If you ask 81-year-old Keith Ashton why he runs, he’ll tell you it’s for those who have been literally ‘run off their feet’ keeping our community healthy in the pandemic—our hospital heroes. This Saturday, May 1st, Keith will run a half marathon to help raise funds for local hospitals, only a year after he himself was a patient with COVID-19.
Keith, his running partner Connie, and members of his running group The Happy Feet, will complete a 21-kilometre route as the culmination of his fundraising efforts for the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical campaign. The route will detour to include Keith’s Fairfield street so his wife Andrea can join for the final push to the finish line at Mile 0 in James Bay.
It all began after Keith completed his first full marathon in 2019. He and members of The Happy Feet were training and registered for the Vancouver Marathon, set for May 2020. “We were so excited,” he shares.
But shortly after returning from a trip to the United Kingdom in March of 2020, Keith became ill. Two weeks later, he was admitted to Royal Jubilee Hospital and was told he had tested positive for COVID-19. Keith would spend two weeks in hospital before being released. He managed to avoid needing critical care, but just barely.
Today, he warns people that COVID-19 is real. “It’s not something that you play around with. If you get this thing, you could be in real, serious trouble. And I don’t think people realize it because they’ve never had it.”
Once he was back up and running, so to speak, Keith was inspired to give back to the people who helped him, including his physician Dr. Kerrie, who is also a runner. Keith returned to his passion slowly, on the advice of his caregivers, “it was run a block, walk a block, run a block, walk a block, then run two, walk a block and so on, getting back into it that way.”
But then another hurdle found its way into Keith’s path.
Last November, while on a run with one of his group, Keith noticed a bit of chest pain. The early signs of a heart incident. Andrea credits his running buddy with saving Keith’s life. “She took such good care of him, and in spite of his protesting she called for an ambulance. I’m really grateful that she did.”