Yana Hempler stands at Mile 0 on Tuesday  after completing her Run for Their Lives

Yana Hempler stands at Mile 0 on Tuesday after completing her Run for Their Lives

Island runner accomplishes long-distance goal in fundraiser

Yana Hempler of Saanich runs length of Island raising money for three Victoria charities

Yana Hempler, a plucky 23-year-old who had just completed a run to Victoria from Port Hardy for charity, looked no worse for the wear at Mile 0 on Tuesday.

The Saanich resident, a personal trainer and occasional fitness model who not long ago finished off her bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Victoria, was upbeat and smiling for the cameras, having run in from Langford that morning.

Asked what she wanted to do now that she had accomplished an objective set almost two years ago, her answer was surprising: “I’m going to drive out to Elk and Beaver Lake and go for a run.”

Run for Their Lives is a fundraiser for three organizations – the B.C. SPCA, Recreation Integration Victoria and the Mustard Seed. Hempler still must crunch the numbers on how much money was brought in, but the campaign is open for donations at canadahelp.org until June 30.

“This is a tremendous personal accomplishment,” said Doug Nutting, executive director of Recreation Integration Victoria.

“We’re an organization that facilitates an active lifestyle for people with disabilities and Yana is a great example of what you can do when you put your mind to it.”

Hempler’s support team – kind of like Terry Fox’s brother – was Ian Simpson, who drove the motorhome and shouted encouragement at various points along the 495-kilometre route. Hempler’s landlord for the past five years, Simpson said he and his wife, Michelle, are kind of like “surrogate parents” to the Russian-born runner and proud she achieved her latest goal.

“She never lost her motivation,” he said. “And she got stronger as the run went on. I could see a different body posture from beginning to end.”

Hempler was joined for the Malahat run in the early hours of Monday morning, and on the final leg of the journey Tuesday, by training partner Kara Delaney, 25, who competed in a Tough Mudder race last Saturday. The women pounded up the hill from Mill Bay together, with only one close call when a truck passed them close.

“We had to hop into the ditch,” Delaney said.

Reflecting on what Hempler tackled and achieved, Delaney said she was an inspiration.

“She’s changed my mind about distance running. She’s made me want to get out there and run a marathon.”

ddescoteau@vicnews.com