A man has ran over 700km to acknowledge the good that exists along the infamous Highway of Tears.
Adam Prytula travelled on foot on Hwy 16 from his home in Prince George to Prince Rupert in a total of 21 days and has named his run ‘Highway of Hope’.
“I got this idea living along the highway and I looked at the name Highway of Tears. That represents where we’ve been and where we are but that doesn’t represent where we’re going, and I wanted to help shift people’s thinking on where we’re headed as people, as a community of nations,” says Prytula.
“Yes, there’s still a lot of tears and there’s a lot of pain but there’s also at the same time, a lot of hope for a future. And I know this because all along the highway I’ve met so many good hardworking people who are working so hard to make their family lives better and their nations better, to make lives better for everyone around them.”
Prytula, who is half-Haida, says he got the idea 10 years ago from a friend who spoke about his “walk of healing” that he did from Kamloops, B.C. to Manitoba. He began to think about Terry Fox, Caribou Legs, Fast Eddie and all the others who embarked on similar journeys.
Their stories “planted the seed” and he soon decided he would do the same, but it was put off for a while when his wife got pregnant. Living in the Northwest though, he met many people affected by the Highway of Tears and the impact of it on his community, which he says motivated him to make his dream happen.
“I’ve known some people who are going through the struggles along the way, people who have come to tell me about different things that are happening and have happened. And they’ve been supportive of the run,” he says. “Every time I thought about those people, [who] I can help and hopefully inspire and motivate, it gave me the strength to continue and push forward.”
Prytula officially began training for the run a year ago, doing 20km loops twice a week with a weighted backpack to build up endurance, alongside other exercises. Although he’s been an athlete his entire life, he says his body still wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the past three weeks. He’s been averaging between 30 to 40km each day for up to 10 hours at a time.
“I wasn’t as prepared as I needed to be, I didn’t have all the equipment I needed to have and I picked it up along the way,” says Prytula. “It takes a lot of preparation, a lot of training of the body and it becomes very hard on the mind as well, it’s very taxing and tiring.”
Before he embarked, he researched a lot from reading books and blogs to watching YouTube videos on what to expect when running long distances. He also contacted lots of ultra runners online to ask for advice.
“What I’m learning along the way about myself is the process. I thought I’d have a lot more time to think but some days it’s just so painful. I’m just focusing so hard on trying to make it through the next step and trying to make it through the next marker.”
To cheer him on and set up his campground at the end of the day, his father joined him on the road to drive the support vehicle. Prytula says he was able to push himself to his limits because he knew he had his family’s encouragement.
But the biggest booster was all the unexpected people he met along the way that helped and proved his cause — that there is still a lot of good along the highway.
“[One day], I was rationing my water… I was just really struggling and then three people pulled up, they brought me water, Gatorade and totally refreshed me,” Prytula recalls. “That was one of the big ones and there’s so many along the way that have been so awesome.”
He says the trip itself has been expensive as he’s had to take time off work and still support his family back home, where he has three young daughters waiting. Although he considered it, he wasn’t able to fundraise for a cause. But the most important part of doing the run was to get the message of hope out there.
And as word spreads about Prytula via social media, he’s already received many invitations to speak about his experience.
“People have asked me to come back and do some talks. And I’m really stoked about that opportunity,” he says. “I’ve [also] done some talks along the way with youth groups in different nations.”
With his run at an end on June 4, Prytula says he’s relieved to reach the finish line and ready to kick up his feet for a few weeks.
He also hopes that his run will shed a different light on Hwy 16.
“I don’t know if I’m out here to try and rename it to the Highway of Hope, I think that’s more of a choice for the people,” says Prytula. “If that’s what everyone wants to do, then that’s great. I’m just out here trying to help change the way we think about where we’re going.”