Rob Tetrault from Marchand is almost done with his run across Manitoba to bring awareness to cytomegalovirus, which is the number one cause of infant disability and non-genetic hearing loss among newborns.
He's calling the run "Run with Rob," and has been running 42km, or two half marathons, per day to make it across Manitoba.
He is now past Falcon Lake and nearing the final stretch, and once he is done, he will have ran 506km over the course of 12 days.
Tetrault says Terry Fox has been a huge inspiration to him through the years.
“I've always idolized Terry Fox. He's a hero of mine. I always thought he was just the most inspiring and awesome person ever. I read all his books and followed the story.”
He wanted to raise awareness for cytomegalovirus, but wasn’t sure how.
“I thought, 'I need to do something for this cause that I believe in, what can I do to really make a splash?' And I said 'I can't run across Canada, but I think I can run across Manitoba,'” he says. “And I was inspired by Terry, and I decided I would run across Manitoba.”
Tetrault was frustrated at the lack of awareness for cytomegalovirus.
“So my wife and I made a promise to each other 15 years ago that we would make a difference.”
Tetrault and his wife created and founded the Canadian CMV (cytomegalovirus) Foundation.
Over the years, the couple has raised about $1,000,000 for this cause, and they want to get mandatory universal screening for newborn babies.
This would mean that every child that is born would get screened for this condition. And if they have the condition, they would be treated.
“We know we can screen for it. We know we can treat it. And we know if we treat it, we have a better outcome for kids,” he says. “And we know that it's cost-effective, so there is no argument against screening.”
Mandatory screening is happening in both Ontario and Saskatchewan, and Manitoba has yet to adopt this.
On Thursday of last week, the bill that Tetrault has been presenting to the legislature for the last three years to make universal screening mandatory passed second reading.
Tetrault's goal for Run with Rob is to get the conversation out there.
“Babies are dying, babies are blind, babies are deaf because of our government’s inactivity, complacency and laziness. There is no other reason other than it's easier not to do it.”
He says there are many children impacted by this.
“Kids in Manitoba are impacted by this, kids all over the world are impacted by this, and my son was born with this,” he says. “So I decided I'm going to do something about it, and that is running across Manitoba to raise awareness for this specific cause.”
He says it’s incredible to see so many people from across Manitoba giving such overwhelming support, and to jump on board with what he is doing.
“It's been humbling and inspiring and emotional. I can't believe the support I've had from friends and family and people from all over this wonderful country.”
So far he has run with almost 200 people across Manitoba, and he says about 90 percent of those people have never done a half marathon before this.
“So every person who has come with me has now done a half marathon. Those people have been inspired,” he says. “And I go bed every night and I'm like ‘man, this is cool.’ This is the coolest thing I've ever done, I'm so thankful.”
As he is nearing the end of his run across Manitoba, he has had a lot of time to ponder and think about what this has meant.
“And I'm a little emotional because I'm at the end of it. That thought of those poor kids, it's what drives me everyday.”
He's been holding up very well throughout the course of this event.
“I have been the luckiest guy. I got no injuries. I had a bad bout of blisters in the first week, but nobody’s stopping me. I'm full of energy and I feel like I could run to the border right now.”
He notes he trained very hard for this. He read books on how Terry Fox and Ultra marathoners train. He also has a nutritionist, personal trainer, and a running coach.
He says every day running across Manitoba is a fun day, and he feels so lucky to be able to do this.
“I ran with my 63 year old uncle, my brother, my sister, my mom, my dad, my colleagues, my hockey team, my old hockey team, my buddies from Marchand, my buddies from the La Broquerie, my work buddies from the city, random farmers from Virden, and it's just been the coolest thing ever.”
After he is done with his run across Manitoba, he wants to keep raising awareness through Run with Rob.
“I think New Brunswick is next because they don't have screening in New Brunswick. Somebody needs to do it there, and why not me?”
If you want to donate or sign the petition to make universal screening mandatory, go to runwithrob.com.
With files from Dave Anthony