Back in Ottawa after completing last week’s 160-kilometre Nijmegen Marches, Prince Albert MP said that the event signals the beginning of a healthier lifestyle.
“If I get asked to do it again I’d be happy to do it again,” he said.
“I’m still setting goals of working out and living the healthy lifestyle … It feels so much better, and I actually enjoy running, now.”
Hoback began training for the marches in February, after learning that he’d been invited as one of seven non-military Canadian VIPs to take part in the marches — an event that sees about 40,000 people from 50 nations participate in marches around Nijmegen, in the Netherlands.
“I think all of us want to get to a healthier lifestyle and get to a situation where you want to go out for a walk you’re healthy enough to go out for a walk, and that’s kind of what I was being faced with,” Hoback explained.
“I hit 265 pounds, I had high blood pressure and just wasn’t healthy and it just wasn’t sustainable. I was gaining 10 to 15 pounds a year being here in Ottawa and I said no, this has to stop.”
Hoback has since shed 80 pounds.
Despite having only completed the Nijmegen Marches last week, he’s already back in action, clocking in lengthy walks around Ottawa and scheduling runs during events in Arborfield, Sk., and Ottawa.
Everyone has his or her own reasons and means of remaining healthy, and this, Hoback said, seems to be working for him.
An emotional trip
Hoback’s participation in the Nijmegen Marches was a challenging one, physically and emotionally.
“It’s been quite a week, probably one of the more challenging things I’ve ever done in my life, when you look at the combination of physical (challenges) and emotional as well as the lack of sleep that was involved in what we were doing out there,” Hoback said.
The emotional challenges came as a result of various reminders of past Canadians’ bravery fighting overseas — first signaled by a service at Vimy Ridge and later a visit to the Groesbeek Canadian War Memorial.
“Vimy Ridge is something I encourage any Canadian … to stop by and visit,” Hoback said.
“You can’t describe it through words or pictures, you have to go see it and listen to what those guys experienced in being at Vimy Ridge.”
Throughout the marches, the Dutch people served as a constant reminder of everything Canadians did during the world wars.
“The Dutch have so much respect for the people that are buried there. The meticulous way they keep the grounds there is first class,” Hoback said.
“The grass is perfectly green, perfectly mowed, the tomb stones — all of them are straight and in perfect order.
“You know that the people of the Netherlands have a lot of respect for the Canadians that died there.”
Throughout the four-day march, the Dutch people lined the 160 kilometres of road, cheering participants every step of the way.
“It just picks you up. It’s like going to a hockey game and people are cheering you on, helping you keep going on — that’s what it did for us,” Hoback said.
Physically exhausting marches
It’s been quite a week, probably one of the more challenging things I’ve ever done in my life, when you look at the combination of physical (challenges) and emotional as well as the lack of sleep that was involved in what we were doing out there. - Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback
Receiving the true military experience, Hoback spent his time in Nijmegen bunked up with eight other men.
“It was like something you’ve seen in (the television show) MASH,” he said.
“Basically, you had your bunks — there were eight of us in one room, we had a mess hall, we had an outdoor latrine, outdoor showers … a full military experience.
“That was quite the experience, to see how they live when they’re being stationed abroad.”
Soldiers and VIP participants woke up at 3 a.m. the first day, beginning their daylong march at 5 a.m.
“Pretty well every day we were going in to see medics after the march to make sure you’re not getting any infections or your feet were swelling or nothing silly was going on,” Hoback said, noting that he had blisters on his feet after the first day.
Beginning the marches with about six hours of sleep, participants were eased into less and less sleep, with the final day of marches beginning with a 1 a.m. wake-up call.
Encouragement came not only by the Dutch people but also those back at home, Facebooking and Tweeting support for Hoback during the event.
“Boy, I have some great constituents and I got some really, really nice emails and words of encouragement on Facebook and Twitter, so I just want to thank them for that,” Hoback said.
Hoback’s busy summer
In addition to taking part in a couple runs and keeping up with his healthy lifestyle, Hoback’s summer is dotted with plenty of work as both MP and as president of ParlAmericas — an independent network of national legislatures of 35 states from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
“I know a lot of people say we get the summers off, but I don’t know when I’m going to get time off,” Hoback said, adding that he’ll find a couple pockets of time to sneak off to the lake.
“The days are starting to fill in very quickly, so that’s fine. I like being busy.”
A portion of his time will be spent preparing for his September return to the House of Commons.
“We want to get together with all the mayors, reeves and councillors throughout the riding before we go back in September, just to get a lay of the land and make sure we’re on the same page,” he said, adding that area MLAs will also be contacted.
The first item on the agenda in September will be free trade agreements the Tories plan to see get through, as well as pre-budget discussions on the finance committee, which Hoback sits on.
“The focus is still on the economy and jobs, even though it sounds silly to the Saskatchewan people,” Hoback said.
“We’re concerned with what’s going on in Europe. We still are not comfortable that they haven’t taken the necessary measures to deal with it, so we’re doing what we have to do to make sure Canada is based in a solid foundation, not just for this year but the next five to 10.”