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History in motion: Earth Run at Rouge National Urban Park

The Earth Run in October honours and celebrates the history and legacy of Canadian trail running

For thousands of years, Canadians have run trails for more than just recreation. Considered the masters of Canadian distance running, many Indigenous athletes have paved the way for all of Canada to experience our unique trail system. The second annual Earth Run at Rouge National Urban Park celebrates this. In collaboration with the Rouge Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle, 5Peaks Trail Series, and Parks Canada, the 2019 Earth Run 10K, 5K, and 1K kids run will honour the long-standing tradition of Canadian trail running.

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Photo: Sue Sitki

The 10K Cogwagee Course is named after the Onondaga distance runner Cogwagee (Tom Longboat–1887-1949). Born at Six Nations of the Grand River, and a student of Canada’s Residential School system, Cogwagee was the first Indigenous athlete to win the Boston Marathon. He broke the previous Boston record by five minutes. In 1908 he represented Canada in the Olympics, setting a world record for the 15-mile distance. Since his passing, he has been inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame as Canada’s greatest long-distance runner.”

The 5K Simpson Course is named after Fred Simpson (1878-1945). The Mississauga Ojibway marathon runner from Alderville First Nation was one of the first Indigenous athletes to represent Canada at the Olympics. In the 1908 Olympic marathon he beat Cogwagee, finishing sixth. Also known as the “Ojibway Thunderbolt,” Simpson ran the North American professional circuit until 1912.

Cogwagee. Photo: Public domain

The 1K Smoke Course is named after Albert Smoke (1891-1944) who was a Mississauga Anishinaabe distance runner also from Alderville First Nation. Smoke began his running career as Longboat and Simpson were at the top of their game. With a height of 4’10,” Smoke represented Canada at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. Since then, no other Mississauga Ojibway runner has competed in the Olympic Games.


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Indigenous peoples have used trail running for delivering messages, protection, ritual, and sport. Rouge National Urban Park celebrates this through the Earth Run in the Greater Toronto Area, and promotes people to reconnect with the land through running. The Earth Run brings together Canadian history and Indigenous legacy as well as all abilities of trail-loving enthusiasts.

Photo: Sue Sitki

“The goal is to make this a self-sustaining event to celebrate and commemorate Indigenous people and their connection to the land through physical activity,” explains Hoda Azadi-Gray, Advisor on Indigenous Relations for Rouge National Urban Park. Rouge National Urban Park, which protects nature, culture, and agriculture, was established in 2015 by Parks Canada. By 2020 the park will consist of 80 square kilometres including a beach and campground.

Photo: Sue Sitki

The Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle is comprised of 10 First Nations with an expressed interest, and historic and cultural connection to the area of the national urban park. The Rouge Urban National Park incorporates what it means to be Canadian. The Earth Run promotes running in the trails as a way to connect to the land, with one another, and with ourselves. It is about everyone’s connection with the land. To register or learn more, visit The Earth Run website.

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