Woman plans to run 100 miles in 24 hours to raise money for frontline workers: 'Anything I can do to show my gratitude’

Kalyca Zarich is running 100 miles to raise money for healthcare workers. (Photo: Kalyca Zarich)
Kalyca Zarich is running 100 miles to raise money for healthcare workers. (Photo: Kalyca Zarich)

While people everywhere are trying to identify their purpose during this trying time, one woman is quite literally running toward hers with a 100-mile run on Friday for a good cause.

Colorado-native Kalyca Zarich took up running as a way to deal with depression and anxiety that she was experiencing during college. And while her initial goals were to run a half marathon, and then a marathon, she quickly set her sights on some longer distances as she entered the territory of ultrarunning.

“After completing a couple of marathons, I got intrigued by the ultrarunning, which is basically anything over 26.2 miles,” Zarich tells Yahoo Life. “I was particularly interested in trying a 50-mile distance. So I did my first 50 mile-race in 2013.”

At the time, a family friend had been coaching Zarich to achieve what she thought were lofty goals, ultimately leading up to her first 100-mile event. But her motivation took a hit when she experienced the death of both her mom and dad just two years ago.

“I was trying to find ways to cope with the grief and the loss. I’ll be honest, at first, it wasn’t the most healthy of habits that I was selecting. And then I sort of just snapped out of it and kind of realized what they would want for me and my life,” she explains. “I think over the last year and a half, especially, running has been a tremendous outlet for me.”

Like she had during her formative college years, Zarich turned toward running yet again to help with her mental health and to shift her focus onto some longtime goals. Ultimately 2019 became her “biggest adventure year yet,” running four 50-mile races and a 100-mile race just last fall.

Zarich ran from Flagstaff, Ariz. to the south rim of the Grand Canyon in 30 hours, her personal best for 100 miles. (Photo: Kalyca Zarich)
Zarich ran from Flagstaff, Ariz. to the south rim of the Grand Canyon in 30 hours, her personal best for 100 miles. (Photo: Kalyca Zarich)

Now, she admits that it was “a little bit too much.” But while taking a break to focus on her career at Orange Theory Fitness where she works as a manager and coach, Zarich had maintained her motivation, which led her to sign up for a 100-mile event set to take place in her home state of Colorado on June 13.

Since then, the coronavirus pandemic has led to the cancellation of the race, as well as Zarich being furloughed. And again, the 30-year-old has found herself in a place where she’s struggling to identify her purpose.

“When all this happened, I was taken aback and really struggling to reconcile all of the changes,” she says. “I was sad and I was disappointed, but in a lot of ways, the running of the event is about so much more than the actual event.”

Zarich had already set a goal of running the 100 miles within 24 hours. Then she saw a friend of hers do a 24-hour run on a treadmill to raise money for a good cause. “She told me, ‘The time’s gonna pass anyways, so why not do something impactful with the extra time that we have right now?’” Zarich recalls. “I feel like that’s really resonated with me.”

Zarich was put in touch with the founder of Project Helping — an organization that focuses on improving mental health through intentional acts of kindness and gratitude — to put together a fundraising page where she is raising money in tandem with her run in order to send care packages for health care workers on the frontline.

“I wanted to put my time that I’d spent training to good use. And I thought what better way than to give back to the people that are really putting it all on the line for us right now,” she explains.

As she plans to reach her goal to run 100 miles within 24 hours on Friday, Zarich also hopes to raise $5,000 in order to provide 500 health care workers with these care packages. She’s added an extra incentive for herself and those donating by creating power hours. “For a one-time $100 donation, you can select a costume that I will run the next loop in. Or you can donate $100 and dedicate a 6.5-mile loop to a friend, a loved one, a health care worker or to someone’s memory.”

Most importantly, she wants everyone to have the chance to support those fighting the coronavirus while otherwise feeling powerless. “We’ve all had to endure a lot in this time and it has been truly a crisis. But I just think of those health care workers and first responders and how they are putting on their uniforms, putting on their scrubs and not given all the protective equipment in some cases that they need, and they’re just fearlessly going in and saving people’s lives,” she says. “This has just shown shone such a light on what they do and what they endure and I am just like, anything I can do to show my gratitude, I’ll do it.”

Although Zarich plans to run a majority of the 100 miles alone, she hopes to have people cheering her on by following her updates on Facebook. As for how she’ll feel after accomplishing this massive feat she says, “I can already anticipate that there will be tears of happiness and gratitude.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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