Victoria-based adventure seekers run 135 km in support of Power To Be

Under the canopy of trees and along trails that weave through the landscape of Vancouver Island, Chris Mackey and Heather Wirachowsky run.

They run a lot actually. From the Juan de Fuca Trail to Mt. H’Kusam and countless trails in between, the Victoria-based couple are training for their biggest adventure yet. On Dec. 3, they fly to South Africa to run the Ultra-Trail Cape Town – a 100 kilometre race for Chris and a 35-km race for Heather.

Chris is an established runner; from road races to trail runs he is constantly looking for opportunities to increase the distance he propels himself. Heather will be the first to tell you she is new to the sport (having started about two years ago), and a little apprehensive about the distance. When they initially signed up for the race more than a year ago, her route was 20 km. After committing to the adventure, the route was extended to 35 km. Not one to back down from a challenge, Heather kept training.

“I run because I find it extremely challenging. I want to get better and develop more skills – and get faster,” she says. “In such a busy life – we have full-time jobs where we are not out in nature – it’s a really good way to take some time away from that and be outside.”

Chris echoes that sentiment.

“I run for adventure,” he says. “The freedom and adventure. Running gets you out into the wilderness and places you might not otherwise find.”

They train together and alone, always looking for elevation gains and varied terrain to prepare themselves for what they will find in Cape Town. They run repeat routes on local hills and link trails together to create the distance they need. Knowing that recovery time is key, they train between one to three times a week.

“I really like Mt. Doug,” Chris says. “If you do the outside perimeter it is a good five km and the terrain changes quite a bit. And it’s in our backyard.”

Through their own initiative, the pair is using the experience as an opportunity to raise money for Power To Be. They see parallels between the challenge ahead of them and the program opportunities Power To Be offers for people who might not otherwise be able to explore in nature. They have personal connections to the cause as well.

“I went to a wilderness school in Grade 8 and I got a lot of benefit from being introduced to the outdoors. I see similarities in what Power To Be does and it is exciting for me to give back,” Chris says.

“I really love being outside and that is somewhat new for me,” Heather adds. “I realized it recently when I hurt my ankle and I was unable to train. It made me realize how different life is when you can’t be outdoors. Everyone should have the chance to be able to be outside because everyone gets something different from being in nature.”

As long distance runners, they know the value of setting big goals. After they passed their initial fundraising goal of $1,500, they upped it to $3,000. Poised to meet that target as well, they have found the support and feedback from their community uplifting.

“People really like Power To Be because it’s so local and they can see where their money goes,” Heather says. “For us, we have experiences like this race available to us and we want opportunities to be available to others. We want them to be able to challenge themselves through activities they want to do – to prove that anything is possible.”

“I hear people say, ‘I could never do that,’ but you just have to want to do it. It’s hugely a mental thing,” Chris adds.

Heather knows that all too well.

“Two years ago, I said, ‘I could never run’ and I enjoy it now,” she says. “We are so lucky to have what we have and be able to do these things. We want that for other people.”

Get out there – Adventure recommendations from Chris and Heather

His suggestions...
Her suggestions...
  • Mt. H’Kasam, Sayward – “It is the most challenging mountain I’ve climbed to date. In the first seven km of ‘Bill’s Trail,’ you climb nearly 1,500 metres.”
  • Snowden Demonstration Forest, Campbell River – “This network of mountain bike trails is great to explore. There are so many different routes to take, and each time you run, bike, or hike there you are sure to find a new trail!”
  • Jocelyn Hill, Gowlland Todd Provincial Park – “It’s quite steep but the view is unreal. You are rewarded for the challenge.”