Devin Ketlo (left) and Renada Waltstom show off their medals after Devin ran the kids race at the BMO Okanagan Run in Kelowna

Devin Ketlo (left) and Renada Waltstom show off their medals after Devin ran the kids race at the BMO Okanagan Run in Kelowna

Running for life

Fort St. James runner and community health nurse helps get the community up and moving

Renada Walstrom is more than a runner, she is an inspiration.

Walstrom started running when she was on maternity leave after the birth of her son, Devin Ketlo, five years ago.

She was looking for something to do, something to keep her busy and get her out of the house.

So with the encouragement of her partner Donnie Ketlo and her friend Allison Moise, she went out for a run – but it was not love at first steps.

“It was so uncomfortable and painful,” she said. “I remember it clearly, it was not a good feeling.”

But she knew there had to be more to running than the discomfort and pain she felt on her first day, and a better way to learn the sport, so she went home and looked up learn to run programs.

She found a program she liked through SportMedBC and started her journey to become a runner.

Five years later, Walstrom ran her first marathon at the BMO Marathon in Kelowna this past October.

Shortly after, she ran the Vancouver Historic half marathon on Nov. 26, which took her around the sea wall, which she had not been all the way around before. She said it was a day of perfect weather and she saw a seal.

So far, Walstrom has run a half marathon in Victoria, three half marathons in Vancouver and the full marathon in Kelowna.

“It kind of went from there and I just fell in love with it and it was just the feeling that you get when you complete a run or an event and you set those goals and you complete those goals,” she said. “I liked the result, I liked how I felt.”

“The world is a cruel place and you know, if I go out for a run, I  feel like I can totally take on anything after that,” said Walstrom. “Worries can take up your world and you go for a run and … it doesn’t matter anymore.”

But what makes Walstrom an inspiration is she did not keep what she had discovered through running to herself.

Instead, when Walstrom went back to work after her maternity leave was over after starting to run, she saw it was the time for the Sun Run training to begin, so she put it out to the community to see if anyone was interested in training for it.

In just the first year, she had 25 people come to Vancouver to participate in the Sun Run.

The following year there were around 60 people, and nearly 100 the next year after that.

Most of those people had never run before, some had not even walked much.

“It’s just so easy to get caught up in being in your home,” she said. Even walking out the door can be intimidating for people who have not been getting out much, but being out doing the training as a group she said helped some people overcome their fears.

“That was great to see,” she said. “You could see their spirits lifting, you could see it in their eyes, you could see it in their face.”

While the participants had to put in a lot of time and work to get there, they were realizing a very real reward.

The year the group had nearly 100 participants, Walstrom stood at the finish line and watched the runners come in.

She said some were brought to tears, some were laughing, but they were all rewarded with a renewed belief in themselves.

“It was just a crazy amazing thing to see and experience, and that’s why I do it,” she said. “To be able to see that in other people is profound.”

Walstrom has also used running to help her with her work, and not just as stress relief.

As a community health nurse, she said the statistics which show First Nations at such high risk for many illnesses like diabetes, tuberculosis, and HIV are almost overwhelming.

“They’re all so preventable,” she said. “If we can just get people up and moving…”

From running, Walstrom can then introduce nutrition counselling, and other prevention options for people to help create healthier overall lifestyles, including reintroducing some hunting and gathering skills to get people back to a simpler way of life before fast food and video games.

And she is working on passing on these ideals to her own children. Her son Devin Ketlo, who is five years old and attends kindergarten at Nak’albun Elementary School, ran in a one kilometre kids race when she went to Kelowna to do her marathon.

Devin said he had fun and would do it again.

“It was amazing for me to see and be there with him,” said Walstrom. “I know that he’s going to live an active lifestyle.”

“Just a little thing like that I think is a huge thing,” she said. Walstrom believes it opens up all kinds of possibilities for him to see different opportunities out there and he can feel like he can go anywhere.

Walstrom herself already has goals she is working on for the years ahead. She wants to  qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2014.

To get there, she needs to clock in at three hours and 45 minutes in a qualifying marathon, which she is planning on doing next year.

Group runs for learning to walk/run or learning to run faster will be taking place again beginning in January.

Runs were starting at the Nak’azdli Health Centre Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday at 4:30 p.m.. Keep an eye out for updated schedules in the new year.