the idea,” smiled Doug, who at 85 remains tireless and enthusiastic as ever. “You have reconciliation going on and all this other stuff. It’s an uncomfortable position as it doesn’t do much other than to point how guilty everybody is. We wanted to do something that would bring everybody together.

“We are going to feature Indigenous culture, music, dance. We’re hoping to build it into sort of a festival, ultimately. We are bringing both communities together. Instead of saying we apologize, let’s do something together to show we are real neighbours and friends.”

Over the past several months, plenty of work has gone into the inaugural run with the Achilles group reaching out and working with such groups as the First Nation Health Authority. 

That organization’s focus will be activating Indigenous groups to be part of the run. Clinics will be held in the weeks ahead — similar to what is done to encourage first time participants for the Sun Run.

Last Friday was National Indigenous Peoples Day which coincided with summer solstice. The idea of the Rainforest Trail Run is to take place near the fall equinox — another significant day in the Indigenous spiritual cycle. It will be even closer to the actual date in 2020.
“We have been educating ourselves on the logical protocols,” continued Clement. “I knew it was going to be complex. Even more so just in terms of understanding and respecting what has been here for thousands of years and in our history we have just blanked out.”

The Rainforest Trail Run being held at Central Park was an easy decision. There was already an excellent relationship with the City of Burnaby thanks to the Harry Jerome Meet at Swangard and the park offers all the required amenities for a festival environment with no road closures required. The Skytrain is also nearby.

“It's a perfect location. There is a magic about a forest. Our exposure to nature has an amazing effect on us. That falls into the spiritual side which our Indigenous figured out a long time ago,” added Clement.

“Right now we are looking to get started by just getting our foot in the door. The Vancouver Sun Run started with 1,500 people. I don’t see this happening overnight but a five to 10  year project getting up to speed. 

“I would love to see this become a festival that people will come to Metro Vancouver to actually get involved in. Then invite Indigenous from Alaska to Peru. That’s the dream.”

Richmond News publisher Alvin Chow also volunteers as marketing co-chair for the Achilles Track International Society. He has been involved in the planning of the Rainforest Trail Run from the beginning. 

He says a website is now active and race registration will begin soon with limited spaces.