The executive director of Kamloops Symphony Orchestra crossed the finish line of a five-month run on Saturday, covering every street in town to raise money to offset economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Daniel Mills, who took the reins of KSO in June of 2019, completed the endeavour with a marathon 42.2-kilometre run of downtown streets, fittingly finishing at the Sagebrush Theatre — cheered on by a few supporters along the way.
“It was a bit surreal,” Mills said, of completing the journey he’s devoted about four days a week to since last August.
The fundraiser brought in $22,000 and counting for KSO to ensure it can continue operating.
In total, Mills completed 83 runs over the course of 72 days, covering 939 total kilometres along about 650 kilometres of individual roads. On average, he covered 60 kilometres per week, running in everything from 25C heat to -10C cold, including through snow.
“I didn’t get any rain. I somehow managed to avoid that,” Mills said. “I think I lucked out with the relatively mild weather we’ve had.”
Mills, who is an amateur endurance runner, began his months-long trek on Aug. 14, starting at Westsyde secondary — a special spot as it was the site of the first KSO rehearsal in 1976.
Through careful planning using municipal map data, Mills segmented his route, and systematically chipped away at the Tournament Capital, beginning with hillier areas such as Aberdeen and Sahali, and saving the flats of the North Shore for last.
In all, he ran from as far north as of the end of Westsyde Road, to the end of Tranquille Road past Tranquille Farms to the west, Campbell Creek Road to the east and as far south as Rose Hill Road — his most difficult stretch.
“Some runs were quite simple, especially when it’s flat, and then other ones had huge amounts of elevation, which is more challenging and very slow-going — and there would always be hills in places you didn’t quite expect them,” Mills said, with a laugh.
Ironically, Mills used to hate running, but got into the sport about eight years ago when he was looking for an easy, inexpensive way to exercise.
He began challenging himself do more, from entering a five-kilometre race to a 10-kilometre event, and found he enjoyed it more and more.
Mills got the idea to complete this run/fundraiser last spring, when COVID-19 cancelled runs, such as Boogie the Bridge, in which he had planned to participate.
“I was looking for something else to motivate me to keep running because it’s a bit hard to do that when you don’t have those goal races in mind,” Mills said.
A friend in Montreal was doing a similar run to raise funds, and Mills, knowing the pandemic was posing financial challenges on KSO, reached out to him for advice about doing a run.
As a bonus for Mills, who came to Kamloops from Calgary, the project was a good way for him to explore his new home and get to know the city.
The fundraiser brought in $17,000 in donations, with the first $5,000 being matched by symphony supporter Rae Nixon for a total of $22,000.
Those dollars will now help hire musicians and support the remaining digital programming of the season for KSO, which had to switch from in-person to online concerts amidst the pandemic.