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

It’s important for people to see Indigenous people ‘doing great things,’ says Cody Teichroeb.

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,” says 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 BC Mental Health Foundation],” he says.

“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,” says the pair’s GoFundMe page.

‘Starting the conversation’

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

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

“I was lying there and seen the text [and I] said yes immediately,” says Garant, who is from Ontario and 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. So we were getting up pretty early in the morning, running in the winter pitch-black and the snow,” Garant says. 

When asked what was the most challenging part of the training, Teichroeb says 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 says.  

‘It’s okay not to be okay’ 

Garant and Teichroeb aimed to raise $5,000 for the BC Mental Health Foundationthrough 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 says. 

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

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

“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 Nsyilxcən through the Indigenous language fluency program at the University of British Columbia 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,” Teichroeb says.

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

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.  

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

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 833-456-4566

BC Crisis Centre: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (support available via live chat, text and messenger, too)

Online Crisis Centre Chat (online chat) 

The Foundry Virtual Support (for people ages 12-24 and their caregivers)

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