A few months after COVID-19 hit and it became clear that the pandemic was going to carry on through much of 2020, Daniel Mills of Kamloops, B.C., decided to create a personal running project to get him through the summer. Mills is the executive director of the Kamloops Symphony (he isn’t the orchestra director — he works in business operations for the symphony), and his job involves a lot of fundraising. He decided to combine running and work to create a fundraising challenge, which he called Running the Symphony. From August to January, he ran every street in Kamloops, covering close to 1,000 kilometres and raising more than $18,000 for the Kamloops Symphony.
Mills is an avid runner and triathlete, and while he trained regularly before his Running the Symphony project, he says he usually stuck to the same few routes for his runs and workouts. “I was always the type of person who felt that I had to stick to the pathways away from cars,” he says. “Now, though, I’ve found so many routes I didn’t know about. This project took me down lots of streets that I had never run before.”
Mills started the challenge on August 14, kicking things off at the site of the orchestra’s first rehearsal in 1976. Moving forward from that point, he averaged about five runs per week, although only four were dedicated to the project. “I always had one speed workout per week for my own training,” he says. “Excluding that speedwork, I got about 50K in each week that went toward the project.”
While the project was a great way to raise funds and awareness for the Kamloops Symphony, Mills says he also chose to do it because he knew it would be a great way to keep him motivated in a season without races. “I was trying to follow a training plan with my coach,” he says, “and we decided I could still chase other goals at the same time as I completed the every street project.” His project-training balance worked out well, and Mills managed to run a 10K PB in the middle of the Running the Symphony challenge (plus, he completed the time trial on a long, straight road in the city, which added to his project progress).
In total, Mills posted 83 runs for the project, adding up to 938 kilometres of all municipally operated streets in Kamloops, and he completed the challenge on January 23 with a marathon to wrap things up. He recorded his runs on Strava (which made for some interesting, abstract-looking Strava art) and on a computer program that allowed him to check off sections of roads as he continued to make progress.
“Also, just for some fun, I got a big map of Kamloops that I put in my office,” Mills says. “Then I highlighted my progress by hand after every run.”
On the fundraising side of Running the Symphony, going into the project, Mills had hoped to fundraise $15,000. He blew past that goal, and with the fundraising page still live, he’s approaching the $20,000 mark. He says he doesn’t have plans for his next big fundraiser, but his running challenge has certainly helped the symphony in what was a very difficult year for the performing arts all across Canada and the world.
To learn more about Running the Symphony or to support Mills’s fundraiser (and to check out his Strava maps), click here.