Three years after Chris Isfeld was diagnosed with late stage melanoma, he ran 30 kilometres across a frozen Lake Winnipeg and raised almost $20,000 to support melanoma patients through Save Your Skin Foundation last year.
After he recovered, Isfeld started running and practising yoga to overcome the physical and emotional anguish he was feeling from his treatment, which inspired his cold, cold run – called A Viking’s Challenge – in March 2020.
Isfeld and a friend ran the 30 km from Grand Beach to Gimli, Man., to raise money for the foundation, which was founded by cancer survivor and North Vancouver resident Kathleen Barnard in 2006.
While the pandemic has made recreating the in-person event a challenge, Save Your Skin Foundation is inviting Canadians to register for this year’s virtual A Viking’s Challenge and run a distance of their choosing anywhere in Canada.
Unlike last year’s event that Isfeld took on, the point of this year’s challenge is more to spread awareness of the importance of skin cancer and melanoma prevention than it is to raise money.
“There’s probably some of us who would have liked to do this with [Isfeld], but of course because of COVID we’re trying to do it virtually,” said Rosemary Westie, a North Shore resident and sister of Barnard who has been tireless in her pursuit to run long distances and raise money and awareness for the cause over the years.
“I watched my sister with her cancer, and it was such a physical and emotional battle,” said Westie. “I figure if I’ve got my health and I can exercise and keep raising money and awareness, that’s all I can do to support.”
Westie draws a loose throughline between a runner wanting to quit midrace and someone living with a disease who’s struggling to carry on.
“You have to really dig deep and push yourself through it,” said Westie. “You dig deep and you battle yourself.”
On March 6, Westie, along with friends Amie Drader and Cathi Wetsch, will run their own 30-kilometre trek through the North Shore mountains, starting from the Varley Trail and ending at the Hyannis Connector trail, in order to emulate the tough conditions of last year’s A Viking’s Challenge.
She hopes that other North Shore residents and Canadians across the country will register for this year’s event and embark on their own runs to raise awareness.
“All of sudden you get to the top of the mountain and you think, ‘OK, I’ve made it this far,’” she said.
This year’s A Viking’s Challenge takes place on March 6-7. You can register for the event and learn more about the fight against skin cancer and melanoma by visiting Save Your Skin Foundation’s website.