It took 11 days, over a distance of 500 kilometres, but Marshall Barkley finally brought his “I’m coming home, Mama,” tour to a successful conclusion, November 4, at the home of his mother, Marie, outside Morrisburg.

It was a sometimes gruelling journey, made in every kind of weather. The former South Dundas resident, a graduate of Riverside Heights Public School, Seaway District High School, Guelph University and George Brown College, was determined to go the distance. The run also provided him with an opportunity to raise money for a cause in which he firmly believes.

As an athlete and a runner, Marshall has long been interested in healthy life styles and life choices. When he was deciding on a charity to support, he got very interested in the Movember organization.

Movember is an official global charity, whose vision is to have a lasting impact on the face of men’s health. The charity began in Australia in 2003, and has now spread to 21 nations world-wide. In 2012, supporters succeeded in raising 147 million dollars.

“The goal of Movember is to bring increased awareness to issues directly affecting men,” Marshall explained. “The charity targets illnesses like prostate and testicular cancer, and encourages men to have proper and regular testing done. It also targets issues of mental health that seem to affect males in particular.”

“I’ve  been a runner for six years,” Marshall said. “This year was also my 50th birthday, and the 25th anniversary of my marriage to Conchita. All these things came together, and I simply decided to do something very special to recognize these milestones. My biggest supporters right from the start of the run have been my family members, including my 19-year-old son, Sebastian, who attends McMaster University.”

Once he decided to support Movember, Marshall found that people were more than willing to sponsor him on his run. 

“I kept an album and a journal on Facebook during the entire run,” he said. “Messages like Go Marshall Go, and many, many generous donations really motivated me to keep going.” 

How did he come up with the name, the “I’m coming home, Mama, tour?”

“It’s kind of a joke, I guess,” Marshall explained. “Mom always has been one of my greatest supporters. One time, after a marathon (running tends to give you a natural high), I said ‘I feel like I could run all the way home.’  The idea of running home to Mama stuck, and became a kind of mantra for me.”

Marshall’s run began in Oakville, Ontario, (where he and his family live) on October 25, 2013.

He aimed to try and make 50 kilometres a day. Some days this was not easy.

“The weather along the route has alternated between beautiful and definitely challenging. Today (his last day, November 4) was a long day. I was running against an east wind pretty well the entire last stretch. (Earlier in the run I was hit with 100 kilometre an hour wind gusts) which were not my friends, even when they were at my back. But I saw some spectacular scenery along the route. I ran through many small towns and travelled along the river trails. There was always something new to see.”

With his brother-in-law, Ponciano Padua, serving as his wing-man and official photographer and web site designer for the journey, he avoided major highways.

“We followed the Waterfront Trail, which is also called in places The Loyalist Parkway, the Apple Route and the King’s Highway. It wasn’t the most direct route, but it was an interesting one.”

He encountered many fascinating people along the road, including the elderly gentleman who was absolutely convinced Marshall had been sent by his township to take photos of  a defective ditch. “The city did it wrong. Water just floods in.” After it was all straightened out, the man cheerfully took a sticker and wristband.

He also found time to talk to the children at his brother Clayton’s school, Benson’s, in Cardinal, and to do a short run with some of them.

“I just want to make sure that men stay healthy,” Marshall Barkley said. “Go to the doctor. Stay fit. Keep moving, and find a balance in your life.”

What was he going to do on his first free night following 500 kilometres of running?

“Well,” he laughed, “I’ve actually got a ‘horse race’ scheduled in Iroquois. A group of us men are going to run from the river to a restaurant in the plaza. It’s for a good cause, after all.”  

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