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Mito 100-km marathon run raises $50,000

Too often, results-oriented efforts leave behind the joy and excitement of sport, focusing instead on speed and stamina.

Too often, results-oriented efforts leave behind the joy and excitement of sport, focusing instead on speed and stamina.

For the MitoCanada Running on Empty race, the event celebrated the tremendous capabilities of the human body while raising nearly $50,000 to combat mitochondrial disease – an illness that attacks the body’s ability to generate energy.

“It’s about making the most of what you have, getting out and celebrating life at the end of the day; taking a day to appreciate your ability to do this stuff,” said MitoCanada president Blaine Penny.

On Sept. 15, 158 athletes set out on three different fundraising adventures: a 100 kilometre run, 100 km mountain bike and 250 km road bike as part of the annual fundraiser.

While there were options to run 50, 25, 15 or 6 kms, 12 athletes took on the 100 km trail run which included 10,000 feet of elevation gain between Bragg Creek and Canmore.

For Penny, this was his third attempt at the 100 km run.

“It blew my expectations away. I don’t think it could have gone any better. Mother nature co-operated, which is big when you’re out for 19 and a half hours,” Penny said.

Logistics were challenged by the fact many participants signed up at the last minute.

“I think that’s a testament to the number of high-quality endurance athletes we have in Calgary and the Bow Valley. I was amazed how touched people have been by MitoCanada and Evan’s story. Many are people I’ve never met and are parents, telling me they can’t imagine going through what Evan and I have gone through,” Penny said.

Evan Penny, Blaine’s son, was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease that left him with severe brain damage. Overnight, he went from a typical toddler to a quadriplegic who can no longer talk or eat.

Penny and Canmore’s Dr. Kyle McLaughlin have helped create and grow MitoCanada to combat the disease, focusing on sporting events that rely on the body’s ability to generate energy: something the disease takes away. This year was his best run, and again he was happy to complete it with Ian Blanchard.

“This was the easiest run for me. I was so blown away by what I saw from the volunteers and donors, receiving words of encouragement. When I started running, I felt great. I had hardly any sleep the week before, but just felt completely energized. It’s incredible how you can get energy from others,” Penny said.

While the runners enjoyed optimal conditions, mountain bikers followed a similar trek. Brendan McCracken led the 13-hour mountain bike ride.

“To travel through the mountains is a treat. We had beautiful midmorning conditions on Jumpingpound and a super rollicking fast ride down Skogan’s Pass. We had optimal results. Equipment failures were minimal, and biological failures were minimal too. Most folks spent their summer racing, so it was nice to have an enjoyable ride. Nobody was pedaling angry,” McCracken said.

Penny wants to expand MitoCanada internationally and will race in Michigan this weekend with one of Canada’s leading mitochondrial doctors. As for next year’s event, there will be restrictions on the number of participants, however, Penny sees other opportunities to grow.

McLaughlin, one of the organizers of the event, said watching the charity and event grow has been fantastic.

“The nicest thing about this charity is it’s grown through word of mouth. People are inspired by the story to get out. We’ve gotten a lot of comments about the race, with people saying it’s very simple and grassroots. We had a mixture of superfast athletes, people doing it for the first time, and people can’t wait to do it again next year.”

He said his own race was a blast, from the early morning in Bragg Creek to the astronomy lesson on the top of Jumpingpound at 3 a.m.

“I felt fantastic. I could have kept running. We took lots of breaks,” he said.

A big volunteer effort and increased kids races also helped this year, McLaughlin said.

“To see the kids run that six kilometres from Dead Man’s Flats to Three Sisters – that’s a hard trail for kids,” he said.

His own six-year old son Finn participated in that run. He then went to school on Monday and told his teacher about the race, bringing along a picture of his friend Evan Penny.

“We’ve inspired a six-year-old to run for his friend, so that’s pretty special.”

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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