On the summer solstice, most people sit around a bonfire or admire the evening sky from their backyard – but Peter Celler isn’t your average person. The mechanical engineer and father of three from North Vancouver spent an entire night running from sunset to sunrise in support of women leaving gender-based violence.
His 90-kilometre run from Vancouver’s Sunset Beach to Rotary Stadium in Abbotsford took just over nine hours to complete. The mega-marathon also successfully raised $14,710 for Shelter Movers Vancouver, a volunteer-powered charitable organization that provides free moving and storage services to families experiencing violence at home.
The endurance athlete first got the idea for Run Through Night while chatting with his friend Brian Vidler, the chapter director of Shelter Movers Vancouver. “I thought of the parallels between running through the night and the struggles of people fleeing domestic abuse and thought that was symbolic,” says Peter, referring to the distressing experience where women leave their abuser in the dead of night.
The fundraiser was originally envisioned as a group event however, the ongoing pandemic forced Peter to rethink his plans. He decided to do the run solo and began preparing for it by jogging most mornings, clocking 1,300 kilometres leading up to the event.
His training enabled him to reach Abbotsford in great time, but the journey wasn’t always smooth sailing. “Right from the get-go, I could tell something wasn’t sitting right in my stomach,” recalls Peter. Despite not feeling the best physically, he pushed on and began to feel better about halfway through the run. When asked about his favourite part of the night, Peter says passing through Colony Farm was a big highlight. “It was perfectly still and dark,” says Peter. “You could see the hills of Coquitlam and the clouds were sitting low; it was just a gorgeous moment.”
He also says the support he received every step of the way was incredible. Friends and family operated aid stations, drove safety cars and accompanied him by bike and foot. There were also people cheering him on at the start and finish. “It was super moving how much everybody else put into it,” says Peter. “I ran from point A to point B, but there was so much work done by other people to get me [to the end] and that was awesome.”
Through his efforts, Peter raised an astounding $14,710 for Shelter Movers Vancouver. With each move costing about $200, Peter’s fundraiser will enable Shelter Movers Vancouver to complete at least 73 moves, helping countless families in the Lower Mainland transition to a life free of violence.
Support like this is needed now more than ever as COVID-19 has led to a rise in violence against women in British Columbia and across the country. Calls to the Battered Women’s Support Services helpline have spiked 400 per cent during stay-at-home measures. Eleven women have also been killed by their partners in Canada since the start of the pandemic. While social isolation keeps most people safe, it’s especially dangerous for women in abusive relationships as physical distancing shatters support networks and gives abusers more control at home.
Peter’s initial goal was to raise $1,600 and was shocked when he reached that amount almost immediately. He increased the goal to $8,000 and managed to pass that too with more than two weeks left to go until Run Through Night. Through this experience, Peter says he’s witnessed the power of a good community and emphasizes that he couldn’t have done this without his family, friends, volunteers, and kind strangers who donated to the cause. “It’s very easy to look at this event and say ‘oh look, that guy ran 90 kilometres’, but there’s a lot of other people in the background doing a lot of things to make this possible.”