Imagine finishing a marathon and realizing it was the start of a new journey.
For Tarrant Cross Child, who is a member of the Blood Tribe First Nation in Southern Alberta (Treaty Seven), which is a member tribe of The Blackfoot Confederacy, the journey of hope and restoration began in 2015 at the Saskatchewan Marathon.
Running isn’t a new sport to Tarrant, whose name has Welsh roots and means “Thunder.” He remembers helping round up the horses during his childhood at his grandfather’s house in Blood Tribe Nation, Alberta, which meant a fair bit of running. It was then he discovered his passion. His late grandfather, Dan Weasel Moccasin, took him to buy a pair of running shoes and Tarrant chose a pair of fast blue shoes. The day came for him to compete and as the speaker announced the 10-year-olds to marshal for their heat, Tarrant froze. The 12-year old and under were next and but his shyness got the best of him, and it wasn’t until the heat for the 16-year-old age category was announced that he would look down at his fast blue shoes and the shame of not competing out weighed his bashfulness, that he got himself to the start line—only to finish dead last.
Fast forward to 1998 and Tarrant wins the Saskatchewan Marathon with a time of 2:45. At the same race, Celeste, his fiancée at the time, also raced in the half marathon. The two would go on to start a business, buy a house and start a family together.
Perhaps it was the enormity of all the pressure from a new business and family, because around that same time the slippery slope to addiction would begin. It would spiral further in 2004 with the death of a nephew and three years later, with the death of his mother. In 2014, Tarrant would wake up in a hospital bed and on the verge of suicide, with last words to his children and wife in letters he had written explaining they would be better off without him.
But sometimes help appears in ways you don’t expect.
A nurse in the hospital where Tarrant was a patient, noticed he was considering Teen Challenge Saskatchewan Men’s Centre and had only praise to say about the Centre. It is a religious rehabilitation centre outside of Allan, Saskatchewan, (but has locations across Canada), that Celeste found, but was hesitant to recommend considering Tarrant’s opposition to faith-based institutions. On April 28th, 2014, with a renewed vow to faith, Tarrant would enter the doors of the Teen Challenge building and devote himself to a year-long programme. During that time, he and Celeste started journaling and recording the day-to-day events of their lives. Celeste, keeping the family afloat with their four children struggling with enough school supplies or going without hockey due to the fees and high cost of equipment, discovered her community rallying around them to cover the registration and all supplemental hockey costs.
Tarrant discovered the Centre was without physical boundaries and allowed for patients to wander on the vast grounds. He noticed a shed in the distance and remembered a moment during the time of addiction, that he yearned to race again. Remembering his love for running and receiving shoes gifted to him from a former running partner and owner of Brainsport in Saskatoon, Brian Michasiw, he would kick start his commitment to recovery through running. He was allowed to go the distance of the shed. The ability to reach the shed with a run/walk was his first goal. He then asked permission to go beyond the shed, as going beyond was considered leaving the programme, to increase the distance to reach a farmer’s turn off. And like the land around him, Tarrant would witness growth and bounty. From the time farmers laid down seed, to the first shoots breaking ground, elongating into stalks that would rustle in wind as he ran by, to the harvest in the autumn: Tarrant had grown. Eventually, he made it to the town turn off and then to a track in the town. Seven journals onward, on May 4th, 2015, Tarrant would leave Teen Challenge, and would complete the Saskatchewan Marathon 27 days later in a time of 3:15:28.
Tarrant’s Blackfoot traditional name was given to him by his grandfather. Itsiniitohpii (pronounced Ee-son-ee-doo-bee) means “Messenger,” and if the name could foreshadow Tarrant’s next endeavour, the name fits like a glove. Tarrant and Celeste started Child of the Cross Running Clinics, which was rebranded Prairie Run Crew, and has reached thousands of Indigenous youth and non-indigenous youth. His underlying message of hope and restoration by encouraging a healthy lifestyle through running and making positive choices started with two people and has reached thousands across Canada, namely in Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. In September of 2018, Prairie Run Crew travelled to Riverside Indian School in Oklahoma, USA.
Tarrant endeavours to fulfill call to action #89 in the Truth and Reconciliation Report that: “Calls upon the Federal Government to amend the Physical Activity and Sport Act to support reconciliation by ensuring that policies to promote physical activity as a fundamental element of health and well-being, reduce barriers to sports participation, increase the pursuit of excellence in sport, and build capacity in the Canadian sport system, are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples.”
With the help of New Balance Canada, a company that strives to empower people through sport and craftsmanship to create positive change in communities around the world, Prairie Run Crew reduces barriers and access to events by hosting races in remote communities. What started with a simple finisher’s banner at a school run, has snowballed into full-fledged race barriers and arches, sound systems, generators and a trailer that were either donated or funded by businesses. New Balance has also provided several thousand pairs of shoes to the programme. As a New Balance sponsored athlete, and as suggested by Lynn Bourque of Toronto running retailer The Runners Shop, Tarrant raced on Toronto Centre Island at the 40th anniversary Longboat Toronto Island event and shared his story at two Toronto District School Board schools.
In seven years, with two years in a pandemic that included lockdown mandates, Tarrant Cross Child restarted his business Prairie Flooring Ltd., after overcoming his addiction to alcohol and gambling, has continued to race, become a New Balance-sponsored athlete and established a successful outreach youth programme. The pressure can be enormous, but his journey has taught him to set boundaries to manage stress. He also credits having a close knit and small group of people who love and support him and has a renewed sense of faith. He rejoices in the success of his wife and children at their sports. His daughter Jaira, now also accompanies Tarrant to speak to youth about the peaks and valleys of her life. She shares her father’s passion for an active lifestyle and in her own right, is an accomplished athlete on the track in the middle-distance. Currently she studies Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan.
You can follow him on Instagram @tarrantcrosschild