Kalyca Zarich’s Ultra-marathon for Healthcare Heroes

Kalyca Zarich

My heart goes out to these people, and I decided that I should use my passion for running and the time I spent training to do something to show my appreciation for them.

When Kalyca Zarich was furloughed from her job as a General Manager for Orangetheory Fitness as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 100 mile ultra-marathon that she was training to run on June 13th was postponed until the Fall, she was initially extremely disappointed.

However, after reading the endless stories of the courageous healthcare workers putting their lives on the line to save people from the pandemic and following a friend’s inspiration to raise money for these heroes, Kalyca decided to take action herself and contribute toward a worthy cause. Kalyca decided she would the 100 miles in 24 hours as she was supposed to and this time partnered with local Colorado based nonprofit Project Helping which specializes in providing volunteer opportunities for people struggling with mental health (such as depression and anxiety), to raise money for healthcare gratitude packages.

She successfully completed her 100 mile course while streaming on the Facebook Live event page “RUNNING FOR HEALTH HEROES” to share updates with her adoring fans (see below!). As of 6pm PST on 5/13 she has raised $7,400 of her $10,000 goal- and donations continue to pour in (you can make a donation, here). Read more about Kalyca’s COVID-19 journey and her ultra experience, below.

Messages of Inspiration

Can you tell us a bit about your run for health care heroes and what made you decide to take this challenge on?

“I was originally signed up for a 100 mile ultra-marathon that was set to take place on June 13th. I had been training for the event since December. When the COVID-19 pandemic happened we had to shut down my place of work– so I was able to spend even more time on runs, working toward my lofty goal of a 24 hour finish. When the race was postponed I tried my best to not be disappointed. I knew the decision to move the event to the Fall was for everyone’s health and safety. At this time, a great ultrarunning friend of mine in Arizona put on a 24hr treadmill run to raise money for a charity. She really inspired me to do something similar.

Throughout the past several weeks I had been reading articles about our frontline workers. For many healthcare professionals and first responders the pandemic has really increased the stress of their jobs. In many cases, these workers are putting themselves in harm’s way without the appropriate protective equipment. Nobody could have ever anticipated this tragic virus and it’s effects.

My heart goes out to these people, and I decided that I should use my passion for running and the time I spent training to do something to show my appreciation for them. I was connected through a mutual friend with the Colorado based nonprofit “Project Helping.” They specialize in providing volunteer opportunities for people struggling with mental health (such as depression and anxiety). The premise of their organization is by doing good and giving back people can feel better. I really identified with their mission and knew that their campaign to fund healthcare gratitude packages and create volunteer opportunities within the community to assemble them aligned with my goals and beliefs.

I also lost my parents two years ago. They were both incredibly generous people that spent a great deal of their time volunteering in the community. I have discovered that participating in my own philanthropic endeavors is an avenue for me to feel close to them and to honor their memory.” 

What’s the biggest challenge you think you’ve faced during quarantine/the COVID crisis?

“The greatest challenge for me throughout this pandemic has been the unknown. I have always had some anxiety, which I have used exercise and running to cope with. However, in this situation the unknown regarding the future for my job, and the fitness industry has spurred additional anxiety that has been difficult (on some occasions) to reconcile. I have also felt on some days like I was operating without a purpose. I think the other beautiful part of creating the fundraiser was that it gave me a tremendous sense of purpose.”

What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?

“I have been trying to re-focus my attention on the things I am most grateful for. It is very easy to get down by thinking about the things I am missing or “NOT doing”. However, at the end of the day I am healthy and taken care of. Many people are not so lucky. I have SO much to be grateful for. I am also extremely grateful for the people on the front lines who continue to sacrifice for our health and safety.”

Where are you living right now? Is this where you permanently reside or is it a temporary living situation due to the pandemic? Who have you been quarantining with?

“I live in Northern Colorado. I have been quarantined with my boyfriend and my dog. They are both amazingly supportive and I feel fortunate to have been able to be with them. Our community has kept non-essential businesses closed up until last week. We also were under a stay at home order until March 8th. The last few days the stay at home order has been lifted but “safer at home” has been encouraged. The goal in the community is to continue limiting non-essential errands and travel.” 

Dreaming of the next run

What has been your general daily routine so far during the pandemic?

“At first, I was out of sorts. I went from waking up (most days of the week) at 4:00am to not having anything to wake up for. It took me a week or so to establish a new routine. Most days, I wake up around 7:00am, make my boyfriend and myself a green smoothie, take our dog for a walk, then venture out for my run. With fewer obligations, I’ve been able to spend more time training. Again, this prompted me to want to “pay it forward” as much as I could. I am not a person who likes feeling like my time is wasted. Being out of work has certainly made me feel like I should find positive outlets for my time and energy.”

Snacks and smiles at mile 40!

Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any important plans you had laid out for the near future?

“YES! I had 4 trips (one work conference) that were cancelled over the past several weeks. My sister is also pregnant and due in September. She lives in Arizona and I am struggling with the idea that I may not get to see her before the baby is born. We already made her gender reveal party virtual. I am hopeful that I can visit her for a baby shower in the next few months–although, I do not want to put her or my nephew at risk. It is a challenging time for so many who are in similar positions.” 

Is there anything you feel that this experience has taught you that you’d like to share as inspiration for everyone going through this together?

“I feel like this experience has taught me SO much. For one, I feel like this situation has put my “work/life balance” into a new perspective. There is so much value in being able to slow down a little bit and take a breath. There is also great value in being able to spend extra time with people that you love. I have also seen a lot of hope. Hope from unexpected places from all over the community. It is a reminder that we are all in this together and we will get through this TOGETHER!

I feel like my priorities have shifted. I think health and wellness over career objectives has been a shift for me. There is, like I mentioned, so much value in slowing down and smelling the flowers. I hope to keep that with me as I move forward in life quarantine.” 

What better way to celebrate running 100 miles than with a bottle of bubbly?

Kalyca loves working in the fitness industry, because it’s an avenue for her to help people achieve their health and wellness goals. She is a natural born leader, earning her Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership.

You can contribute to Kalyca’s fundraiser, which is still open for donations at www.coloradogives.org/kalycazarich — she’s extremely close to reaching her goal of $10,000 which will go toward the Colorado based nonprofit Project Helping in creating care packages for health workers on the front lines.

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