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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Running for his life

Local Amazing Race Canada contestant faces a bigger challenge every day than the ones he tackled on reality show

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Yes, it was amazing. And challenging. And inspiring, at times frightening, consistently exhausting and, in the end, quite rewarding.

But for Winnipegger Tim Hague, 48, who competed in The Amazing Race Canada alongside 23-year-old son Tim Jr., the reality-TV competition was nothing compared to the real race he's in.

Hague, who was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease three years ago, is inclined to treat every day like a full-on sprint in order to make sure no opportunity is missed and no regrets are accumulated.

"Parkinson's is generally seen as an old man's disease, right?" says Hague, a native of Robstown, Texas, who moved to Winnipeg nearly 25 years ago after meeting his wife, Sheryl, at a Bible college in Kansas. "It's grandpa or the old guy who gets it; it's rarely a 30-something or a 40-something you think of when you think of Parkinson's.

"I know a couple of things: without a cure, this disease will win the war. It will. And I can deal with that. It's the day-to-day that you have to wrap your head around, and that factors well into The Amazing Race, because it's all about persistence and perseverance. You've got to stand up and face this thing every day and do what you've got to do... In the Race, as in life, you get up every morning, face the damned thing, and kick its ass.

"You have to. Because if you don't, not only will it win the war, it will also beat you down every day."

While his indomitable can-do spirit made him a perfect candidate for the Canadian version of The Amazing Race, it was actually wife Sheryl's faithful fan interest in the long-running CBS series that led to both Tims taking part in the show.

"She was a large part of the motivation," explains Hague, a registered nurse who works at St. Boniface General Hospital. "Quite frankly, I probably wouldn't have applied on my own... But she has watched every season of the show, and was very interested in her and I doing it together. But when we looked at the requirements -- they wanted a commitment of five weeks of your life, and the idea of leaving both of our jobs when we've got 15-year-old twins at home just wasn't practical -- she came back and said, 'You and Timothy are applying.'

 

"So we spent about a day-and-a-half putting the (audition) video together; I typed up an email and sent it and then forgot about it. I didn't hold out a whole lot of hope that we'd get called, but lo and behold, we did get a call, and the rest is history."

The Hagues are one of nine two-person teams competing in The Amazing Race Canada, which takes place fully within this country's borders and offers its winners a $250,000 cash prize, a pair of 2014 Corvette Stingrays and an opportunity to travel free for a year, first class, to anywhere Air Canada flies.

Hague says the fact he has made fitness a major part of his life during the past couple of decades played a big part in his being able to race despite his Parkinson's diagnosis.

"I'm very fortunate," Hague explains. "About 20 years ago, I started running and cycling. I've done one short triathlon, a full marathon and a bunch of half-marathons. And that has preserved my well-being; my neurologist tells me that every time I see him. Not only am in better shape than most people with Parkinson's, I'm in better shape than most people, period. And that is the reason I'm doing as well as I am.

"I'm not on any meds; I can do pretty much whatever I want. I can't run as fast as I used to, but that may have more to do with being closer to 50 than 20. I'm in great shape compared to most people, and it has been pointed out to me over and over that that is a result of 20 years of hard exercise."

That said, Hague admits that the disease was a consideration for him and Tim Jr. throughout their Amazing Race experience.

"It was a factor in the race, absolutely," he says. "I get tired; I get brutally tired -- that's the No. 1 thing I deal with. And when I get tired, it throws my emotions off and I can experience these huge emotional swings when I'm exhausted.

"So I knew going in that I had to stay rested, because it really wears me down. The fatigue gets worse, the stiffness gets worse, and I just can't function right. So we worked hard at making sure I got down time -- when we were down, we did nothing except rest and eat -- and we survived it."

Hague says he hopes his involvement in The Amazing Race Canada will raise awareness and funds for the fight against Parkinson's -- in addition to the weekly CTV series, their Race exploits will be highlighted on Facebook, Twitter (@timtimeARC) and YouTube.

"I'm also doing the Parkinson SuperWalk on Sept. 7, which is to raise money for research towards a cure," he adds, "so people can visit the website and support me."

Hague says Canadians should be proud, rather than concerned or skeptical, about CTV's decision to restrict the Canuck version of The Amazing Race to domestic destinations only.

"I grew up in the States; I've lived here for 24 years," he says. "Canadians need to get their heads around the fact that this is a phenomenal country. I guarantee you Canadians are going to be impressed by what they see; to think that we will spend upwards of 10 episodes showcasing this country is absolutely amazing in and of itself.

"We should be fundamentally proud that anybody would take the time to show off Canada like this. I don't care if their original reasons were budget or otherwise; this is a tribute to Canada that every Canadian should fully appreciate."

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2013 G1

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