Mighty TeamMito marathoners link together in Guinness World Record attempt

The spotlight will shine again on the event at the Calgary Scotiabank Marathon on May 28.

112 people tied together finish Calgary Marathon CBC News

Just like a pop star who reinvents herself at every comeback, the marathon that dates back to 490 BC continues to make headlines as athletes put new and creative spins on it.

Clockwise from left, Julia, Blaine, Sarah and Evan Penny, who suffers from mitochondrial disease. Blaine and Sarah hope to help break a record at the Calgary Scotiabank Marathon. Neil Zeller

Danyael Halprin, Calgary Herald May 24, 2017

TeamMito of MitoCanada charitable organization will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the number of runners linked together to complete the 42.2-kilometre race. The current record of conjoined marathon runners is 73. Yes, this is a thing!

In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, their goal is to have 150 runners. At press time, the team had 110 confirmed runners and will accept entries up until the day before the race. TeamMito will run the race no matter the final count.

This challenge will showcase a great diversity of runners, including individuals from Slovenia, the United States, 80-year-old local running legend Gerry Miller, and 15-year-old Elias Tetreault and his father Myron. Runners will be spaced 1.4 metres apart and connected by surgical tubing tied at the waist. This is the same method used by TeamMito when they set the Guinness World Record for the fastest linked marathon with 10 runners in a time of 2:55 at the 2013 Calgary marathon.

It’s not too late to sign on to join the linked group running the Calgary Marathon at the end of the month. MITOCANADA

These challenges are intended to be fun and if they sound frivolous, there is gravity underlining the levity. TeamMito creates these feats to raise research money for mitochondrial disease and to help improve the quality of life for the patients and support for their families.

Mitochondrial disease is a group of genetic disorders that occur when the mitochondria fail to function properly. When mitochondria fail, the energy is diminished in the cells causing the failure of major organ systems. The symptoms of mitochondrial disease range from mild, such as chronic fatigue and muscle soreness, to severe. There is no cure, yet.

Calgarian Blaine Penny co-founded MitoCanada in 2009, the year his son Evan was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease at the age of four. Prior to the diagnosis, he was an active boy until his health took a sudden and mysterious turn after an emergency trip to the hospital for what the doctors thought was appendicitis. Evan is a spastic quadriplegic who cannot talk, walk, feed himself or perform basic functions.

When the Penny family brought Evan home months later from the hospital they had to manoeuvre their way in the dark through his condition, retrofitting their home for his wheelchair, and identifying, co-ordinating and securing the various types of care he requires all the time. There are times when they are awake all night helping Evan and sometimes they cannot go out in public because he is crying incessantly in pain.

“I’ve seen many families disintegrate from the stress of caring for a loved one with mitochondrial disease,” says Penny who rallies for Evan, 13, with his wife Sarah and daughter Julia, 11.

Running to relieve stress and exploring physical thresholds, 42-year-old Penny ran his first of what would become many 100-kilometre trail races, the Blackfoot Ultra, in 2007. Every time he walks up to the starting line, he says he feels grateful for his health and to be living in a free society. Among his many remarkable achievements, he cites his two wins at the Canadian 50-mile Ultramarathon Championship and the 2011 Chicago and Ottawa marathons. His fastest marathon time is 2:29 in Sacramento 2013.

Penny celebrates how the power of sport brings people together to compete for a greater cause. He credits the running community for having the Count Me In! spirit to tackle TeamMito’s nutty challenges. That includes Calgarian Dave Proctor running 260.4 kilometres on a treadmill in 24 hours to set one of six Guinness World Records at last year’s Calgary marathon.

When asked how he pushes past the fatigue and pain, his voice quietens: “I think about how Evan has suffered so much pain. In a strange way I want to take away some of that pain and experience some of it. Maybe it’s a way to try and relate to him a bit,” says Penny, vice-president of the information services company IHS Markit.

The logistics behind running this linked marathon are many and will be a great demonstration of teamwork, accountability and communication. Guinness permits runners to unlink for bathroom breaks, which TeamMito has scheduled at 12, 25 and 36 kilometres. They will be divided into 10 pods of 15 runners, with each pod leader communicating by radio to the other pod leaders. Blaine is the leader of the front pod in which Sarah will also be running. “It’s like a date,” says Penny.

During those gruelling kilometres in the marathon when runners have to dig deep to keep going, they will think about their own personal motivations for running that day. Perhaps it is the need to conquer a physical feat, to be part of a community, to set a new record, or to raise awareness about mitochondrial disease. For Blaine Penny, his inspiration is sweet Evan.

Good luck runners!

Source Calgary Herald


Also see
Calgary Marathon – Friday Race Package Pickup MitoLinked 150
This World-Record Attempt Requires 150 People to Synchronize Their Bathroom Breaks Runner’s World
This Huge Crew Finished a Marathon While Tied Together Runner’s World

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