Every morning since his 92nd birthday on May 14, Doug Knowles has laced up his shoes in his east-end Kingston neighbourhood for a kilometre-long walk to raise money for two special causes.
On Wednesday, Knowles walked the final kilometre in his 92-kilometre walking goal to raise money for Wounded Warriors Canada and Partners in Mission Food Bank.
He didn’t miss a day in his one-kilometre-per-day mission.
Granted, Knowles would be walking whether or not he was fundraising. The lifelong long-distance runner has a long list of accomplishments under his belt, and some unique stories, too.
For instance, once he ran a 55-kilometre race against a horse — to Gananoque and back.
He said he lost by six minutes because of a bathroom break, but he’d figured he could beat the animal.
“Horses can’t run more than 30 miles,” he said. “I knew I could damn well outrun it.”
Knowles, a founding member of the Kingston Road Runners Association, has hundreds of medals and trophies in his home — 265, to be exact — from his years of competitive running. One of those medals is gold, for a first-place finish in the men’s 75 to 79 category of the World Masters Games triathlon in Edmonton in 2005.
He was 77 at the time, the oldest competitor in the Olympic-distance triathlon.
“There was nobody else in my age group,” Knowles admitted.
His lifelong love of running came to a quiet end after a serious leg infection that required surgery and a long recovery.
Now, cane in hand, Knowles gets his one-kilometre walk in every day like clockwork.
Knowles worked in many roles across his long life. He began as a blacksmith in the British Army. He worked for a chocolatier, a bakery chain and eventually the Canadian military as an auto mechanic.
Throughout his varied professional life, one constant has been his love of running.
Lynn Rosa, Knowles’ daughter, said she is proud of her dad.
“He’s always been an athlete, so when he originally started this, it was for his birthday and he said he’d like to do something for his birthday,” she said. This was one of the reasons for his walk, and to give back.
“It keeps him motivated.”
Rosa said that COVID-19 has made organisations such as Partners in Mission and Wounded Warriors Canada even more necessary, and she believes the pandemic was on her father’s mind when he decided to pitch in support for those groups.
“I think that was one of the things he was thinking about,” she said. “And he and my mother, back in the day, could have used a little bit of help and remember people who were there for them when they were struggling a bit.”
As a veteran of both the British and Canadian armies, Knowles chose Wounded Warriors Canada as one of the charitable recipients for his walking efforts. A representative from that organisation visited Knowles on Monday to thank him for his support.
Partners in Mission has seen $3,000 in donations through a special fund on its website that it set up last week, after hearing what Knowles was doing for them.
“We really appreciate the support of the community,” Dan Irwin, executive director for the Partners in Mission food bank, said on Wednesday.
Irwin and a handful of Knowles’ neighbours walked his final fundraising kilometre with him at 7:30 that morning.
“Having someone like Doug dedicate this to us is just amazing,” he said. “It just goes to show how much community support we really do have, and some of it is from people you don’t really hear of very often. We really do appreciate it. I don’t know how to say thank you for putting the effort in on our behalf.”
“The food bank, they deserve every penny they can get,” Knowles said.
Article first published in The Kingston Whig Standard on 14th August 2020.
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