More than 7,700km in the race from Key West to Gaspésie: Joan Roch’s next project

MONTREAL – Joanne Roche ran from Bercy to Montreal in 2020. From there a larger Quebec ultramarathon project was born. He is preparing to run the 8,000 km that separate Florida from the Gaspé Peninsula.

Longueillois will leave Key West, the southernmost state of the United States, on February 23. He plans to follow the Appalachian Mountains to the tip of “the end of the world,” in Quebec’s Forillon National Park.

He hopes to complete this journey within five months and reach Gaspé at the end of July, before his fiftieth birthday.

With a total of 7,745 kilometers—”but I’d probably get lost enough to get to 8,000,” he says—he’ll survey the Florida Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Sentier International Appalachian Trail or GR A1, well known to hikers.

On average, Mr. Roche travels 52 km per day, a distance that may vary depending on altitude and terrain, as some sections of Gaspé are difficult.

However, it is not the Gaspé Peninsula that scares Mr. Roch, but Florida.

“It is flat, and there will be heat, and dampness, and it will be swamps, and this indicates a person who has never been to this American state before. All these peculiarities do not make the road reassuring, because I do not know anything about it.”

And that’s not to mention the crocodile, which worries him more than the black bears.

Mr. Roach intends to do this long run at a fast rando also called a “Fast Pack”. He would carry his equipment, reduced to the strict minimum for the occasion, with a simple shelter, sleeping bag and bedding. You will refuel in the towns and villages that line the trails.

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Food is his main logistical challenge.

“I would have to eat 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day, something I managed so badly during Bercy-Montreal, I didn’t eat enough,” he recalls running 1,135km in two weeks in summer 2020.

He adds that if the body adapts to running for several weeks or months, it does not know how it will react.

“The big difficulty is that there is no way to train it. It has to be done, because the conditioning processes take place over several weeks,” he explains.

He says the route was actually completed in six and a half months by some brisk hikers. He hopes to be one of the first to do so on the run and make it to the finish line, especially since this is his first experience of “fast packing”.

Age is no limit

With this project, the 49-year-old ultramarathoner also wants to prove that you can embark on a somewhat crazy project, no matter your age.

“You’d think I was training non-stop. Yes, I train more than average, but I’m not an Olympic athlete. I have a full-time job, and I have three kids,” the IT person said.

He believes that reaching his level has been a long progression and is within the reach of “everyone who loves it and wants to do it”.

“Obviously, it is not age that is the factor, but rather the will and discipline to force training every day,” he says.

Mr. Roach is also known for the utilitarian race, between his home and workplace, still spreading his message “Ultraordinary,” which is also the title of two of his books published in 2016 and 2021.

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“Despite the ordinary, you can still add the extraordinary to your daily life,” he says. In my case, it’s on, but it doesn’t matter what you plan to do. »

On this venture—which will require a few months of unpaid leave—Mr. Roach is supported by his wife, writer Anne Genest. She is also an ultramarathoner, and will run with him during the first week in Florida.

“I was immediately turned on by his project, confidently, excitedly, Ms. Genest. Our couple works that way.” [?]Everyone is driven by projects. »

The couple will share the adventure on social networks, and it may lead to a documentary film appearing as well.

Mr. Roach will post from the field, while Mrs. Genest will provide a unique view from the house, where the four children, ages 9 to 15 at the time of departure, of their blended family reside.

“How’s the next thing?” How does the husband experience it, children? What is the dynamic of all this? are the questions Mrs. Genest will attempt to answer.

Despite the distance from the family, the adventure will be far from happening alone. Mr. Roach hopes other runners will accompany him on certain parts of his journey, as well as welcome all the help that can be given to him.

“It will help me keep going,” concludes the person who embarked on this challenge primarily out of curiosity.

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