Runners brave 100-km route for fundraiser
Thursday, Sep 01, 2011 06:00 am
Ultramarathoners poured their hearts into a 100-kilometre run to fight an energy-sapping disease, last weekend.
The first Running on Empty event took flight Sunday (Aug. 29) as a fundraiser for Mito-Canada.
Four runners attempted a 100-km trail by running an ultramarathon from West Bragg Creek to Canmore, scaling Powderface and Jumping Pound in the process.
“I’ve done a lot of ultramarathons, but this was the coolest and most fun,” said organizer Blaine Penny.
As a competitive athlete, Penny was accustomed to pushing his body to the limit, closely aware of the need to maintain speed. However, the charity run, despite its grueling distance, became an inspiring and invigorating event for the man who founded Mito-Canada after his young son was diagnosed with the disease.
“It’s more about you and your group,” Penny said.
Joined by Ian Blanchard, Jeff Krac and Mark Toth, Penny began the run at midnight at West Bragg Creek, cutting through the wilderness.
“Running is the easy part. All of the organization leading up had been stressful,” Penny said.
The event raised $25,000 for Mito-Canada, which is geared at fighting mitochondrial disease, the affliction that affects Penny’s son Evan.
“It’s all because of Evan. So many people have come out to support this because of Evan,” Penny said.
The actual run was an epic adventure through mountainous terrain.
But by 4 a.m., slogging up Powderface, the group began to fade.
“That was the lowest of the low for me. We didn’t sleep that night and fatigue was setting in, and by then we knew we still had 60 kms to go. I was almost falling asleep while running,” Penny said.
It was at this point where his thoughts turned to his young son, who cannot walk or talk because of Mitochondrial disease.
“I come back to Evan. He’s often in pain and compared to what he’s going through on a daily basis, this is not much. You deal with it and move on.”
However, once the group crested Powderface, the sun began to rise, as did their spirits. Another 10 kilometres took them to the next checkpoint, where new runners, food and a buzz of excitement in the air, joined them.
“It was 6:30 a.m., the sun was coming up and it was like we had never run 50 kms,” Penny said.
As a group, the runners reached the Jumping Pound summit and worked their way down the ridge to Lusk pass. They then connected to Baldy Pass, taking the trail to Barrier Lake where another group of runners met them at the 75 km mark.
“It was magical. Reaching that point with a bag of chips and some water, you think life can’t get better,” Penny said.
Thirty athletes finished the final stage of the race in Canmore in a joyous celebration, content to have run for a cause.
“A lot are already talking about next year. We’re talking about how to make it more inclusive and we have ideas of including a relay aspect.”
Four athletes rode 50 kms of the course on mountain bikes, so the idea of a ‘Rolling on Empty’ event will occur.
The charity is still accepting donations. More information can be found on the website: www.mitocanada.org