State of Mind

Ontario man to run 750K in 8 days to raise awareness for mental health

Clay Williams
Photo: Clay Williams.

There are many ways to get people’s attention. You can put up a neon sign next to the highway, buy an advertisement in a magazine, or, like Clay Williams is doing, you can attempt something very, very impressive. Having a good cause behind you doesn’t hurt, either.

Williams, a 55-year-old industrial manager and distance runner from Waterloo, Ont., sets out on a 750K run in September, resting for only two of every 10 hours, all in the name of raising awareness for mental illness and depression. 750K. Eight days. Impressive.

“I’ve got two older brothers who took their own lives,” says Williams. “And my wife, my daughter and my sister all suffer from depression. It came to me that this run was the thing to do. This was a cause worth raising awareness for. And it’s been a pretty interesting journey.”

Williams first laced up his runners in 2004, but it wasn’t long before he was hooked. And though this route, which will take Williams from Port Severn, through Kingston, and on to Ottawa, will test him, he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“I crossed the finish line of my first race and I got stuck on it,” he says. “I just started going longer and longer and haven’t found anything that beats me up enough to make me want to stop.”

Williams hopes that his endeavor, which is in partnership with the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, will draw some attention to an issue that is widespread, but not widely acknowledged.

“There are two parts to our message,” he says. “The first is that if you’re suffering from depression or feel like you’re in a dark place, talk to someone you trust. The other point is to get out and move around. It really helps your mental health. I have a really stressful job with lots of responsibility and when I go out for a run, especially a long run, I’m able to think about things in a lot more detail, get them sorted, put them in the back of my mind and then just focus on stepping and breathing. It really helps me deal with stress in a big way.”

Put that on your neon sign.

To learn more about the Canal Pursuit for Mental Health, visit

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