Three years ago, Martin Schouw traded in drugs and alcohol for running and volunteer work, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“I was dependent on drugs and drinking,” Schouw recalls of those days. “I spent a lot of time with a beer in the hand and whatnot.”
“I’d had enough, and one day I decided I had to change my life around.”
While Schouw’s drive can be chalked up mostly to willpower, there was a moment that likely sparked a fire in him. After undergoing a knee operation Schouw said people were of the opinion that his days of physical activity were over. Having stayed active working as a logger his entire life, this did not sit well with Schouw.
“That sort of ticked me off. I took up running from that day on, and I haven’t looked back,” Schouw said.
“A half marathon led to a full marathon, and then I wanted my four-hour time,” he said, referring to a general high-level standard for a marathon time in the running community.
“That took me a couple years, but I got that.”
Now, Schouw is looking to push his limits with his longest run ever: a trek from Terrace back to Prince Rupert. The journey is approximately 150 km by foot. Schouw is looking to raise awareness for another cause near to his heart: animals.
|Martin Schouw took part in the Northern View Cannery Road Race on Sept. 14. He placed third in the men's half-marathon over 40 category, and fourth place overall with a time of 1:44:55. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)
Since getting clean, Schouw has found fulfillment in helping out local animals. His volunteer work at the Wildlife Shelter transitioned to collecting pet food to feed local cats in need. He is currently partnered with the Action for Animals in Distress Society to pursue his new goal of making sure neighbourhood animals do not go hungry.
Back on the road, Schouw is getting ready for the upcoming Cannery Road Race. It will be his last chance to train and tune up before he sets off on the grueling distance between towns. It will be an unforgiving run, but compared to where he came from, Schouw is grateful for the opportunity.
“When this started I couldn’t even run 5K. I could never dream that I’m doing what I’m doing right now,” Schouw said.
Schouw believes some good fortune followed him after he set out on his new path. Now 52 years old, Schouw had never met his birth mother – until this past Christmas.
At the encouragement of his partner Carrie, Schouw decided to track down his birth family. The results were more than he could have ever imagined. In addition to meeting his birth mother, Schouw learned he had four sisters – and with them many nieces and nephews.
“They’re such beautiful people and they all welcomed me into their families so quickly I just couldn’t believe it,” Schouw said. He now has a six-person frame hanging in his living room featuring his newly found family.
“I think karma played a role. Maybe sobering up, that’s the time to meet them,” Schouw thinks. “When I was drinking I never did find them, and maybe that’s why.”
|Martin Schouw hangs out at home with Hutch, Macy and Boomer. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)
In addition to his newfound family and Carrie, Schouw has three other special souls in his life: his dogs Hutch, Miley and Boomer. All three are rescue dogs, who echo the path of their owner, having overcome a number of personal issues to emerge in the positive space they occupy today.
Schouw says he has found a sport for life. Running helped him break free from a dark place, and he has no plans to head back.
“The running gives me focus. I don’t know if it’s every run, or if it’s all those little runs that add up to the goals,” he said. “Everybody needs to have a goal in life, and that’s what changes things for a lot of people.”
“A lot of people are stuck in a rut and don’t have something to chase. I’ve got my running. I’ve got big goals, big quests, and I chase after them now.”
|Martin Schouw powers to the finish line in the Northern View Cannery Road Race just ahead of his target time of 1:45:00. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)
Schouw is especially attracted to the mental toughness that running instills. Early mornings and bad weather still see those dedicated athletes hitting the streets.
For someone who showed a strong sense of will to quit his addictions in the first place, the sport therefore seems like a natural fit.
“Life sure is a lot better since I cleaned my act up. Maybe it’s just that I’m sober, and I see it now,” Schouw said.
“I truly woke up one day and I’d had enough of feeling so horrible. I made a promise to myself – never again – and I’ve never looked back.”
Alex Kurial | Sports Reporter
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