A Chilliwack endurance runner who lost all of her toenails in a 100-kilometre marathon fundraiser last year is getting ready to run the same distance next month.
Kalyn Head will be doing a run on her birthday (July 23) for the third year in a row to raise funds for charity, and this year’s run will benefit Special Olympics B.C.
It seemed fitting since she’s been a coach with Special Olympics for the past six years.
“I wanted to do another run that benefitted our community,” Head said. “I decided Special Olympics because we reconnected with all the athletes (during the pandemic) and I realized their mental and physical health had declined quite a bit because they didn’t have opportunities to be active and they’re so social.”
Last year’s fundraiser benefitted Chilliwack Community Services where she brought in more than $6,000. It was also the first time she had ever run 100 kilometres – and it did not go as well as she had hoped.
“Running 100 kilometres last year was really tough mentally and physically,” she said. “I finished, but it was really hard and I made a lot of big mistakes. I didn’t prepare as well as I should have.”
She lost all of her toenails and ran/walked the last 20 kilometres in her socks. During the six months it took for her toenails to grow back, she reached out to local ultramarathon runners, spoke with dieticians, and bought new shoes and socks for this year’s run.
She’s been training alongside Jayden Lee, another Chilliwackian who himself will be running 107 kilometres to BC Children’s Hospital also as a fundraiser. They’ve been doing their long runs together and they’re both planning on biking each other’s routes on the day of.
“I’ve really upped my training a lot this year so my mileage is a lot higher,” Head said. “I feel better about it this year.”
Last year her goal was to raise $500. Since she far surpassed that goal by raising more than $6,000, this year’s goal is set at $10,000. As of June 18, more than $5,000 had been raised.
In addition to raising funds, she wants to raise awareness for Special Olympics B.C. and is hoping her run advocates for the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.
“I think the resources available for children and adults with disabilities are so limited but Special Olympics does such a great job giving all the athletes an opportunity to live social and active lives by meeting each athlete at their ability and making sure that everyone can succeed.”
During her six years with Special Olympics B.C., Head has coached basketball, hockey, soccer, baseball, track and field, swimming and club fit to athletes in Chilliwack and Abbotsford. During the pandemic she started a virtual program called Fit Family and Friends.
“This fundraiser has been a lot of fun because I can showcase all of my athletes and their unique personalities. I love being able to show that having an intellectual disability shouldn’t hold anyone back from following their dreams and being included.”
Last year’s route was “a little bit repetitive” as she ran 10 10-kilometre loops around Fairfield, so this year she’ll be running a 50-kilometre loop around Chilliwack and then running to Abbotsford to finish at Rotary Stadium.
She’ll be starting her 100-kilometre run on Friday, July 23 at midnight and is hoping to finish in about 12 hours.
Much like last year she wants to be surrounded by support as she steps over the finish line on July 23, and she said she’s hoping some of the athletes she coaches will be there to celebrate with her.
“The cool thing about pushing yourself is that the pain is temporary but the memories will last forever,” she said. “(Last year) my community came together for an great cause and I began to experience a new sense of gratitude for how incredible the human body is. I’m never going to forget how it felt to finally cross that finish line and be surrounded by so much love.”
Physiotherapist Victoria Renwick from Fusion Physio will also be joining her on July 23 and will supply first aid and snacks. And like last year, several friends will do a leg of the marathon with Head.
There’s one other person who will be there on July 23 – five-year-old Jenny Francis.
Head is Jenny’s nanny, and the little red-haired girl accompanies her on all of her weekday runs as she gets pushed in a jogging stroller.
“She’s a real trooper – probably the most valuable player on the team because she keeps me company.”
To donate to Kalyn Head’s 100-kilometre birthday marathon fundraiser for Special Olympics B.C., donate online at gofundme.com/f/kalyns-birthday-marathon-for-special-olympics-bc.
For more, check out her Instagram page.