Running Against the Flow

A word of warning: if you're just starting to exercise, don't do what Kim Slater is about to do.  

Beginning July 8th, Kim plans to run across British Columbia - starting near Jasper, Alberta and finishing in Kitimat, B.C. That's 1,170 kilometres, over 45 days - basically, the equivalent of 29 marathons. 

And no, Kim isn't a glutton for punishment.

She's running to raise awareness about a controversial issue - the expansion of the Alberta oil sands and our dependance on fossil fuels. To make the point, Kim will follow the proposed route for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, stopping along the way to raise questions and concerns with community leaders and listen to all sides of the issue.

Obviously, not everyone can run 29 marathons in a month and a half. In fact, Kim only ran her first marathon recently. But she says everyone - no matter how fit - can do more than they think.  

"When I ran my first one, I was shocked. I was aiming for 4 1/2 or 5 hours and I did it in 3 hours and 50 minutes. I finished 40th overall and 3rd in my age category."  Plus, Kim ran the second half of the race faster than the first half. 


At 32, she's been active since she was a kid. She grew up on a horse farm in Guelph, Ont and first came to B.C. to plant trees and fight forest fires, to help pay for university. In 2006, she moved there permanently - first, to Nelson and then in 2008, to Whistler. 

She's always loved running, but never thought of doing a marathon. But in January, she decided to sign up with a friend. Next, the training began. Small steps, at first. Short runs, then a little longer, and so on.

"I remember thinking 10 kilometres seemed so far. But as you do more and more, it becomes normal," she says. "You get little confidence boosts along the way. That's what's exciting." 

Kim also found motivation in the natural beauty of B.C., "I was surprised how much I was enjoying it, even in January when it was cold, dark and snowy. You have a lot of time to look around and think."  

All that time gave Kim the idea to run the pipeline route.  "I'm not really into personal goals, personal bests. I wanted to run for something beyond myself."

So, after the training and that first marathon, Kim knew she was ready for the run of her life.  

To prepare, she's done a lot of research on what to put in her body - working with nutritionists and naturopaths.  

As a vegetarian for nearly 20 years, she was already eating healthy. So, she didn't have to overhaul her diet. 

For breakfast, she'll have granola, fruit, and no fat yogurt. At lunch, roasted potatoes, asparagus, a scrambled egg and goat cheese. And for dinner, the big salad. "I'm a master salad maker," she says.  "Kale, arugala, spinach, the deep green leafy stuff. Different kinds of nuts, feta, berries, and home made dressing."

Not only is all of that healthy, it doesn't take a lot of time to prepare. "You get to a point where you don't even need to look at recipes, it's just routine."  

Of course, the run Kim is about to do is anything but routine. She's had to raise $15,000 to cover the bare essentials (a support vehicle, waste vegetable oil for fuel, food), and keep up her training at the same time. "This is the hard part right now. Once I get out there, I just have to run.  That'll be fun," she says laughing.

As for the proposed pipeline, it would carry an average of 525,000 barrels of petroleum per day through the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, extending to Kitimat on the B.C. coast.  

Supporters say it would open up the oil sands to Asian markets and the U.S. west coast, creating jobs and economic growth. But Kim is concerned officials are moving too fast, at the expense of the environment. "There are a lot of parallels between food and energy. We know stuff isn't good for us, but we consume it anyway." 

Ultimately, Kim is hoping for a national energy strategy. "Fossil fuels are a reality. But there are a lot of smart people exploring renewable energy. So, what's our long term vision? How do we get there? I'm not hearing anything from our leaders."

For now though, all Kim can do is try to engage people and run. "I think of it as stretching your ability, to believe in your own potential.  We're so powerful when we do that." 

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