Manitoba

'We wanted to do something special': Winnipeggers run for 24 hours for friend whose husband is battling cancer

Two Winnipeggers ran the equivalent of four marathons each in a 24 hour period during the Run Your Lungs Out even — all to help out a friend whose husband is facing cancer.

Lululemon outlet store transformed into gym as runners took turns on treadmills for Run Your Lungs Out event

The 24-hour Run Your Lungs Out even raised $35,000 for the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation. (Caroline Barghout/CBC)

Two Winnipeggers ran the equivalent of four marathons each in a 24 hour period — all to help out a friend whose husband is facing cancer.

"One of our good friends, Kal, her husband was recently diagnosed with lung cancer so we wanted to do something special," said organizer Jonathan Torchia.

That "something special" was the Run Your Lungs Out event, which started Friday at noon at a clothing store turned into a temporary gym.

Torchia and Junel Malapad came up with the idea 11 weeks ago, to raise money for lung cancer research and awareness. They set up four treadmills at the Lululemon Outlet Collection on Sterling Lyon Parkway and kept them going for 24 hours straight. In that time, they each planned to run 100 miles, while a steady stream of participants took turns on the other two machines.

Organizers Jonathan Torchia and Junel Malapad ran 160 kilometres and 215 kilometres, respectively, on the treadmill in honour of their friend's husband, who was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.

Their friend "Kal" is Winnipeg artist and brush-script creator Kal Barteski.

She was there Saturday morning with her kids to cheer on organizers and the dozens of runners who gave their time and money to take part in the event.

Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski wrote a note in her trademark brush script to thank the organizers and volunteers of the Run Your Lungs Out event. (Caroline Barghout/CBC)
Barteski was too emotional to talk, though. Instead, she wrote them a note of encouragement which was displayed on the wall nearby.

"My husband was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and is fighting for his life. So this event is very meaningful to me. Thank-you. Now run," Barteski's note said.

Torchia and Malapad got on their treadmills at noon Friday, and other than a few bathroom breaks, the pair didn't get off until Saturday afternoon.

Malapad and Torchia each finished 160 kilometres — the equivalent of running from downtown Winnipeg to somewhere just past the Manitoba-Ontario border. 

"It's crazy, but yes, we've been on a treadmill since yesterday at noon. A full 24 hours of literally moving on the treadmill," laughed Torchia.

"I'm not exhausted because of the electric energy that people bring to this event," said Malapad.

A crowd of supporters gathered inside the Lululemon Collection Outlet to cheer on runners during the Run Your Lungs Out 24-hour treadmill challenge. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

"Every half an hour a new person hops onto the treadmill next to me with their own story, and they're so happy to be part of it and I just feed off of their energy."

Both men have their own personal connections with cancer.

Malapad's father died in 2004 at the age of 73 from prostate cancer that had spread to his bones.

"It was a long road," he said. "You really couldn't do anything just to keep him comfortable."

Malapad said he wanted to give back to CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, for the help it provides to families struggling with sick loved ones.

Torchia's father-in-law died of lung cancer 13 years ago.

"[It's] fairly recent and still in the front of the brain, and it's a tragic loss," he said. 

'Everyone is affected'

The event ended up raising $37,000 for the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation.

Ninety-six other people paid $100 each to run for 30 minutes during the event — each with their own reason for taking part.

On the front of each treadmill were placards that read "I'm running my lungs out for …" and a name, with a different name placed on the sign every time there a new runner jumped on the treadmill.

Brittany Turski, 27, ran in honour of her brother on what would have been his 29th birthday. Christian Turski died at the age of four after battling leukemia for two years. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

"Everyone is affected by cancer. No one can truly say they've never been affected by it," said Torchia.

Brittany Turski, 27, ran for her brother Christian, on what would have been his 29th birthday. He died at the age of four from leukemia after fighting the disease for two years.

"When I found out this was actually happening I was really excited, but then when I found out it was on his birthday, it kind of makes it a little more special for me — just something I could do for him," said Turski.

Seventy-six runners donated $100 each to run 30 minutes on the treadmill during the challenge. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

In addition to the runners, dozens of volunteers gave up their time to help during the 24-hour event. A number of local businesses also pitched in and provided free food, drinks and swag for the participants and their supporters.

Yogi Sam Squire taught a midnight yoga session, and Saikel Studio put on spin classes inside the store at 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.

"I can't do much, but I can raise awareness so that's why I'm here," said volunteer Mariah Brezden.

Brezden's best friend's mom died from lung cancer three years ago. Then her oldest friend's husband died from testicular cancer 17 days after his wedding.

For the past year and a half, her teenaged cousin has been fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Mariah Brezden, 25, volunteered at the 24-hour treadmill challenge. (Trevor Lyons/CBC)

Brezden was amazed to see so many people come out and take part in the event. 

"It's just so heartwarming and so heart fulfilling when something so tragic can be so beautiful at the same time," she said.

About the Author

Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca