Troy Harkness has run Saskatoon one street at a time

Troy Harkness loves projects.

So when a string of injuries in early 2016 made training for a spring marathon impossible he settled on another goal: Run every street, side street and alley in Saskatoon.

“I had to come up with something to motivate myself,” recalls Harkness, who works as a professor of biochemistry, microbiology and immunology at the University of Saskatchewan. “And I said: I’ll map this city.”

Now, more than four years later, Harkness has done exactly that — and has the Strava art to prove it. He estimates he’s logged nearly 3,000 kilometres in pursuit of his goal.

Harkness, 54, lives in Lawson Heights and did his first runs in that neighbourhood before spreading south. His first runs were fairly “ad hoc,” but he soon began spending a great deal of time pouring over maps before lacing up to ensure he was hitting as much unique pavement as possible. He did his early runs from his home, but as he mapped more of the city he had to drive farther afield to do his runs.

Harkness runs year round about four or five days a week, averaging about 50 kilometers per week. He typically runs for one to two hours on any given outing and will sometimes cover as much as 20 kilometers in one go.

“It’s surprising how little area 20 kilometres will cover when you’re doing the streets and alleys and everything,” he says.

Troy Harkness on a run in Manitou Beach.

Harkness has mapped from Saskatoon as far north as Martensville and as far south as Pike Lake. He’s run the grid roads almost as far west as Vanscoy and has run as far east as Clavet.

Harkness says the least enjoyable area to map was the North Industrial neighbourhood. The most enjoyable have been old neighbourhoods such as Nutana, which have wide boulevards, big trees and old houses. He also enjoyed running though avenues A through Y, which he says are always busy and make for good people watching.

The last four years have not been without some hiccups, including one time when a police officer called his wife because someone had reported that his car appeared to be abandoned on a grid road, where Harkness had parked before going for a run. Another time, Harkness was trying to map a road in the CN Rail Yards when a police officer came up to him and told him he couldn’t run there because it was private property. When Harkness showed the officer the map on his phone and explained what he was trying to do, the officer offered to drive slowly over the road so Harkness could still map it. (Though Harkness rode with the officer, he did not upload the ride to his Strava map).

Now that he’s mapped Saskatoon, Harkness has no plans to stop running. As a Type 1 diabetic, running is his way of staying healthy and he plans to keep his motivation to stay moving by expanding his map further. He’s close to mapping all of Warman and his daughter rides at a stable near Pike Lake, which means he’s been logging lots of miles around there recently.

“One guy asked if I’d map Saskatchewan now and I said sure,” Harkness says with a laugh.