Rachel Kearney

Rachel Kearney pictured early on Friday, June 4, before heading out from Penticton on a 250-kilomtere run around Okanagan Lake.

In just 65 1/2 hours this past weekend, a Penticton woman ran the perimeter of Okanagan Lake and in the process quite likely became the first female to accomplish the feat.

Rachel Kearney left Penticton at 4 a.m. on Friday, June 4, and arrived back at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 6. She started and finished the 250-kilometre journey at the Peach on the Beach.

Having slept a total of just seven hours over the weekend, the 25-year-old was surprised by her body’s reaction when the landmark came into view at the tail end of her trip.

“I seen it and I literally had this mad burst of energy and sprinted, which I didn’t think I had in me. Then I just laid down and died there at the Peach,” she said with a laugh in an interview Wednesday.

Kearney, a native of Wicklow, Ireland, who’s in Canada on a working visa, ran alone, but was accompanied by her boyfriend in a van that served as a mobile aid station.

She followed Highway 97 to West Kelowna, then jumped onto Westside Road to Vernon, before heading back down Highway 97 to Kelowna. She returned to Penticton via the KVR Trail and was joined by friends at Chute Lake Lodge for the home stretch.

“The last few hours was probably the worst. My quad was cramping on my right leg, I was hobbling all the time and I cried so much, but I’m so happy I had friends there,” said Kearney, who is already back on her feet.

The journey was not without incident, though.

Early on Saturday morning, she was struck by the mirror of a passing vehicle on Westside Road, leaving her with a sore elbow that prompted a call to the RCMP.

Her spirits were lifted later that day in the Vernon area, where she was joined by Tim Dickinson, the Kelowna man who in 2018 became the first male believed to have run the perimeter of Okanagan Lake.

“That was really nice because it was starting to become hard at that point,” said Kearney, who works as a personal trainer at World Gym.

In advance of her run, Kearney created a GoFundMe campaign to collect donations for Bodywhys, the Eater Disorders Association of Ireland.

Kearney struggled with eating disorders in her teens and early 20s, and hoped to raise awareness about the issue through her run. She also wanted to challenge herself.

“If I have the mental strength to complete feats like this,” she said, “I can handle anything I run into in life.”

Kearney’s working visa expires in August, after which she plans to return to Ireland to complete a master’s degree in psychology.

A search of The Herald’s archives suggest Sheila Paynter in 1990 became the first woman to circumnavigate Okanagan Lake on foot. Paynter, who was 70 at the time, did it by walking for parts of 24 consecutive days. She died in July 2020 at the age of 100.

Dickinson in 2018 became the first person to run the circumference of the lake, which he managed in just 63 hours.