The Port Alberni Wounded Warriors team, led by Dave Nesbitt in front, runs down Third Avenue during a practice run in 2021. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

The Port Alberni Wounded Warriors team, led by Dave Nesbitt in front, runs down Third Avenue during a practice run in 2021. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Pair of Port Alberni first responders run with Wounded Warriors Feb. 27-March 6

Maria Marciano, Dave Nesbitt and team will run into Port Alberni on March 3

For a pair of Port Alberni first responders, the Wounded Warriors run will always be personal.

After a one-year pause due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Wounded Warriors Island-wide run returns Feb. 27-March 6. Maria Marciano and Dave Nesbitt are back as part of the eight-person relay team.

Wounded Warriors BC holds a week-long run annually, from Port Hardy to Victoria, to bring awareness and raise funds for mental health programs and services offered to first responders. They are an arm of Wounded Warriors Canada.

Marciano, a constable with the Port Alberni RCMP, will be running her third Wounded Warriors run—second full run, as the 2021 version was cancelled at the last minute due to COVID-19 measures at the time.

“Mental health is such a huge, important piece,” said Marciano, who lost a colleague after a mental health crisis a few years ago. Mental health “sometimes gets lost in all the other things that first responders do; the mental health component gets buried under that. For me, it’s personal. I want the people I work with every single day to know there’s help out there and where to go for that help.”

She said Wounded Warriors team members have been cautiously optimistic about their chances of pulling off a full Island-wide event this year, but it was tough for her to get her hopes up until the event was confirmed.

Now “the excitement is starting to build a little bit.”

READ: Wounded Warrior run pays homage to family for Vancouver Island fire chief

The team got together Feb. 6 to run between Sooke and Sidney at the south end of Vancouver Island, and all members have been training on their own in anticipation of the kickoff. The team comprises eight first responders from communities up and down Vancouver Island who will run the 640-kilometre distance from Port Hardy to Victoria in a relay. The goal is to raise $250,000 for mental health programs.

Marciano has also been training for the Boston Marathon, which will be an in-person event in April this year, and said it has presented some challenges for her leading up to the Wounded Warriors run. She has developed “an issue” with her foot, but is confident she will be able to finish her daily runs for the Wounded Warriors event. Each participant will run every day, somewhere between five and 20 kilometres per day depending on the schedule.

The run over the Hump and into Port Alberni is a long day: around 110 kms in total.

While Marciano has been training individually for the Boston Marathon, her Wounded Warriors partner, Nesbitt, has been training for a couple of his own runs. He will participate in the Whistler Alpine Meadows 100-mile race in September, as well as a Squamish 50-mile. Nesbitt has been combining both road and trail runs around the Alberni Valley to prepare for all his upcoming runs.

“Lots of stuff out in the trails in town and around the mountains,” he said. “Last year my training would have been similar any hours. Most of my races are geared toward mountains—that would be my happy place.”

The Wounded Warriors run “won’t be much different than any other of my training weeks, other than it will all be road (running). It will be less hours on my feet, actually.”

The Wounded Warriors run is near and dear to Nesbitt’s heart. He has been a first responder for 20-plus years with the Canadian Coast Guard, and both teaches trauma resiliency and serves on a critical incident stress management team. Having dealt with his own issues of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Nesbitt said it is important to keep talking about mental health so people are comfortable with the subject.

He supports Wounded Warriors because they provide badly needed infrastructure for mental health programs.

Nesbitt said if he has one message to share with other first responders it is that they are not alone. “We’re all in this together. Don’t be afraid to speak out. Wounded Warriors is a great organization that is here to help anybody that is attached to it,” he said.

Wounded Warriors runners are tentatively expected to arrive in the Alberni Valley at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 3. Marciano and Nesbitt will likely run together down Johnston Road into town.

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 293 will be holding a fundraising spaghetti dinner much like it did for the 2020 run. There are 125 tickets available at $15 each, and can be picked up at the Legion bar Tuesday to Saturday from 2-6 p.m. or at the Legion office Tuesday, March 1 and Thursday, March 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Limited tickets will be available at the door. The Legion is located at 4680 Victoria Quay.

There is also a virtual run happening at the same time: members of the public are welcome to sign up at https://woundedwarriorscanada.akaraisin.com/ui/woundedwarriorsvirtualrun and raise funds by holding their own personal “runs.” The same link can be used to find the individual fundraising pages for each team member.

Alberni ValleyCanadian Coast GuardPort AlberniRCMPWounded Warrior Canada