Love for his mother reignited Ben Wezeman’s love for running.
The 21-year-old grad of Heritage Woods Secondary School in Port Moody has embarked on a mission to run at least five kilometres every day for a year to raise money for breast cancer research. The effort is in honour of his mom, Suzanne, a survivor of the disease.
It’s also a chance for Wezeman to get reacquainted with the sport that propelled him through high school, eventually qualifying him for the junior national championships in the 200m and 400m disciplines, where he reached the semi-finals.
But busy post-secondary studies at the Justice Institute in New Westminster took Wezeman away from running. The grind of classes, studying and part-time work sapped his desire to lace up his runners and feel the burn in his legs.
“I felt like I was going through the motions of each day,” Wezeman said of his hiatus. “There was something missing.”
He found it early one morning last December, after tossing and turning through a sleepless night.
Resigned that he wouldn’t get his rest, Wezeman laced up his runners at 5 a.m. and hit the road.
“As soon as I put my shoes on, my heart started going faster,” he said. “I wanted to get out the door.”
Years removed from training, competition and striving for personal bests, Wezeman’s legs churned for the pure joy of running. His lungs took in the cool air. His mind tuned to the rhythmic slapping of his shoes on the pavement.
Wezeman ran for five kilometres, up and down the hills of his Heritage Mountain neighbourhood. And when he returned home, he knew something inside him had been restored.
“I just found myself,” Wezeman said. “It was something I was comfortable with.”
Still, the pressures of a busy life can render such revelations fleeting.
It was when Wezeman connected an inspirational quote he’d read from Terry Fox to his mom’s battle with cancer that his rebirth as a runner took on greater urgency. The tumblers of a formative idea locked into place after he stumbled upon a YouTube video about another runner, and former pro soccer player, who set out to run 365 straight days.
On Dec. 22, Wezeman set out on his own quest to match that accomplishment. He launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for his chosen cause, and then, after 49 days, the wheels fell off.
Wezeman said he felt a pain in his knee while running up David Avenue. He thought he could run through it. But when he tried again the next day, the joint felt like it was on fire.
“I knew I couldn’t continue,” Wezeman said, adding the injury was a strained IT band, a collection of thick fibres that connect the outside of the hips to the knees and then down to the top of the shinbones
Determined not to let the setback slide him back to a wayward state, Wezeman used the layoff to assess his running technique and research adjustments he could make to avoid future injury.
“I used to think I knew how to run,” he said.
He learned he had a “heavy” stride that was putting excess pressure on his knees so he set out to lighten his gait.
More importantly, three months away from running gave Wezeman renewed appreciation for his sport and determination to see his quest through to its conclusion.
After all, his mom didn’t give up when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she’ll be cheering him on when he completes his 365th run sometime early next year.
“I’m doing this for my mom,” Wezeman said. “Now I have something to look forward to each day.”