100 miles. 161 kilometres. That's the length of the trail firefighter Marcel Macfarlane trudged through on June 14th to help raise funds for mental health support for his local fire department. 

"You won't be able to finish a race like this just hiking it; you have to run significant portions of it. What happens is the time or the pace that we're running looks deceiving. If you average out my pace for this run, it was an 18-minute mile. It's a little faster than 3 miles an hour. The problem is that doesn't take into account all the stops that you have to make bathroom breaks, the refueling of food. The running doesn't take into account some of the steep incline, so there's a lot of climbing in this particular race. There's over 20,000 feet of climbing. So, when you're climbing steep ascents, it's not possible to run those. You have to power-hike them."

The Big Horn Trail Run in Wyoming is made up of 100 miles of rocky terrain, steep inclines and natural obstacles and is considered to be one of the most difficult trails for long-distance runners and ultramarathons. Those conditions didn't stop Macfarlane, as he was running the trail to support the Carnduff Fire Department. He was motivated to support the department's mental health initiatives because he used those services during his battle with clinical depression. 

"People that don't experience it think that people with depression are maybe just weak or, you know, 'why don't you just forget about that?' or 'why don't you just suck it up and not be depressed?' and it just doesn't work that way, I've discovered. I know that I'm a really tough person in a lot of ways - and in order to do 100 miles, you have to be tough."

"I decided maybe I could show people that people with depression can be and are really, really tough people, but they're just having trouble in a different kind of way. That's why I want to do it." -Marcel Macfarlane on running the Big Horn Trail Run.

His wife Dawn, his daughter Leah, running friend Warner and fellow firefighter Jenn joined Macfarlane as pacers during the daunting 100 mile run. 

Macfarlane has been a long-distance runner since he was 18 years old. Through his brother-in-law, he was introduced to trail running and ultramarathon running. However, in early 40s, he was diagnosed with clinical depression. To add to his battle, Macfarlane noted that he had some injuries that prevented him from participating in long-distance running at the same time. 

"The fire department has put together some counselling services for its members associated, probably most notably, PTSD associated with some of the accidents and things that happen as part of our callouts, but it's available for really anything. I went and participated in some of those counselling services associated with depression. I wouldn't say that's the only thing that's that's helped me to make forward progress, but they played a role. Once my injuries recovered and I started to cover ground again, I felt like I wanted to give back in terms of [a] fundraising initiative so that there would be some money there to help other people if they were going through anything that they were having trouble with."

Marcel Macfarlane on the Big Horn Trail RunMarcel Macfarlane spent 30 hours in Wyoming to run in the Big Horn Trail Run, in hopes of raising funds to help mental health initiatives within the Carnduff Fire Department. (Photo provided by Marcel Macfarlane)

Further to the goal, he also wanted to break down the stigma that people with mental health issues often face. Macfarlane said that sometimes 'your brain just plays tricks with you and causes you to not be happy, even though you should have every reason to be happy.'

"It's a prevalent problem, various mental health issues and I think,  almost entirely, people do better if they talk about it with a trusted confidant or a counsellor, rather than not talk about it. I think people need to realize that all different kinds of people are affected by it."

Even though the run is finished for Marcel, people can continue to donate to the mental health services for the Carnduff Fire Department. Donations can be made on GoFundMe, via e-Transfer to info@carnduff.ca (specifying 'Fire Deparment' in the notes), and with cheques being made out to Town of Carnduff (Fire Department).