Running 'the cherry on top' for Hamilton man in fundraising relay to Chicago

While people were indulging in Thanksgiving dinner on the weekend, Andre Morgan of Hamilton was busy finishing the last of the 126 kilometres he ran over five days — sometimes overnight, and occasionally in the rain.

'My legs are tired,' Andre Morgan says after finishing ultramarathon

Andre Morgan of Hamilton was part of a gruelling charity run last week that wrapped up with a marathon in Chicago on Sunday. Participants ran 10 kilometres at a time, 24 hours a day, from Toronto to Chicago as part of a charity event. (Jason Dam)

While people were indulging in Thanksgiving dinner on the weekend, Andre Morgan of Hamilton was busy finishing the last of the 126 kilometres he ran over five days — sometimes overnight, and occasionally in the rain.

The 37-year-old resident of Hamilton's Stinson neighbourhood was part of the ultramarathon Escape to Chicago, where a dozen runners from Canada and the U.S. ran 10 kilometres at a time, 24 hours a day, from Toronto to Chicago. In total, it was about 875 kilometres, and Morgan estimates he ran 126 of that.

The effort raised money for six different charities from Toronto to Chicago, and runners switched on and off around the clock, ending with the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.

"My legs are tired," Morgan said from a Chicago hotel room Sunday. 

This was his third ultramarathon, but "this one resonates more because of how charities are at the forefront," he said. "Running is the cherry on top."

Escape to Chicago started last Tuesday, when a team of a dozen runners, accompanied by two RVs, left the CN Tower and began the trek to Illinois. They ran through part of Hamilton, where members of Morgan's local Air Up There running crew surprised him by jumping out from behind the bushes and running alongside him.

Pulled over by police

In a rural area near London, Ont., Morgan said, someone disarmed by the lights of the media crew called the police on them. In Michigan, "we had people yell at us from the highway."

"When we got as close as possible outside of Chicago, we got pulled over by cops [with] a couple of us in the vehicle. It wasn't cool at all, but long story short, they let us go."

The run originated in 2019, when a team co-organized by Quinton Jacobs of Woodbridge, Ont., did an ultramarathon called Escape to New York.

It worked similar to this year's Chicago event. A team of runners did a relay from Toronto to New York, Jacobs said, and raised money along the way.

Morgan wasn't part of that one, Jacobs said, because he was already doing a run from Toronto to Montreal. This time, Morgan joined, and Jacobs was thrilled.

'The best vibes'

"When I met Andre, I was surprised at how much he did in terms of creating events, creating spaces, or just merely showing up in spaces," said Jacobs, who works as a nuclear technician. "I was just blown away from the selfless work he's done.

"He's always got the best vibes. He's always got a smile. Nothing seems to throw him off."

The 2021 run has raised nearly $10,000 so far for:

  • The Cooper Robertson Foundation of Grimsby, Ont.
  • Gigis Playhouse Chicago.
  • The Coleman A. Young Foundation of Detroit.
  • Toronto-based charities Second Chance Foundation, Stella's Place and St. Felix Centre.

It's also inspired a gallery showing and a documentary that will be released in early 2022.

In each place, Morgan said, they met local runners and sometimes volunteered with the charities themselves.

Morgan, a photographer and IT specialist who's lived in Hamilton for a year, wants to organize a local fundraiser in the near future. 

"Coming this fall and winter," he said, "the Air Up There Hamilton crew has some ideas."


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