‘It’s very close to home’: Okanagan men run 52 km to raise funds for mental health

“Just to see our wives at the end of the finish line was something special that’s for sure,” said Andrew Garant, right, after finishing a 52-kilometre run during Mental Health Awareness Week. Photo courtesy of Andrew Garant

Okanagan residents Andrew Garant and Cody Teichroeb ran a 52-kilometre ultramarathon along the rail trail from Vernon to Kelowna on May 8 as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mental health issues are “not talked about enough,” said Cody Teichroeb, who is a member of Westbank First Nation.

“We both have a connection to mental health and that’s why we chose to do a fundraiser for the B.C. Mental Health Foundation.”

Read more: Indigenous minister says more must be done to support First Nations mental health

“The timing of this fundraiser is relevant to the times we face today, as mental health has been on a steady decline from the social isolation of COVID-19,” said the pair’s GoFundMe page.

Teichroeb told IndigiNews he came up with the idea of running an ultramarathon late one night — but he didn’t want to do it alone.

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So he asked Garant, who he knew from coaching lacrosse together.

“I was lying there and seen the text and I said yes immediately,” said Garant, who is from Ontario but recently moved to British Columbia.

The duo trained from January to May, running five times a week to prepare their minds and bodies for the ultramarathon.

“It was extremely tough because we’re both working full-time jobs,” said Garant. “So we were getting up pretty early in the morning, running in the winter pitch-black and the snow.”

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When asked what was the most challenging part of the training, Teichroeb said it was “not missing a day.”

“Telling yourself you have to get up and do these runs was something that I was really proud of,” he said.

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Garant and Teichroeb aimed to raise $5,000 for the B.C. Mental Health Foundation through their GoFundMe campaign. As of May 18, they’ve raised nearly $7,000.

Both Garant and Teichroeb say they’ve been inspired by their wives. Garant’s wife is a community nurse who “works out in the community with people who struggle with mental health or overdoses and things like that.”

And Teichroeb says his wife’s experience with post-traumatic stress disorder has been eye-opening for him.

“It’s very close to home,” he said.

“I feel like everyone struggles with mental health in some type of way. It’s not talked about enough and I think people need to be more aware of it, and that it’s OK not to be OK.”

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Teichroeb said it’s also important to him for the public to see Indigenous people “doing great things.”

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“I think some people don’t have an awesome outlook on Aboriginal people. So to be able to show them, like how much grit and how much heart we can have, that’s important to me.”

Teichroeb says his mother and sister, who are learning to speak Nsyilxcen through the Indigenous language fluency program at UBC Okanagan, helped them get their ultramarathon started in a good way.

“We smudged before the run and said a prayer in the language, and that was Andrew’s first time and it was something quite significant to myself,” said Teichroeb.

“That was definitely something special for sure,” said Garant.

The pair’s GoFundMe page is still open and they say they plan to continue raising awareness about mental health through more activities in the future.

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Are you looking for mental health support? Here are some resources you might find helpful:

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