Trading one addiction for another, man plans to run 4 marathons this weekend

By the time runners are warming up Sunday for the start of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Jean-Paul Bédard is hoping he'll already have run it three times.

'I'm absolutely addicted to running,' recovering addict who witnessed Boston Marathon bombing says

Jean-Paul Bédard plans to run four marathons in 24 hours. (runjprun.com)

By the time runners are warming up Sunday for the start of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Jean-Paul Bédard is hoping he'll already have run it three times.

"I'm absolutely addicted to running," Bédard told CBC News Thursday. Not even the deadly attack on the Boston Marathon three years ago, which began just after he crossed the finish line in that race, has kept him from hitting the pavement.

He plans to start the first marathon at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, take a half hour break, then start running the next one. If he completes all four, he'll have run 168.8 kilometres.

Jean-Paul Bédard's wife will present him with a medal each time he finishes a marathon this weekend. (Michelle Cheung/CBC)

"The most difficult part of the logistics of this is making sure that I arrive in enough time for the start of the official marathon on Sunday morning which will actually be my fourth marathon within 24 hours," Bédard said.

"I'm hoping to get to the finish line of the fourth marathon before they take away all the pylons and they start opening the street."

A different kind of addiction

Bédard, 50, says he started long distance running 19 years ago when he entered into a treatment program for drug and alcohol addictions.

"For years, I feared being weak, not good enough, just embarrassed about my life, and so I thought the only way to actually change that narrative was to do something that physically make me feel different," the writer and motivational speaker said.  

"Every day, it's a blank sheet that I can put my shoes on and head outside, and what's going to happen is going to happen. The amazing thing is I have control of what's going to happen."

Jean-Paul Bédard has run over 100 marathons, including 13 Boston Marathons. (CBC)

Bédard has run more than 100 marathons all over the world.

He says he would take his running addiction over any other at this point in his life:

"The thing about an addict is you've got a big stubborn focused brain, so running was kind a natural attraction to me. It allowed me to get out there and focus hard on myself and start to do things I wasn't doing when I was an active addict," Bédard said.

"I wasn't showing up when I said I was going to show up. Goals were always difficult for me to achieve and I had a real issue with body image and being comfortable in my body especially as a result of being a survivor of sexual violence."

When he was nine years old, Bédard says he was sexually abused by a hockey coach. When he was 12, he says he was raped by two men in a ravine.

"From that point on, my life just went off the rails. I started drinking and drugging very soon after that and spent all of my teens and the majority of my early adulthood trying to numb all the feelings I had."

Three years ago, he finally told his wife and son about the abuse, he says, because his secrets were taking too big a toll on his life.

Jean-Paul Bédard is running for two organizations that support people who've been sexually abused. (runjprun.com)

Boston Marathon Attack, 2013

It was a short time later that Bédard ran the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

After he crossed the finish line, the first pressure cooker bomb went off. Then the second explosion occurred. Three people were killed and more than 260 people were injured.

Reeling from the attack and his personal struggles, Bédard registered for a six month peer support program at The Gatehouse when he returned home.

Jean-Paul Bédard is running for the Gatehouse, which works with adult sexual abuse survivors. He attended a six-month peer support program there. (Michelle Cheung/CBC)

Running for a cause

The Gatehouse is a community-based organization that provides a space for adult survivors of sexual abuse to share their stories. It's housed in a century-old home on the Lake Shore Boulevard West east of Kipling Avenue.

The group's executive director, Maria Barcelos, says 300 adults went through the 15 week program last year.

"We don't have a catchment area so we have people from as far away as London, Ontario coming to our programs. The furthest I had someone coming from was Lions Head Ontario, a four hour drive," Barcelos told CBC News.

This is just a fraction of the medals Jean-Paul Bédard has accumulated over the years running marathons. (Michelle Cheung/CBC)

In 2014, Bédard says he ran the Boston Marathon twice in a day to raise money for The Gatehouse.

"I decided I should do something like that in Toronto. That was the genesis of me doing a triple marathon in Toronto last year for survivors of sexual violence."

This year, Bédard is running for The Gatehouse and Little Warriors, an Edmonton-based charitable organization that works with children who've been sexually abused.

When asked, Bédard says he probably won't stop at four back-to-back marathons:

"I really like the hashtag '6inthe6.'"