First annual Nasqaghmii Run held in sunny Teller
By Diana Haecker
About 30 runners from Teller and Nome took to the Bob Blodgett Nome-Teller highway on Sunday, for the first annual Nasqaghmii Run, named after Carol “Nasqaghmii” Seppilu of Nome.
The run was organized by Norton Sound Health Corporation’s CAMP department to spread the message of mental and physical wellbeing, inspired by Seppilu’s journey from a suicide attempt and depression to resilience and preserverance through running.
As a teenager she survived a suicide attempt but spent the next 15 years undergoing reconstructive surgeries, therapy, and struggles with mental health, according to a press release from NSHC. She defeated depression when she discovered running. The first jogs turned into regular runs and eventually she participated in local races. And then she went on long distance races, including a 100-mile run at Resurrection Pass.
Just returning from the grueling Mt. Marathon race last week, Seppilu greeted runners along the Teller Highway. Fresh injuries from a 70-foot fall during that race prohibited her from participating, but nonetheless, she was there to cheer on the runners who tackled either 5k, 10k or a half-marathon distance of 13 miles. A camera team from CNN, having heard of her inspiring story, were on hand to document the run as part of telling Carol’s story to a nationwide audience.
Last year Seppilu was on a mountain run when she felt the heaviness of recent suicide losses overcome her. She decided to add purpose to her runs by projecting hope. Last year, Seppilu and her running companion medical doctor Tim Lemaire ran the Nome-Teller Highway, a 72-mile journey that took them 19 hours to complete. She went on to run the Nome-Council Road and Kougarok Road, completing all three roads, each about 70 miles long, last summer.
The mayor of Teller Blanche Garnie reached out to Seppilu and thanked her for her contributions to mental and physical health awareness. Garnie wanted to share this message annually and asked to have a new race named after Seppilu’s St. Lawrence Island Yupik name, Nasqaghmii.
The first annual Nasqaghmii Run got kicked off under sunny skies and an ever so slight breeze that did not keep humming mosquitos at bay. The run started and ended at the Teller Clinic. Colorful shirts of Teller and Nome runners stood out from the green background of the surrounding tundra and mountains. Runners found water (and bug dope) stations at the 5k, 10k and the turnaround mark for the half-marathon and were cheered on at the homestretch as they passed Teller residents fishing and cutting fish at the beach.