Champion returns after long battle with addiction

runner-addictionFormer Saskatchewan Marathon champion Tarrant Crosschild woke up in hospital after trying to hang himself, and was about to leave and try again.

It was April 21, 2014, but now seems like a lifetime ago, he said. With the unwavering love of his wife, Celeste, and a 12-month exile to a residential rehab program, Crosschild has overcome a nearly decade-long alcohol and gambling addiction. His love for running has returned and he plans to toe the line at the Saskatchewan Marathon Sunday to celebrate the start of his new life.

“It just seemed suitable to gear up several years – and several stories – later,” he said.”

A 21-year-old Crosschild entered the 1998 Saskatchewan Marathon a week before on a whim. The gun sounded and he jogged at a leisurely pace, chatting with fellow runners. He passed the halfway point well back of the leaders, which included former champion and provincial record holder Jim Jasieniuk. Then a light went on in his head. He realized his legs weren’t hurting. His lungs weren’t burning. He decided to go for it.

“I was getting scared when I started catching up to people. I thought, ‘Should I be here?’ ” he said in an interview shortly after the race.

He ran the second half a full six minutes faster than the first and won comfortably. Most observers believed Crosschild had the potential to run even faster. But he never did.

Life was good for a while. He met Celeste, a top marathon runner herself. They had the first of four kids, and his tiling company had more work than he could accept.

But after work, he began to head to the bar with increasing regularity. Then he discovered the lure of VLTs and the casino. He was able to balance heavy drinking and gambling with work for a while, but running no longer mattered.

Eventually, his addictions caused the business to fail. In the period leading to his suicide attempt, he’d drink all night at the bar or alone in the basement. Crosschild would pass out or hide in the morning when the kids woke up for school.

Celeste would get the kids ready and then head to work herself. He’d drink all day and then head out at night, repeating the cycle.

“If I didn’t drink 30 beer, it wasn’t a normal day,” he recalled.

Crosschild’s most painful memories of the period are of his children begging him to come to their soccer and hockey games or guitar lessons.

He loved Celeste and the kids, but several times told Celeste to leave him. She refused.

“My wonderful wife has stuck with me all these years. She’s been so supportive – my best friend,” he said. “She knew the real person I truly was and am.”

Celeste said it was difficult to hold her family together and to watch her husband trapped in his addictions. She always held out hope. “When you love someone … I signed on for good times and bad,” she said.

At that time, though, Crosschild was so ashamed of what he’d become and what he’d forced his wife and kids to endure. He decided to end his life.

He tried to hang himself. When that didn’t work, he swallowed handfuls of extra strength painkillers and washed them down with alcohol. Read more…

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