Parnell completes 250 marathons in 2010
Martin Parnell has done it.
After 365 days, the Cochrane resident crossed the finish line at his 250th race, Dec. 31, at the Spray Lakes Sawmills Family Sport Centre in Cochrane. Five hundred supporters cheered him on and bagpipers performed to celebrate the athletic feat.
Over the course of the year, Parnell burned through 25 pairs of runners, downed 750 litres of water, took more than 12 million steps and managed to escape with only four blisters.
“It was a good year, but it was long,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over.”
Parnell’s Marathon Quest 250 fundraising brought in nearly $200,000 for Right to Play, an international organization dedicated to helping children in disadvantaged areas of the world. Parnell hopes to bring in $250,000 by Feb. 4 when the fundraiser ends.
“I’m just squeaking in,” he said. “The objective was to raise $250,000. I will be very disappointed if we don’t raise that.”
For Parnell, a semi-retired mining engineer, accomplishing the feat wasn’t easy. He described the -25°C run as “quite warm” and has seen his fair share of changing weather, running in temperatures ranging from -41°C to 32°C.
“It’s been really rough to be honest,” said Parnell, who traversed 10,500 kilometres of ground in 2010. “I had a lot of issues with my back and sciatic nerves. It was a case of just grinding through it.”
Parnell’s muscular fatigue grew so bad in February he was sidelined for nearly two weeks, forcing him to alter his running schedule and double up marathons on some days. Summer was “awful” and wet weather hampered his spirits, but an Indian summer rejuvenated him by September. But it was marathon No. 188 in Victoria, B.C., which helped Parnell turn the corner. A friend from Yellowknife ran alongside him and Parnell kept pace for 11 kilometres before his running mate broke away. In the second hour, he ran 11 kilometres and in the third, he did 11.5. He knew his pace was the best all year and “just nailed it,” finishing the race with his year-best, a three-hour, 43-minute marathon.
Despite a successful year, Parnell’s family wasn’t as thrilled initially about his decision to attempt the feat.
“We all said he was crazy and that he couldn’t do it,” said brother Peter. “As time went on, he found a way to cope with dealing with the stress on his body and weather conditions.”
Parnell’s idea to raise money for Right to Play was rooted in a trip he took through Africa in 2005. The Devon, England native rode his bike from Cairo to Cape Town, meeting many poor children along the way.
“They (Africans) couldn’t get anything constructive in their lives and he (Martin) wanted to do something any way he could,” said Peter.
“What’s good about Right to Play is that 85 cents of every dollar goes directly to the organization,” said Parnell. “There’s not much fat (operating costs) on this organization.”
Next up for Parnell is an 89-kilometre ultra-marathon in South Africa in May.