In April, Agassiz’s Marina Striker climbed Mount Everest four times. Last year, she climbed the mountain’s 8,848 metres 27 times.
Of course, she has no desire to actually make those journeys on the iconic mountain itself.
“It doesn’t interest me to travel to places like Everest or Kilimanjaro,” she said, sitting in the backyard of her Agassiz home. “As awesome as it is, there’s so much to enjoy locally. Like, it’s endless.
“There’s so much to enjoy. And there’s so many trails.”
Striker is a trail runner, someone who not only hikes local trails but races them. A member of the Abbotsford Trail Running Group, she trains to compete in races in Manning Park, North Vancouver and even Whistler.
“I just like the challenge,” the 47-year-old said. “I love the outdoors, and there’s something about being out in the mountains. It’s almost like therapy.”
“But at the same time, when I’m out there trail running …, I like the intensity of the trail,” she added. “When you’re out there running the uphills and the downhills, there’s something about the intensity that after you’re done you just feel calmness.”
The competitive edge of trail running is one of the things that keeps Striker involved in the sport — “I’ve got a taste of competitive. I’ve got an edge of it,” she said — but it’s also the beauty that’s all around the Fraser Valley.
During an orientation trail run in Manning Park, Striker said she was one of the first at the top of the hill.
“I literally had tears in my eyes,” she said. “I was just so overwhelmed with beauty.”
Striker’s trail running passion began on the road several years earlier.
When her four kids were still in school, Striker would get up early — around 4:30 in the morning — to run on the countryside roads in Agassiz. Eventually, she tried a half-marathon. Then a full marathon.
Bored of the roads, she found a friend through Facebook to begin experiencing the local backwoods. That evolved into joining the Abbotsford group and running with a group of intermediate trail runners.
There was only one problem.
“Once I was running with the club, I was like ‘Why am I always in front?’” Striker said. “‘I think I’m a little bit more advanced.’”
Striker moved up to the advanced group, and in 2017 decided to get a taste of a real trail race.
“I got a real taste of racing and the competitiveness of it, and it was like, wow,” she said.
That year, Striker did three trail races: a 10-kilometre race in Golden Ears, a 55-kilometre race in Whistler and a 50-kilometre race in Manning Park, called the Frosty 50.
In the Frosty 50, Striker was the first female finisher. From there, she was hooked.
The following year, Striker decided to “step it up a notch,” as she put it, doing six 50-kilometre races over the course of the year.
The races were anything but easy.
In a race on the North Shore, “I fell 17-kilometres from the finish, smashed my knee really bad,” she said. “You tumble the odd time, but you keep moving along.
“The trick is to keep moving,” she added. “If it seizes or stiffens up a bit, you just keep moving, suck it up.”
Now, in 2019, Striker is stepping it up again, this time doing approximately 100-kilometre races. Just this past weekend, Striker travelled down to the United States to compete in a 50-mile race (about 80-kilometres) on Orcas Island, coming in first for the female runners.
In August, Striker is considering stepping it up once again, possibly doing a 200-kilometre race around Manning Park.
“We’ll see how things go,” she said, referring to her 100-kilometre race she still has to do around Vancouver’s North Shore. “I strongly feel that to move up in distance, you don’t just move up overnight.”
“It’s really critical to train within your capacity and within your endurance, providing you’re properly fueled and all that good stuff, to move up slowly.”