Nfld. & Labrador·Video

Maike van Niekerk running 7 marathons in 7 days for cancer patients

A young woman from Corner Brook is running seven consecutive marathons across Newfoundland to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Seven Marathons 1:35

A young woman from Corner Brook is running seven consecutive marathons across Newfoundland to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society.

Maike van Niekerk laced up her sneakers Friday and began the first leg of her journey in St. John's.

'I'm nervous but I think that I can do it, I have that determination.' - Maike  van  Niekerk

She will run a marathon each day, travelling 294 kilometres until she completes the seventh run on Christmas Eve in Corner Brook.

"I'm nervous but I think that I can do it, I have that determination," said van Niekerk.

Personal connection

Van Niekerk was only 15 when she lost her mother, Katrin, to breast cancer — and that experience inspired her to reach out and help others.

"So many people have been telling me that just the fact that they know someone cares enough to be able to do those things they think that's a huge impact," said van Niekerk.

In August 2014, she cycled from St. Anthony to St. John's to raise money for Katrin's Karepackage, a program she created in honour of her mother, who died from breast cancer, that helps offset the cost of travel for patients who need to get their treatments in St. John's.

Maike's father Chris van Neikerk said she's setting a wonderful example for the youth of today and her mother would be just as proud of her as he is. (Gary Locke/CBC)

This marathon trip is part of her 7 Days of Karing campaign and will raise money for the same cause.

Her father Chris van Niekerk said he is immensely proud of his daughter and said if anyone can do it, his daughter can.

"You say it can't be done, [it's] impossible, but I think that's her motto in life, impossible to possible, nothing cannot be done if you put the effort into it," he said.

Intense training

To prepare for the trek, van Niekerk said she's been running four to five times each week with a little bit of cycling added to her training schedule.

Just remembering what the cause is for and how many cancer patients this is for, really gets me through the day.- Maike  van  Niekerk

She's also been doing physiotherapy to help ensure things go smoothly during the challenge.

Last month, van Niekerk received the Young Humanitarian of the Year award from The Canadian Red Cross for her dedication to helping people with cancer.

She said receiving the award was both a humbling and amazing experience.

"I was absolutely honoured. I admire the Red Cross so much for all of the work that they do."

Money Raised

Maike joked, saying music she listened to when she was little from bands like The Backstreet Boys gets her pumped for running. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Van Niekerk said her program has raised $64,000 dollars in the past few months from the generous support of people in the province and her fellow students at Dalhousie University.

She has set a goal of $70,000 dollars and hopes everyone can give the gift of transportation for cancer patients this Christmas.

"Just remembering what the cause is for and how many cancer patients this is for, really gets me through the day," she said.

Once completed, van Niekerk will have run marathons in St. John's, Whitbourne, ​Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Springdale, Deer Lake  and Corner Brook.

Maike had lots of support as she began her trip Friday. (Gary Locke/CBC)

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