10,000 Tennis Balls

Posted by martin.parnell |

It’s 3.00am on Thursday, December 5th and I’m playing tennis at a beautiful sports facility in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Across the court is Sherri. She hasn’t played tennis since the age of 6 but she has a dream. In March of next year she wants to go to Club Med and play tennis. We rally back and forth when suddenly there’s a “Thud” and the lights go out. All that Sherri and I can see is a fluorescent yellow orb floating in the air and the rally goes on.

I love tennis. I was 11 when Mum and Dad took over an old sprawling property from my Grand Mother. On the grounds was a tennis court, however, tennis hadn’t been played on it for a number of years. It was over grown and looked like a cow patch. Over a Spring and Summer Dad cut down the brambles, rolled the grass and built a wood fence with netting all around it.

My job was to line the court. I found the dimensions in an old Encyclopedia Britannica and using a huge ball of string staked it out. Next, I painted the string with creosol, killing the grass. Finally, I mixed up a bucket of lime and water carefully brushing it along the burned strip and, voila, a tennis court was born. Many hours of tennis was played with my parents, siblings and friends. But as with all good things, life gets in the way and I hadn’t played for years.

Then two months ago I met Rufus Nel. Rufus is a triathlete, ultra-runner and the Head Professional at the Abony Family Tennis Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick. After an hour of chatting an idea was born, 24 hours of Tennis in support of Right To Play. So, on December 4th at 6.00pm I’m ready to step on to the court. My friend, Tom Healy, has lined up an amazing schedule. For the first 45 minutes I play New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant. It’s a hard fought affair and my elbow is sore. Not a good thing with 23 hours to go.

As Wednesday evening turns into night players arrive to take their turns. I have all my supplies at hand; sandwiches, brownies, bananas and coffee. Six hours in and fatigue is taking its toll. My elbow is tender and legs are starting to feel heavy. By the time Sherri arrives I needed another coffee. Sherri is a natural and I’m telling her this when the lights go out. For 10 minutes we continue to rally in the dark, the ghostly ball shaped form travelling backwards and forwards over the net. Slowly the lights come on and after an hour Sherri finishes her practice. As she leaves she says that she’s determined to play tennis at Club Med. Brilliant.

Night turns to day and groups of school children start to pour in from Park Street, George Street, Fredericton High, Chief Harold Sappier, Devon Middle and Montgomery. What a morning and afternoon, balls are flying everywhere and the kids are having a blast. The hours and minutes tick by and finally it’s 5.55pm, only 5 minutes to go. Tom and Rufus join me for the final game and as the clock strikes 6.00pm a huge cheer goes up, 24 hours of Tennis is in the bag.

The tennis marathon was a tremendous success. Over $4,000 had been raised for Right To Play, 350 children had played tennis and I had got to relive some wonderful memories of playing tennis as a kid with Mum and Dad.

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Posted by martin.parnell |

Anniversaries are important. Whether it’s a birthday, wedding, or the day you got your first bike. Today, December 31st is significant to me, for a number of reasons. This was the day, in 2003, when I met Sue at New Year’s Eve party. I was in England visiting family and Sue was a friend of my sister Jan. We had a long distance relationship for a couple of years visiting each other in England, Canada and Denmark. Then in 2005 Sue came over to Canada and has been by my side ever since.

I have also written 100 articles for the Cochrane Eagle. In the first one, back in March 2011, I talked about how to run an Ultramarathon. Over the years, my articles have covered such topics as applying for Mantraker, visiting Benin in West Africa, taking a session of Aquasize, participating in the Kimmett Cup, the importance of good grammar, collecting a ton of pennies for Right To Play, the Kraft Celebration Tour, learning to play sledge hockey, helping out at High River and Morley after the flood, the exploits of the Detroit Mower Gang, running with Jamie McDonald and looking after the needs of 4 month old grand baby Matthew Conner.

Today is the 5th Anniversary of the last of the 250 marathons I ran in 2010. As you read this blog a group of us will be running / walking from Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre along the Bow River on 2 km loops, through the off-leash, down to the old trestle bridge and back. This event marks the end of “Quests for Kids”, my 5 year initiative to complete 10 Quests, raise $1m for Right To Play, and helping 20,000 children. So far we’ve raised over $660,000 and there’s still time to donate at www.canadaquestforkids.com .

Over the years the Cochrane community has played a huge role in this endeavour. Every school in the town has held fund raisers, including hockey games, Dodgeball tournaments and bake sales. Many residents hold Guinness World Records having participated in the longest game of Soccer or the biggest game of Hockey. I’m sure Cochrane has the most Guinness World Record holders per capita in all of Canada.

Wishing everyone a wonderful and fulfilling 2015 and a very big THANK YOU Cochrane, I couldn’t have done it without you. 

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