Five years running to support people with Crohn's or colitis

Maria Glidden and Rob Trewartha of the "Guts to Run" team
By Rasheed Clarke

The Guts to Run team has taken part in the past five Mississauga Marathons, and raised over $100,000 for Crohn’s and colitis research in the process.
 
When Maria Glidden and Rob Trewartha met in 2007 as volunteers for a political campaign, they soon learned that they had much in common, and not just in terms of their civics.
 
Maria’s daughter has ulcerative colitis, and Rob’s wife and two sisters-in-law have Crohn’s disease. Both Maria and Rob have seen their loved ones endure ups and downs as a result of inflammatory bowel disease: surgeries, failed medications, missed occasions with family and friends. So in 2013, the pair founded Guts to Run, a team that would participate in the Mississauga Marathon’s charity challenge.
 
“At the time, I was president of the Peel Region Chapter of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, and I was looking for a way to attract a new audience to support the organization,” says Maria. “Our chapter had just retired a skating event that had successfully run for a decade, and we were looking for something new and challenging to take its place.”
 
The Guts to Run team appealed to the Peel Chapter because it let them reach out to people who may not have come out to Crohn’s- and colitis-related events in the past. And for people who have taken part in past events, like the Gutsy Walk, the run team created an opportunity to support the cause while taking on the heightened challenge of a faster pace or a longer distance.
 
“The response was incredible from the start. We went into that first year with no expectations, really, and we had 54 people join us on the team. We raised close to $20,000 in donations, and because we were one of the top three teams in the charity challenge, we earned an additional $2,000 in prize money. Nothing could have prepared us for that sort of response, and it’s been the same each year,” says Maria.
 
Over the five years that Guts to Run has competed in the Mississauga Marathon, some notable names have been on the team, including former Team Canada Olympic marathon runner, Peter Fonseca, and current Mayor of Mississauga, Bonnie Crombie. Mississauga city councillors Pat Saito and Chris Fonseca have also taken part, lending not only their legs to the team, but also their ability to raise awareness of Crohn’s and colitis among their constituents.
 
“Besides Rob and myself, there are about a half dozen other runners who have been with us every year since 2013, and we’re so grateful for their dedication,” says Maria.
 
Joining the team isn’t just an option for runners in the Greater Toronto Area. Anyone can sign up with the team, take part in fundraising, and run on a course that offers 2K, 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon distances.
 
“For someone who’s taken part in nearly 40 races across Ontario and Quebec, I can say that the Mississauga Marathon race weekend is one of the best there is,” says Maria. “It’s well-organized, there are plenty of hydration and nutrition stations along the way, and the people who come out to cheer really give you a boost along the way.”
 
The course itself snakes though some of Mississauga’s picturesque neighbourhoods, ending on the shores of Lake Ontario. For seasoned runners, the Mississauga Marathon is an official qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
 
“My biggest wish would be to see our reach expand to other parts of Canada. We have runners from all over Ontario and parts of Quebec right now, but to truly feel like the official run team of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, I would love to have participants from coast to coast come to Mississauga in May and run under the Guts to Run banner with us,” says Maria.
 
For Maria, running is a source of joy. A chance to decompress, to think, to see new places, and to see familiar places at a different pace. And of course, it’s a chance to continue supporting her daughter, Erika, who has taken part in the 5K race herself every year since 2013.
 
“The fact that our loved ones still have the disease, that’s what keeps us going. They’re still undergoing operations, they’re still in need of treatment, and they’re still dealing with that rollercoaster of good and bad days,” says Maria.
 
“Running is easy. Living with Crohn’s or colitis is not.”
 
To learn more about Guts to Run and how you can join the team in the upcoming Mississauga Marathon, visit their Facebook page or email gutstorun@gmail.com. To donate to the team, visit their Mississauga Marathon team page.

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 150 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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