PORT McNEILL—Four years ago, Yana Hempler collected her high school diploma at North Island Secondary School and hopped in a car to drive south and enroll in the University of Victoria.
Sunday, she returned to Port McNeill from the North. And she came on foot.
Hempler, 23, kicked off an ambitious fund-raising run the length of Vancouver Island Sunday morning in Port Hardy.
She left at roughly 10:30 a.m., aided by an RCMP escort for the first two kilometres, and arrived nearly six hours later at the Campbell Way junction to Port McNeill.
“It was a bit slower than my usual marathons, but it was good,” said Hempler, who received her degree in business last year and also holds a certificate as a personal trainer. “There were people honking, a couple of people pulled over and gave us donations, and some people bought raffle tickets, which was nice, too.”
Hempler was followed by her one-man support crew, Ian Simpson, who crawled along Highway 19 in an RV the pair are camping in along the way.
Hempler plans to run the 495 kilometres to Victoria, employing several rest days, and complete the venture on June 26.
The run is a benefit for the SPCA, the Mustard Seed Food Bank and Recreation Integration Victoria.
Hempler lives at the home of Simpson, who owns a carpet business and a photo studio, and his wife.
She and Simpson first discussed a fitness-related fundraising project two years ago, and started planning this month’s run a full year ago.
Hempler, who is training to run marathons worldwide, is excited to be under way.
“It feels good,” she said. “It’s like seeing a project come to fruition, or seeing a product you invent be in a store, that’s kind of how it feels. It feels really, really good that it’s actually happening.”