Mark Canada, Ph.D.
"What greater glory attends a man, while he’s alive,
than what he wins with his striving hands and racing feet?"
Like the ancient Greeks, I enjoy striving with my hands and racing with my feet. For me, though, it’s not about the winning, but about the effort and the exhilaration. Some of my favorite "Moving Experiences" are hiking in Lewis & Clark country, climbing all 103 flights of Chicago's Willis Tower, and doing my version of Rocky's run up these steps in Philadelphia.
September 6, 2020
Like many kids who grew up in the ‘70s, I saw the movie Rocky and remembered his famous run, culminating in a climb up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Many years later, when Lisa and I were planning an educational trip to Philly for some college students, I called a visitors’ bureau to see if I could learn the route the character took so that I could replicate the run with any interested students. As it turns out, Hollywood took some liberties here: the places Rocky passed were all over the city, not along a route he realistically would have taken. Still, there’s no denying that he climbed up the museum steps, and to this day many people follow his example. I’m one of them. This moving experience is a perfect one for me, not only because I love the theme of physical challenge in the movie, but also because stair climbing is one of my favorite forms of exercise. On a trip to Philly with Esse to visit the museum—the inside of it, that is—I took the opportunity to run the steps—and then run them again and again and again—about 20 times altogether. After I continued my run on a nice path alongside the Schuylkil River and then into the city again, I happened upon an unexpected treat: a giant baseball mural celebrating the history of the Phillies.
Lewis and Clark Country
July 30, 2019
There are not many places where we can retrace the steps that Lewis and Clark took on their journey west and back from 1804 to 1806. For one thing, the Corps of Discovery traveled most of the distance on water, mainly on the Missouri River, but also on the Columbia and other rivers. They occasionally did walk—when, for example, Lewis took his dog on land while others were in the boats—but it’s impossible to know where they walked in most cases. I probably got very close once, though, when I hiked up to Pompey’s Pillar, a large rock formation (in eastern Montana) where Clark carved his name. During my two drives on the trail, I have been in the vicinity of their route many times, and I enjoyed a nice hike on the North Shore Trail, where I got a sense of the 18-mile portage they had to make around several falls in the Missouri River (near the current city of, you guessed it, Great Falls, Montana).
December 17, 2018
Among the ancients, no one is more associated with sport than the Greeks, who invented the Olympic Games. In fact, they created four sets of games, conducted at four locations around the area we know as Greece: Olympia, Delphi, Corinth, and Nemea. The traditional year for the first Olympic Games is 776 BC.
During our time in Europe in 2019, we had a chance to see the site in Olympia. Of course, a lot can change in 2800 years. No large edifices were still standing, but we did get to see the ruins of various structures, including the original gymnasium where the athletes trained. One of the highlights is the site of the original stadium, where Esse and I sprinted on the same ground where Olympic athletes once ran the distance of a stade, equal to 192.27 meters. In ancient times, the banks around the stadium could hold some 40,000 spectators. The crowd was much smaller for our run, and our performance was probably somewhat less impressive than the ones that took place in the fifth century BC. According to a book I picked up at a gift shop near the site, “The ancient Greeks believed that competition and the display of well-exercised bodies pleased the gods, and that an athlete's victory was evidence of divine favour" (Trianti and Valavanis 92). I don’t know whether we pleased any gods, but we did have a memorable experience on this very historic site.
May 30, 2018
The Wilderness Road is one of those places where the modern adventurer can walk roughly in the footsteps of predecessors making history. In this case, those predecessors were Daniel Boone and his fellow travelers, who blazed the Wilderness Road through the Appalachian Mountains in 1775, creating a route that some 300,000 pioneers could travel into Kentucky. I went for a relatively short hike—well, a little longer than it should have been. (It’s easy to get lost around here.) When I visit spots like this one in the wilderness, I like to imagine seeing the area through the eyes of those historic travelers. It’s about as close as one can get to going back in time. (Now, that would be a moving experience!)
July 8, 2017
The only history behind this experience is my own. When I was a kid, my dad taught me to waterski, and I joined him and my mom for an annual vacation of skiing every day. Fast forward 30 years. To celebrate our 50th birthdays, some of my high school buddies and I gathered at a lake house, where we had access to a boat and skis. I had to give it a try. I’m glad I did because I had a good slalom run. Talk about a moving experience! This one brought back memories I had forgotten I had. I’d like to do it again, but I don’t think I’ll wait 30 years this time.
Willis Tower Climb
November 6, 2016
As part of a fundraiser, Will and his buddy Kegan joined me for a race up the stairs of the Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago. Thanks to the training that we had done over the past several weeks, we all made it to the top without too much trouble. I finished the 103 flights in 24:24, finishing in top 12 percent of the 2184 contestants. Will finished in about 44 minutes. I gave him a sweaty hug at the top. I treasure this picture of us on the 103rd story after we completed this father-son milestone.