Kelly Wesa runs this weekend’s SportChek Mother’s Day event each year to honour her son’s fight and survival. An inspiring runner and human being, Kelly’s story is worth sharing to remind us all to challenge our limits and find the bright side: it’s out there, as Kelly proves year after year.
iRun: When did you first start running and how did the sport become super personal to you?
Kelly Wesa: Back in 2013 I wasn’t in the best place in life, a little overweight, left a very bad toxic relationship and was suffering from depression and anxiety. My therapist recommended physical activity and I couldn’t afford a gym membership so I decided to sign up for a program to train your dog to run with you. I really enjoyed it.
iRun: Did you immediate get hooked?
KW: It was once a week and I was able to meet new people and get out of the house and my dog was able to come with me as well. I really enjoyed running with her (and she did well!) The group and my dog kept me motivated to do the runs. I also wanted a lifestyle change and this definitely helped me. I fell in love with running. It became apart of my life and routine. It also became my therapy and in time I was able to get off of medication for my anxiety and depression because running helped me control it a lot better.
iRun: Tell me about your son and his birth. How did you support your mental health while stress and anxiety were so high?
KW: My son Luke is now 5 years old and I still can’t believe he’s 5. I had a pretty good pregnancy. I tried to run as long as I could before I had to stop. I moved out to Alberta when I was 20 weeks and knew I wanted to continue my running as much as possible during my pregnancy and afterwards. I was so lucky that I found a fitness group (Hot Mamas Fitness) that was all mothers or expecting mothers and you could bring your child to the workouts and they even had a running program which I was so excited for.
iRun: Can you describe Luke’s birth?
KW: His birth was a little scary to be honest. I was 10 days over due and had to be induced. I only got to 4cm and then I was rushed for an emergency C-section. Luke had gone into fetal distress and needed to be out right away, in that moment it was really scary, but the nurses at Rockyview Hospital were amazing. Luke had some issues with feeding and after 12 hours, he was rushed to the NICU to figure out what was wrong. The next time I saw him he had a feeding tube, which at first was really scary and hard to see, but again the doctors and nurses were truly amazing and explained everything and helped me through such a difficult time.
iRun: That sounds really hard.
KW: I had to leave the hospital before Luke did, which no one ever prepares you for, it was hard to leave my son at the hospital. I’m pretty sure I called the hospital every hour on his first night to see how he was. His nurse was so patient with me and answered all my questions and made me feel so comfortable at home. I didn’t have to leave Luke at the hospital long. He was able to come home on day 7, but those couple of days I had to go home without him, I knew I had the support from the staff. I was a first-time mom and didn’t have family close by as everyone was back home and Luke’s father had to work and also care for his other children as well. The nurses at Rockyview were truly my rock during such a scary time in our lives. I honestly don’t know what I would without all their support during our time there, they made such a huge difference for us.
iRun: Where did running come in?
KW: I didn’t want to give running up once I became a mom. Life definitely changes and I used running to help my mental health and anxiety and I knew it was important to me. I got the best running stroller so I knew Luke would be able to be part of my runs. Once I got the clearance from my doctor I was already in a run group by Hot Mama Fitness SE, and as a group we decided to do a 10km race. Being part of this group helped me enjoy racing and I fell in love. I ended up running my first race when Luke was 4-months-old and I kept going and pushing myself. Luke wasn’t the best at napping, but would always nap when I was able to run with him which help. Being able to run and him have a nap helped hugely.
iRun: Talk about the Mother’s Day run. Why do you particularly like that event?
KW: After I signed up for that one race, I signed up for emails about others races and that’s how I heard about the Mother’s Day Race and when I heard that it gives back to jumpstart and local NICU, I knew I wanted to do this race. So the following Mother’s Day I signed up to do it and I signed Luke up too. My dream has always been to do races with Luke and this was the perfect race to start with. I decided that instead of getting a Mother’s Day gift that I would like to donate money and do the race with Luke every year and that’s what I’ve been doing every since.
iRun: Very awesome.
KW: Back in 2019, Luke was 3 and he was understanding things and I explained that we do this race to help other babies in the NICU and that it’s our way to say Thank You to all the nurses and doctors because I don’t know what we would have done without their help. Back in 2020 the race was canceled but that didn’t stop us. We found a virtual race and decided to still donate to Calgary’s health for the NICU. This will be our 5th Mother’s Day race and even though it will be virtually, we’re excited. We have to be creative but we have a plan to make a finish line and as usual we will be donating to the NICU as our thank you to the nurses and doctors.
iRun: What do you plan to do to celebrate Mother’s Day and what’s your message for all the other running moms out there?
KW: For Mother’s Day, I’ll be doing the race with Luke and then most likely having a nice breakfast as a family at home and relaxing for the rest of the day. My message for other mothers who are runners is to keep going and not to give up on your running. Life can be busy with children, but taking that time for yourself is so important. My running is my therapy and it helps me be a better mother to Luke and my step children. There’s days it’s hard to get the runs in and sometimes they have to join you, but no matter what: don’t ever give up on your goals.