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As a personal trainer and fitness instructor for more than 20 years, Annie Smith is no stranger to testing her own limits.
That's why she decided to walk 120 kilometres on a treadmill in her fitness studio to help fundraise for Dr. Heather Ross's Test Your Limits (TYL), an initiative raising awareness on heart health and support for heart failure research.
When Annie was first diagnosed with a rare heart condition called cardiac sarcoidosis in 2016, Dr. Ross, cardiologist and Director of Cardiology at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, warned her that her days of Tabata classes and weight training were coming to an end.
"She told me on our very first meeting, 'you can walk as a form of exercise,'" says Annie. "As a trainer, I explained my sadness and discontent with that, but she explained, 'if you get out of the saddle on your spin bike, I will come there myself and put your butt back down – you have a very sick heart. If you push too much, it will be too big of a workload.'
"I knew right then that I liked her, and that we were going to get along," says Annie.
Wanted people to know about PMCC and Dr. Ross's initiative
So, Annie followed Dr. Ross's advice and began to walk. Upon a second encounter with cardiac sarcoidosis in 2018, she set a personal goal for herself to walk a minimum of 10 kms a day to try and offset the side effects that come with the medication she takes.
In March, Annie decided she wanted to raise awareness for people living with life threatening heart diseases like herself by sharing her passion for walking and educating others about the importance of initiatives such as TYL. She planned an indoor treadmill walkathon in her studio, with proceeds going to TYL, and called it "Annie's Pace."
"I decided I would walk
120 kilometres over the Victoria Day long weekend and try to fundraise $5,000 for TYL," says Annie. "I was really putting myself out there, as not many knew I was sick and lived with this condition.
"But I wanted people to know about the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Dr. Ross' important initiative."
That weekend, Annie surpassed both of her goals, walking a total of 161 kms and raising $5,500 for TYL.
"I was ecstatic," says Annie. "I did it with the help of everyone who believed in me."
Annie's Pace will be an annual fundraiser.
Read more about Annie's journey.