Ayden Byle, The Runner

About a year ago Ayden Byle told his parents he was going to run across Canada.

They thought he was crazy. And still do, although he's already crossed over 2,500 kilometers and visited four provinces. He arrived in Ontario in late July.

A diabetic, 23-year-old Byle plans to increase awareness about the "silent disease"' by running a total of 6,000 km. He hopes to pull together the 1.6 million diabetics in Canada and raise money for research.

"If I personally challenge myself to run across the country, I can challenge others," he says.

The running man began June 1 from Stanley Park in Vancouver. He runs 45 km a day and hopes to reach Halifax, Nova Scotia sometime during November which is National Diabetes Month.

At 18, Byle was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. He remembers the agony of beginning a strict eating routine just as he was getting ready to start university away from home. He is dedicating his run to other juvenile diabetics. "Diabetes almost forces you to be regimented and I hate routine," he comments. "A 15-year-old doesn't want to have a routine, that's the last thing a kid that age wants to have to do."

The trip has already taught Byle a great deal. He says that all the people he meets, diabetic or not, treat him excellently. A Dutch ice-cream shop owner in B.C. gave Byle's team free ice-cream and a $50 donation. "(The team) stopped in for coffee once before my morning run and I went in with my (donation) sheets and I had the whole store donate money," he says. "We had about $200 in five minutes."

Being a catalyst for change is Byle's ultimate goal. "Diabetes can be beat," he says optimistically.

The runner says he wants to look back on his life and feel he's contributed to the cause. "When you're 55 years old and you have gray hair, you can say, 'I was a big contributor to bringing these people together on a quest for a cure for diabetes,'" he says. "That will make me more proud than any other thing, above and beyond the fact that I ran across Canada."

Organizing the run was no easy task. Byle sent a four-page proposal to the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) in search of support in September 1997. It came complete with letters of recommendation from family, friends, coaches, medical doctors and his Member of Parliament. The runner says he felt he was going to be the next CDA spokesperson. "I was willing to bend over backwards for them."

However, the Association cited a lack of funds and volunteers necessary to help Byle complete a run such as his. "A run is quite a commitment and we do have limitations in terms of resources," says Chris Myer, Communications Coordinator for the Association. "But we wish him all the best."

Byle didn't let the CDA's rejection stop him. The long distance runner drummed up financial backing from various mutual fund companies including Regal Capital Planners Ltd. and Fidelity Investments. Sunoco sponsored $1,000 for gas and Sporting Life donated Byle's running equipment.

The Kincardine, Ontario native has set up the Ayden Byle Research Foundation to collect all financial donations. He says the run is teaching him about patience especially when it comes to the rate of success for his crusade. He has already raised over $70,000 for diabetes.

"Some days I think I can do this, I can take on Canada," says Byle, who has been running since the age of nine. "And yet I'm scared too because Canada's a big country."

Byle depends on five shots of insulin a day to keep his disease under control. He must carefully watch his diet to monitor his blood sugar levels. "As students you don't think you can do anything," says Byle about running across one of the largest countries in the world. "But I'm saying to other students, young diabetics and people my age that if you want to make a change, you can."
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