• By: Marie Waine

Walk His Way

Lacing up his shoes as he heads out to hit the pavement, Gavin Lumsden is doing more than just going for another run. Lumsden is gearing up to train for his fiftieth marathon in 2015. But, that is not even the big news.

Lumsden, supervising producer at Rogers TV Ottawa, will be running this milestone marathon to raise $50,000 for the Boys and Girls Club. This money will initiate the rollout of the Walk This Way program, currently exclusive to Ottawa, to Boys and Girls Clubs across Canada.

Walk This Way began in 2007 with Lumsden’s effort to help local underprivileged, overweight youth get active.

“I got more information about healthy active living and read in multiple places that among the most marginalized, the at-risk, young people are those that come from underprivileged families because they lack the resources to participate in high-end, physical activity,” Lumsden said.

walkthisway2“I approached the Boys and Girls Club and have now been there for six or seven years. We’ve grown the program from five kids to 150.”

Any member of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa is invited to go on a trek through the city. The group sets out on a walking tour to numerous points of interest, such as Rideau Hall and Gatineau Park. The program enables youth to get active and be tourists in their own city. The walk aims to provide an enriching, learning experience.

“When I show up in the morning and the kids are ready to go, the questions are no longer, ‘How far are we going?’ or ‘How long will it take?’ They are, ‘Where are we going?’ The destination has become the target. I feel that if the walking or the physical activity becomes incidental, then you’re on to a good thing,” said Lumsden.

But why does Lumsden believe running another marathon is the best way to start raising money to roll out the Walk This Way program?

“If you’re going to be a wellness advocate, you kind of have to lead by example,” he said. “I will be turning 50 in 2015. My goal is to try and run my fiftieth marathon before I turn 50 and, in the process, raise $50,000 of seed money. We want to create an endowment where different Boys and Girls Clubs across the country can apply for some funding to launch Walk This Way in their community.”

Lumsden is also asking for friends, family and even strangers to join his Fifty-50 Campaign as a sponsor, running buddy or cheer ambassador. Any and all are welcome to help promote the cause.

Lumsden took a major interest in healthy living when he had the opportunity to meet Dr. Sean Egan, 63, an associate professor at Ottawa University. They embarked on a major expedition to climb to the summit of Mount Everest. Lumsden was filming footage to chronicle Egan as the oldest Canadian to climb Mount Everest.

Lumsden speaks of Egan as a man who was passionate about healthy living, particularly for young people. He constantly talked about obesity and the consequences of sedentary living in a time when these topics did not make headlines.

Unfortunately, the climb took a turn for the worst when Egan fell ill with a lung infection.

Feb15_Gavin_OLM-3“You can imagine in climbing, you are exerting yourself quite heavily,” said Lumsden. “Climbing at altitude, where there’s less oxygen in the air, you’re exerting yourself twice as much or more. Climbing at altitude with a lung infection, where your lungs can’t process oxygen, is very, very serious.”

Tragically, Egan passed away unexpectedly due to heart failure during the climb.

“It was a very sad event which moved me greatly. As a consequence, Dr. Egan’s words stuck with me,” said Lumsden. “When I got back to Canada, I realized I never noticed the weight challenges kids face. I looked around for a program, but I couldn’t really find anything.”

As Lumsden’s passion for an active lifestyle grew, he knew he had to share it with the Ottawa community. He initially volunteered at the YMCA for its since retired KidsFit program. Lumsden worked closely with overweight children to slowly provide a more active lifestyle for them.

“These were a group of young people with multiple challenges. Many of them, because of their physical size, had never participated in different activities, especially physical ones,” said Lumsden. “If you’re so ashamed of your body that you don’t want to change in front of other people, you don’t take part in gym. So all these activities that we did as part of KidsFit, for many of the participants, was the first time they ever did them. In this environment, where everyone was the same, there was no peer pressure.”

Lumsden wanted to continue to provide an environment where youth felt safe and comfortable becoming active when the KidsFit program ended. He began the Walk This Way program with the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, a partner with the Sens Sports and Leadership League.

Oddly enough, Lumsden was not always the biggest fan of running. In fact, Lumsden said he only turned to the sport when he realized he needed to get rid of some bad habits.

“It was Christmas time, and like a few guys, I left everything to the last minute,” said Lumsden. “I needed to mail a letter so I just ran to the mailbox down the street and back, a distance of maybe 50 yards each way.”

That letter changed Lumsden’s life.

“When I got back, I was so winded, completely doubled over and couldn’t catch my breath. That was my rock bottom moment,” said Lumsden. “In that moment I quit smoking and signed up to run a marathon at Running Room.”

Lumsden can still be found, 49 marathons later, at the Running Room on Bank Street. When he is not leading the Walk This Way program, Lumsden is teaching the marathon running program at the store.

walkthisway3“I just enjoy watching other people have success,” said Lumsden. “I know what it has meant to me and I will do whatever I can to help other people have that same experience.”

During the day when he is not running or helping kids stay fit, he is behind the scenes at Rogers TV Ottawa. While he wanted to be an on-air television personality from an early age, now, he could not picture his life any other way. “I fell in love with the technical side and later on got into production and producing,” said Lumsden. “I discovered you can influence the way the story is told and in some ways, make it better from behind the camera.”

He also says that he has stayed in community programming for 21 years because he enjoys being part of the community. “I like seeing the opportunities we provide people who would not otherwise receive exposure. I’ve seen what a difference that can make for smaller organizations to get their message out.”

Keep running Gavin Lumsden.

For more information or to donate to the Fifty/50 initiative, click here.