How do you walk from Hatzic to the PNE?
By joining TikTok in April 2020. At least that's how it started for Mykael Koe.
Koe is a teacher in Mission at the Fraserview Learning Centre; it's an alternative high school where he teaches 15- to 18-year-olds. As TikTok took off and Koe looked for a way to connect, he turned to the short video social media app to show his students the "other side of being a teacher."
In one of his early videos he created a challenge for himself, with input from TikTok. He told them for every like, share and follow he'd walk a certain number of laps.
"1,160 laps were given to me," he says. "I started April 4 and finished it October 21, I think."
At first Koe, who's stands 6'5" and weighed 410 lbs at the time, started off on the school track, doing laps before work, on lunch breaks and after work; the first time around he barely made it the whole lap he says, finishing sore and exhausted, but he kept at it.
"I always made a goal for myself that I'd always do a little more," he says.
The school was transitioning to a virtual classroom at the same time, and the union was encouraging exercise, which helped.
"Being in your house all day and being at home deteriorates your health," he says. "TikTok to me was a way to connect with my students."
While he kept using TikTok to record fun videos, his students checked in on him to make sure he kept walking, holding him accountable for the promise he made. And, just through walking, he was able to drop 72 lbs. by the last walk.
Then he decided to do it all again.
"The next time I did it I got 6,640 laps," he says. "I've been working on those ones."
For context, 6,640 laps 2,656 km. To change things up, Koe started taking longer and longer walks.
"I was tired of walking around the track and started exploring some of the local communities nearby," he says.
Out of that, the dream grew to go on some truly epic full-day walks.
"Once I accomplished some of them I said I thought I could walk to White Rock," he says.
In April he completed the 60 km trek and created a video of the journey. It's been watched almost 160,000 times so far (Koe has gone viral before, with one video getting over 6 million views and others cracking a million views).
That gave him the confidence to take on the long plod to Vancouver, and he did it, just a few days ago going from his home to the PNE.
"(The PNE) is significant enough that most of my students know it," he says, when asked about stopping at Boundary Road.
The 66.5 km trek took him almost 11 hours of straight walking. The whole journey was over 12 hours, with stops to stretch and have lunch.
The day after he went on an 8 km hike (it helps his muscles stretch).
While making it to Vancouver seems like a natural end, he wants to go further, with more epic walks planned. The first one he's thinking of tackling is to go further into Vancouver, either English Bay or Stanley Park. Those would add another 10 km to his trip. A closer-to-home target is Mt. Cheam, which would include hiking up the mountain.
"One of my goals is from Mission to Grouse Mountain, to the top," he says. "It'd be such a pinnacle moment to make it to the top of Vancouver."
While that may sound daunting, one of the big lessons Koe has taken away from his long walks is mental resilience. While his body has adapted to his regular walks and the longer and longer trips, his mind can be a bigger barrier, willing him to quit.
"You go to some pretty big lows," he says. "The longer you spend in those sessions in your mind you start to build resilience."
Having his videos, and journeys, become popular on TikTok has cut both ways. He's inspired former students and family of students to take up walking and get healthier. While walking to Vancouver, Koe was stopped three times by people who recognized him, encouraging him forward. And it gives him cred with his students.
"As a teacher, if you have a video that goes viral students think you're the world," he says. "The flip side of that is you have to deal with the negativity that exists in our world."
People leave mean or rude comments on his videos, as people do with anything on the internet.
"You have to filter through that," Koe says. "They don't know the whole picture."
Apart from the public side of things is Koe feels healthier and has lost 120 lbs over the past year, just through his regular walks (he regularly features food on TikTok), and that, in turn, helps keep the negativity at bay.
"It's really good, getting a positive message out there," he says.