British Columbia

Why a veteran in Prince George runs 11 km at 2 a.m. to commemorate Remembrance Day

Early morning on Friday at 2 a.m. PT, Dutch veteran Derk Grooten will lead a group of residents in Prince George, B.C., in an 11-kilometre run across the city to mark Remembrance Day.

The run begins at 2 a.m. PT, or 11 a.m. Paris time to mark the end of WWI on Nov. 11, 1918

Dutch veteran Derk Grooten, far right, holds a Canada flag with fellow runners at the 11K on Remembrance Day Run event in Prince George, B.C., on Nov. 11, 2021. Grooten is set to hold the same event this Friday at 2 a.m. (Submitted by Derk Grooten)

When Dutch veteran Derk Grooten moved to Prince George, B.C., a decade ago, he says he instantly realized Remembrance Day is a big deal in Canada — and he wanted to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the First World War in his own way.

"When I started joining all the ceremonies and all the activities that were organized on that day, I felt like I was missing something — and I wanted to do something physical on that day," Grooten told CBC's Catherine Hansen.

So last year, the avid runner came up with the 11K on Remembrance Day Run, an 11-kilometre run on Nov. 11, early morning at 2 a.m. PT — an event he is holding again on Friday.

The Prince George Road Runners, a local running club that co-organizes the event, says it starts at 2 a.m. PT to mark the armistice that ended the First World War on Nov. 11, 1918, at 11 a.m. Paris time.

Route will pass major Prince George landmarks

According to Veterans Affairs Canada, more than 650,000 Canadians served in the First World War that began in 1914, among whom more than 66,000 died and more than 172,000 were wounded.

Participants of the second 11K on Remembrance Day Run on Friday will gather at the Aquatic Centre. The running route passes major landmarks in the city, including the new fire hall on Massey Drive and the RCMP detachment building on Victoria Street. 

Derk Grooten, pictured in a military uniform with a poppy, says he hopes 50 people will show up at the run event early morning on Friday. (Submitted by Derk Grooten)

Grooten says there won't be security guards or support personnel on the ground to help participants, but he hopes 50 people will take part this year.

"I just hope that whenever the people run by those landmarks, they will remember that people in the First World War  were in the trenches and were not always happy," he said.

"It was almost dark, and sometimes it felt eerie."

A 'silent hero'

Grooten, now a radiation therapist at B.C. Cancer Agency, served the Dutch infantry for more than five years before coming to Canada.

He says he didn't experience any terrible incidents during his two missions in Bosnia, but he lost several military friends who served there.

Running has been a great way to improve his mental health after work, he says.

"Running or working out just releases that stress," he said. "When you run, you make endorphins in your body, and that lowers your stress level."

Grooten says eight runners showed up last year, and that Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty appeared the starting point — but instead of running, he brought coffees and doughnuts.

Doherty says he first got to know Grooten by participating in the Relay for Life fundraising event organized by the Canadian Cancer Society.

The MP describes Grooten as a "silent hero" who often shows up unasked to lend support to neighbours.

Though he can't run on Friday due to knee injuries, Doherty says he will show up again for the event.

"He comes out for me when I need him, even unasked, [so] I'm going to be there for him as well," Doherty said.

A Dutch veteran in Prince George plans to run 11 kilometres on Remembrance Day. But the time he is deciding to run might surprise you.

Subscribe to Daybreak North on CBC Listen or your favourite podcast app, and connect with CBC Northern British Columbia on FacebookTwitter and Instagram


Winston Szeto

Digital journalist

Winston Szeto is a journalist with CBC News based in Kelowna, B.C. in the unceded territories of the Syilx. He writes stories about new immigrants and LGBTQ communities. He has contributed to CBC investigative journalism programs Marketplace and The Fifth Estate. Winston speaks Cantonese and Mandarin fluently and has a working knowledge of German and Japanese. He came to Canada in 2018 from Hong Kong, and is proud to be Canadian. Send him tips at

With files from Catherine Hansen