Josh Horan, left, a member of Windsor, Ontario, Local 773, had the support of his family and his fellow IBEW members on his first-time quest to run the 20 miles between his home in Belle River and Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge.

Josh Horan had never in his life run anything close to a marathon. But the physically active Windsor, Ontario, Local 773 member felt so compelled to do something to fight the worldwide spread of COVID-19 that he recently challenged himself to train in only three weeks for a long-distance solo run, and to turn the effort into a fundraiser to help buy personal protective equipment for health care providers.

Windsor, Ontario, Local 773’s Josh Horan recently challenged himself to run a near-marathon distance — something he had never done before — to raise money for a local hospital foundation.

“I was joking with my wife one day while we were taking a walk in our neighborhood, and I suddenly had the feeling like I could just run to the Ambassador Bridge,” Horan said. The privately owned international connection between Windsor and Detroit is about 20 miles away from Horan’s home in Belle River, just a few miles shy of a marathon’s 26.2 miles.

“The most I’d ever run was maybe a mile or mile-and-a-half,” he said.

Horan is a Red Seal-certified electrician who likes to stay busy professionally as well as personally. His résumé includes a range of residential and commercial projects, and before COVID-19, he was even helping to revitalize Local 773’s political action efforts.

But a lot of job opportunities for IBEW members, Horan included, have stalled during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

He’s tried to remain physically fit in his down time by working out and running. He also goes on regular, local walks with his wife, Jessica.

After that one inspirational stroll near the two-lane bridge over the Belle River where it empties into Lake St. Clair, Horan sat down and planned out what became the “Bridge to Bridge” run. He set a GoFundMe goal to raise at least CA$10,000 to buy protective masks, gloves and other supplies for the Windsor Regional Hospital Foundation. And he marked May 1 as the run’s date, three ambitious weeks away.

A triathlete friend helped Horan develop a training plan, and the electrician managed to get in eight miles on one of his last training sprints before Run Day.

“I learned a lot about running — about form, training and discipline,” he said.

As ready as he ever would be, at 9 o’clock that Friday morning Horan set out west from Belle River and toward the Detroit skyline, one of his favorite sights.

His route to Windsor kept him on sidewalks and less-traveled roadways along the Lake St. Clair and Detroit River shorelines.

He ran non-stop for the first half of the course before switching to intervals of running and walking, keeping safely socially distant from pedestrians along the way so he could run without wearing a mask and breathe more freely. “The weather cooperated,” he said. “It was a beautiful day. I couldn’t have asked for better.”

A fellow Local 773 member, Glenn Marshall, drove a support vehicle bearing an IBEW banner and magnet, while other friends and family members provided encouragement along the course, along with water and energy-boosting snacks.

Inspired by Horan’s effort, Marshall’s hockey-enthusiast 14-year-old son, Jayden, raised money for the cause by practicing his shooting and stick-handling skills in the family’s driveway while the electrician ran.

A fellow Ontarian whose wife works in health care heard about Horan’s run and decided to support the IBEW member by running the route from the opposite direction. “We crossed paths somewhere around the halfway point and exchanged a mutual peace sign,” Horan said.

Horan had estimated it would take him five hours to reach the Ambassador Bridge, but he only needed four. “I surprised myself,” he said. “It went off without a hitch.” Friends and family were waiting for him at the finish line, watching as he reached through a fence to physically touch one of the span’s support columns.

Since then, several other people have also made the Bridge to Bridge fundraising run, with some even turning around and running back to Belle River.

“I’m happy to see that the positivity is contagious and the support from strangers that I now consider friends,” he said.

Horan would like to see the event become an annual fundraiser for issues such as mental health or homelessness.

“It was never about one person,” he said. “It’s been about our community, since Day 1. It’s great to see the community pull together.”

Horan announced on his GoFundMe page that he had officially reached his “Bridge to Bridge” fundraising goal of CA$10,000 on June 27.