James Steller, left, and fellow runner Andy Wyman are joined by well-wishers Christy Messner, Aimee Bishop, Paul Messner, Barbi Ford and Marilyn Messner on the first day last year’s run. (Submitted photo)

James Steller, left, and fellow runner Andy Wyman are joined by well-wishers Christy Messner, Aimee Bishop, Paul Messner, Barbi Ford and Marilyn Messner on the first day last year’s run. (Submitted photo)

Steller aiming to circumnavigate Whidbey Island — and hospital

Last year, James Steller’s fund-raising efforts landed $15,000 for the Community Foundation for Coupeville Public Schools; it also landed him in the hospital.

This year, he is aiming for additional funds and hoping to avoid a stay at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center.

Steller, a veteran long-distance runner, attempted to circumnavigate Whidbey Island on foot last summer to raise money for the foundation.

The plan was to run the 160-mile course in three stages over three days.

After the second leg and nearly 100 miles, he wasn’t feeling well, so he went to the hospital for an IV, which he thought would be enough of a pick-me-up to get him through the final stage. That visit to the hospital lasted two days.

He was hospitalized with rhabdomylolsis, a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly and jeopardizes kidney function.

Friends quickly organized a group to finish what Steller started, and the volunteers relayed over the final 62-mile stage to complete the journey.

Steller is going to give circumnavigating Whidbey another shot this Labor Day Weekend but with some precautions to avoid last year’s problems.

This time around, the course will be traversed in four disciplines: running (24 miles), biking (120 miles), kayaking (8 miles) and swimming (1 mile).

“This should be easier on the body,” Steller said.

The plan is to complete the route in two stages, starting and finishing in Coupeville each day. The first leg will circle South Whidbey; the second will cover the north end. Steller will also have company — Andy Wyman, Greg White and Neil Rixe.

Partners should help make the trek less psychologically challenging, he said.

The group is looking for others who would like to join them in their efforts to raise money for the foundation and gain the satisfaction of completing a physical challenge.

All the logistics are in place, Steller said, and “anyone is welcome to join the adventure.”

“It’s all for a good cause,” he said. “The hope is that each (person) will raise $500 for the nonprofit.”

Another hope is that this will become an annual community event, Steller said.

“A celebration of Coupeville, our little town.”

The Community Foundation for Coupeville Public Schools supports Coupeville school children in need, teachers through grants that fund innovative and creative curriculum, and senior scholarships.

With the money Steller helped raise last year, the foundation was no longer “living hand-to-mouth.”

“We are building a sustainable model,” he added, “and giving security to teachers for grants.

“Teachers are more likely to take the time to ask for grants if the money is there.”

The foundation awarded more than $21,000 in grants this past school year.

To join the journey, donate or to get more information about the foundation, visit www.4coupevilleschools.org

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