Zach Wilks has run every single street in the City of Guelph, ahead of running a marathon in September
There are 1,063 streets, measuring more than 580 kilometers in the City of Guelph.
Zach Wilks has conquered them all.
The lifelong resident took his sense of adventure and curiosity – “There’s entire areas of Guelph I’ve never even seen,” he said – and ran on every single street in the city.
“When I was a young teen, my good friend and I had this dream. Back then, we were going to bike all of the streets of Guelph,” he told GuelphToday. “Course back then, GPS was in its infancy. But we were looking at doing it on maps, pulling out the map, crossing them off as we went along.
“It, of course, never happened. I think we got one bike ride in and that was it. But it always kind of stuck with me as something I would like to do.”
Fast forward a number of years, and the 33-year-old was getting into running again and needed something tangible to keep him motivated.
And when he came upon a website called CityStrides on a sub-reddit forum, those dreams manifested into a plan to accomplish what he and his friend dreamed about biking all those years ago.
Wilks started the quest on New Year’s Day 2022, and went on some “cold, icy runs,” and gave himself a couple years to finish off every street.
Then a couple months later, he put another target in front of him: running a marathon.
Wilks is heading to run the Georgina Marathon in September.
“Once the training for that started, it really happened quickly,” he said. “I think I actually did over half of it within June and July cause it was just a bunch of running 75, 80 kilometers a week.”
He also had support from his wife Jennifer, who would drive him to different spots in the city to begin runs, and pick him up at the end of them in another area.
“It became a family project for us,” he said, adding training for a marathon can be a two-person venture, especially as parents.
And after accomplishing such a feat, Wilks said the celebration was on.
“We kind of planned it to end close to a restaurant that we both liked,” he said. “And we went out for pizza and beer after.”
One of the things that stuck with him looking back was being able to see all the diverse neighborhoods Guelph has to offer.
“There’s so many areas that I hadn’t seen, but you sort of in some ways travel through time,” he said.
“You go through the downtown area and you see houses built 120 years ago and you go to new subdivisions, and in some cases for me, subdivisions that don’t even have houses yet.”
And the best part of it all for Wilks? Being able to see so many smiles and people waving to say hello.
“You never know what you’ll encounter,” he said. “But I found it cool that I had zero negative experiences with people, or anything like that. Everyone was just really friendly.”
As for what comes next, there is of course the marathon but he’s already hypothesizing what comes after.
“I got a good friend in Fergus that is sort of thinking of doing the same thing. We kind of started joking that Center Wellington would be next,” Wilks said.
He also referenced someone running the state of Rhode Island, and how challenging and time consuming running all of Ontario would be, including route planning and actually hitting the ground running.
But he’s thinking smaller steps.
“I would love to see more of the surrounding areas,” Wilks said. “I even thought of trying to knock off all of the trails in Guelph. That might be something to attack next.
“For now, I’m just trying to get my tired body over the finish line in September.”