On May 29, Tim Mackness crossed the finish line of the Oak Bay half-marathon in a time of one hour, 52 minutes and 14 seconds.
The father of three and friend to many in Victoria’s running community was planning to run 60 kilometres on Dec. 8 to celebrate his 60th birthday.
But the demons he struggled with caught up to him, again. On Sept. 20, Mackness, who struggled with alcohol addiction, walked away from Royal Jubilee Hospital in his hospital gown. His body was found just off the Lochside Trail in Saanich, near Quadra Street and McKenzie Avenue, on Oct. 6.
His grieving children, Lana, Leah and Tim, want him to be remembered as much more than the “high-risk, missing man” named in police alerts.
“My father had his demons but he did really great things,” said Tim. “It was difficult, but I always loved being around him. We always loved him.”
Mackness was educated, intelligent and devoted to his Christian faith, said Tim.
“He loved his family and I believe he did the best for his kids and to provide for his family in the best way he could with what he was given. I assume he lost his way. He passed away and wasn’t able to make it back.”
Tim feels peace now knowing his father is at rest.
“There are no more questions and you know he’s OK. There was just so much unrest at the end of his life. The back and forth, the treatment and the training for marathons.”
Mackness had a difficult early life. He was devastated by the death of his mother when he was just 14 and had no one to turn to for support. He started drinking in 1981 when he went to the University of Victoria. He didn’t know what he wanted to do and lacked direction. Eventually he moved to Campbell River, got married and became a father. He turned to alcohol when he and his wife got divorced in 1995. In the years that followed, Mackness cycled in and out of detox.
Tim, now 30, bore witness to this and began to struggle himself.
“I had pain. I felt abandoned and sought approval. The person I was looking for was my Dad. I felt zeroed out by him because of what he needed to do for his life and his children,” said Tim, who has been sober for four-and-a-half-years.
In 2010, Mackness joined Every Step Counts, a running program for street people with mental health and addictions problems. On his 50th birthday in 2012, to celebrate being sober for a year, he ran a marathon around Victoria, cheered on by his running group.
He was doing well. He was a role model, a volunteer and had reconnected with his daughter, said Gillie Easdon, coordinator of the program.
“I feel a profound grief that he is no longer here,” Easdon said. “There was a real kindness about him despite his childhood trauma. He was really sincere and genuine but he was always hard on himself.”
His tenacity and determination to keep trying was remarkable and many people were deeply moved by the success of his 50th birthday marathon.
“So many of us were raised on fairy tales and happily ever after, but it’s not how lives really exist. We lost a number of really great individuals who were members of Every Step Counts. It’s always a bit of a surprise.”
Rob Reid, owner of Frontrunners and an Every Step Counts volunteer, spent a lot of time over the years with Mackness, running and volunteering. On Sept. 2, he saw Mackness walking across Fort Street at Richmond Road in a hospital gown.
“He was coming out of the pharmacy with a hand sanitizer he grabbed off the shelf. He was trying to do some harm. It was a sad meet-up,” said Reid.
Tim always held out hope his father would get better. Mackness made an impact on a lot of people. Lana’s partner, Terry Roberts, was “moved” by the few encounters he had with him, said Tim.
“The biggest thing about him was not a goal-oriented achievement, like running a three-and-a-half-hour marathon. It was more about how he engaged with people. He was kind and compassionate and caring and he was loving and devoted.”
The family is trying to raise $10,000 for funeral expenses through online site GoFundMe (search for Timothy James Mackness). Close to $7,000 has already been raised. A run will be held in Mackness’s memory at a later date.