It was a simple thing – a broken foot from an ATV accident in 2006. But it led to an unexpected outcome that turned Robyn Ostlund’s world upside down.
Just 18 days after he fractured his foot, Ostlund’s husband Trevor went into cardiac arrest and died from a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot that travelled from his calf to his lungs. Suddenly, at the age of 28, Ostlund was a widow.
Ostlund initially began running in college as a way to lose weight and gain fitness. She usually ran alone, but following a move to Kamloops in 2004, she discovered a running community and fell in love with the culture and encouragement it provided. For the first time, she had found her tribe.
However, the death of her husband changed her outlook on running and life completely. What followed was nine years of emotional and physical challenges.
“Running had always been my solace, my happy place,” explained Ostlund. “It’s a time for me to think and process.”
But running in an event just a month after Trevor’s death was too much to bear. She broke down on the course and stopped training altogether.
While struggling to cope with her loss, Ostlund found support in a Facebook group called Young Widows. These courageous women accompanied her through her hardship and guided her back on the path of healing and running.
Two years later she was training again, but also fighting chronic back pain from an old injury. It took four more years until she hit rock bottom at Melissa’s Half Marathon in Banff, experiencing excruciating pain as she ran.
“At mile one, I was looking for Advil. But that was the turning point of everything in my life,” says Ostlund.
That event forced her to think about how her physical and emotional health were intertwined. She turned to diet and nutrition, supplementation, working with sports physios, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and other specialists to heal from injury, PTSD and anxiety. She recognized the impact of Trevor’s passing would be with her for a long time and began gaining clarity about her journey to finding balance.
By mid-2015, with her back healed and her mind in a good place, Robyn returned to consistent training: “It was a rebirth of my life,” she said.
After remarrying and moving to Kimberley, BC in 2017, she set out to bring together the diverse runners in town and give back to the sport she loves.
In July 2019, she organized the first annual Mountain Moustache Dache 5 K and 10 K race as a fundraiser for Outrun Rare (see page 50), an organization that raises awareness and funding for rare diseases. She also arranges running clinics and get-togethers and is still active in the Young Widows Facebook group, helping other women cope with their losses.
When asked what running has given her, Ostlund responded: “I feel like it’s given me life… It’s been difficult at times, [but] it’s been really joyful and has brought so much healing, love, peace and friendships into my life, I don’t know where I’d be without it.”
Lead image by Mark Locki