Penticton local running 250k around Okanagan lake to raise money for eating disorder association

Running 250k around lake

A Penticton local is tackling a 250-kilometre run challenge around the entirety of Okanagan Lake to raise money for an organization close to her heart that fights eating disorders.

Rachel Kearney moved to Penticton over a year ago and hopes to use her marathon journey to help support people affected by eating disorders, something she’s faced herself.

“I'm going to do a run around Okanagan Lake, basically up West Side Road and past Vernon, up to Vernon, and then down the other side, the whole way around it,” Kearney said.

She plans to hit the ground running at the start of June, aiming for the fourth of June weekend.

“First, it started off as a mental test. I moved to Penticton last year and I wanted to do a race called "Marathon des Sables" in the Sahara Desert.”

But once COVID hit, it was clear plans to travel to compete in the desert marathon would not be possible anytime soon.

“So I thought I'll just do something similar with the same distance. I saw somebody has done this crazy run as well,” Kearney explained.

“I decided to do it to raise money for eating disorders because I grew up with one and I didn't have the support I wanted ... Even spreading my story has brought awareness to it, too.”

The young runner, who is a native of Ireland, has created a GoFundMe page to share her journey and collect donations to give to her charity of choice, the BodyWhys-Eating Disorders Association of Ireland, an organization back home she wishes she knew about during her struggle.

But it is also important to Kearney that this run doesn’t do harm to others.

“I also don't want to associate extreme exercise with eating disorders ... It could be triggering for people in that mindset and I don't know if it's what helped me, but if it's helped me, maybe it will help someone realize their relationship with food isn't too great and they'll go get help.”

Kearney explained that throughout her life, she felt lonely in her battle with bulimia and did not know where to turn for help.

“I guess I was just the average normal weight, so I was just looked at as not bad enough for an eating disorder to go get help,” she said.

“I think once I got into fitness, I [felt] I couldn't come out with my eating disorder because I'm a fitness person and I'm not supposed to be like that. It was super sad, I remember how lonely I felt.”

Kearney hit her lowest point after entering into a bodybuilding competition.

“It made it even worse ... My body image was so bad.”

But once Kearney was able to receive mental health support, she began to heal her relationship with her body and food.

“I started to get therapy and I thought, this is amazing, this is why I started to figure out things ... I'm trying to bring it in now where no food should be labeled as good or bad, everything in moderation.

“I think therapy and having a close inner circle is what really helped me. Running and exercising, I wouldn't put it as a way to fix my eating disorder. I just think getting outside clears my mind and helps a lot. “

Now that she has achieved the mental strength to help achieve her marathon goal, Kearney focused on training her body further to compete the race.

As a personal trainer with a long history of sports and running, she believes she has got a strong baseline to complete the run.

“I do have a coach, I'm not just going out on a whim here and hopefully doing it,” she said with a laugh.

Plans are for her to complete the race 50 kilometres at a time, with her boyfriend following along in a van and parking at certain check points for her to rest and recover between runs.

"I'm just going to keep going. I'm not going to have an overnight sleep, I'm just going to keep going, rest for an hour or two and keep going. That's the plan anyway.”

Kearney has been running four to five times a week with anywhere from two to five hour runs each time.

“I haven't really had any social life for the past while, which is fine because COVID's happening,” she said again with a chuckle.

“I couldn't think of a better place to start running, the Okanagan is so pretty and I've seen the lake a million times and it never gets boring.”

Her family back in Ireland is cheering her on, even if they don’t fully understand why she is tackling such a big run.

“They're all very supportive and they all think I'm a bit crazy. I told my mom I did a 120 kilometre run the other day and she's like, 'Why would you do that?'”

“I fully believe because I've been dedicating the time to it, especially the last few months, that if I can do it, anyone can do it. Once you focus on something and devote yourself to it, you can do it.”

Follow along with Kearney’s journey on her Instagram @rachelkearney8

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