Last year, Frances Sreedhar challenged herself to walk 1,000,000 steps on Saskatoon's Meewasin Trail by the end of March 2021.
But she didn't just meet that goal — she strode right on past it.
"I thought wouldn't it be interesting, like an odometer, to go to 1,111,111?" she said. "So that became my new goal. That meant I had to do 111,111 steps in the month of March, in 31 days."
Sreedhar ended her journey of 1,111,111 steps at one of her favourite places in the city, Furdale, a place she said was her happy place.
Sreedhar started her walking challenge last year as a way of coping during the pandemic, so she wouldn't be cooped up inside all the time. Since then, she has put in a 20 or 25-minute walk every day, in all sorts of weather conditions, to keep on track for her goal.
"I really needed to walk every day and get out," she said. "It became a break in the day. It was a mental break and it was good to see other people walking, even in the winter bundled up, and to know that I'm sort of part of something larger rather than sitting at home."
And she says her revised goal kept her motivated to stay out on the trails even though the challenge she set for herself is over.
"I found it the hardest in the month of March," she said. "We had hit the year marker of being in the pandemic, and spring in Saskatchewan is a bit of a roller coaster, and I really needed a push."
But Sreedhar hasn't just been walking for her own health and well-being.
She has used the challenge as a way to raise funds for the Meewasin Valley Authority and the Saskatoon branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
So far, she has raised almost $5,000, which will be split evenly between the two organizations.
The fundraiser is still open and Sreedhar said she hopes people will continue to donate even though her walking challenge is over. She has seen some enthusiastic responses from the #MillionStepsForMentalHealth hashtag, which gives her hope for the project's future.
"I'd like this to be something that's a legacy where we're raising awareness about the connection between mental health and physical health, and supporting both of these organizations who historically have been underfunded," she said.
And even though Sreedhar's challenge is over, she's not planning on hanging up her walking shoes anytime soon.
"It has become such a part of my day-to-day practice that I'm just happy to get out on the trails whenever I can," she said "I've found that it's very easy to do between 3,000 and 3,500 [steps] on any of the trails, or even a neighbourhood walk."