With a Little Help from my Friends

Posted by martin.parnell |

Completed Quest:

Rotary Coastal Quest 630 (Quest #9)

  • 630 miles (1014 kms) around the SW coast of England

  • March 4th to April 1st 2014, averaging a marathon a day.

  • 20,000 dollars raised for Right To Play

  • Check out: Rotary Coastal Quest 630

When a large project is undertaken, it requires many hands to make it a success. My “Quests for Kids” initiative encompasses 10 Quests, to be completed in five years, with the aim of raising $1m and changing the lives of 20,000 children. I began on January 1st 2010 and so far have completed 9 Quests and raised over $600,000. This would not have happened without the help of many people, along the way. One group that have provided valuable support, are eight local companies, who also want to make the world a little bit better.

I met Tobi McLeod in 2009, before I’d even started Marathon Quest 250 (MQ250). Tobi works for Back on Track, a company which produces a line of clothing, geared to stimulating recovery after activity. Tobi gave me several long sleeve T-shirts, socks and  long johns. Every day, after I had completed a marathon, I’d put on the gear, to aid in the recovery of my joints and muscles.

In 2010 during MQ250 I ran at 60 schools in the Cochrane and Calgary area and the Rotary Club of Cochrane produced a virtual “Across Canada” map of my 250 marathons. This map was pinned up at all the schools and the children followed my daily progress. Rotary have continued to support me, in all my endeavors.

Jason Webb was a sponsor of my second Quest, Netball Quest 61 and wanted to know what more he could do. Jason not only helps with my travel for the Quests, through his company Downunder Travel, but has organized a yearly “Fun Run” in support of Right To Play.

4iiii Innovations is a company based here in Cochrane. 4iiii’s have developed a line of products to monitor athletic performance, in real time. I’ve used these products to monitor my heart- rate and pace, in a number of my Quests and races.

Lau Mafuru is a friend of mine and owner of Boma Africa, a trekking company which takes people to the top of the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. It was with his help and guidance that in 2013 Quest #6 was completed, climbing the mountain in 21 hours.

In the summer and fall of 2013 my ninth Quest entailed completing all nine of the TransRockies race series across North America. The company’s owner, Aaron McConnell, not only supported this endeavor but set up a donation page which raised $45,000 for Right To Play.

The owners of Ink’d Graphics in Cochrane, Greg and Elena Alan, have always been there to make up boards or posters, promoting a variety of Right To Play events including the Annual December 31st MQ 250 run / walk.

Finally, in early 2011, after completing MQ250, I was contacted by Don Gorman, owner of Rocky Mountain Books. The idea of a book about my journey was agreed and a year later “Marathon Quest” was published. This has not only brought awareness to my cause, but generated additional funds for Right To Play.

To achieve something extraordinary requires help. We can’t do it on our own. It’s a great feeling when people believe in what you’re doing and offer their unconditional support. The companies above heard the call and have stepped forward. All I can say, on behalf of the thousands of children that have been given hope, is a very big Thank You. 

Quote of the week:

"Life is a solo act. It's a huge collaberation"

Tim Gunn

TransRockies were one of a number of local companies that have supported "Quests for Kids" and Right To Play. Much appreciated.




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Little Free Library

Posted by martin.parnell |

Sometimes you shouldn’t be too quick to clean out your junk mail. The other day I received a poster from Wordfest Calgary. It said “Dear Mr. Martin J. Parnell, we’d like to invite you to join us on June 9th, 2014, at noon in the centre court of Eau Claire Market for the opening of Wordfest’s Little Free Library. Please click to RSVP. I was intrigued.

I went to the source of all knowledge, Google, and found the following: In the beginning—2009–Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it. He built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said FREE BOOKS.

Rick Brooks, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, saw Bol’s do-it-yourself project while they were discussing potential social enterprises. Together, the two saw opportunities to achieve a wide variety of goals for the common good. Each brought different skills to the effort, Bol as a creative craftsman experienced with innovative enterprise models and Brooks as a youth and community development educator with a background in social marketing.

By January of 2014, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world was conservatively estimated to be nearly 15,000, with thousands more being built.

Sue and I headed into Calgary on Monday not sure of what to expect. A group had gathered outside The Bean Stop in Eau Claire Market and there stood the Little Free Library, shrouded in a black sheet, between the Information Kiosk and the Photo Booth.

It was explained to the group that the Little Free Library was basically, “give a book, take a book”. A number of these “Libraries” can be found across Calgary including Colonel Walker School, Ramsey School, Chevron Canada, Mount Royal University and in a number of front yards around the city.

Jo Steffens, Wordfest, Executive Director, stepped up and unveiled the latest Little Free Library in Calgary. I had brought a copy of MARATHON QUEST and placed it on the top shelf. Looking at the various titles I selected “The Smithsonian Institution” by Gore Vidal. I haven’t read any other books by this author but the blurb stating “Vidal’s gift for storytelling and mimicry remain in peak form” Chicago Sun Times, caught my eye.

So next time you want to enter the world of words why not check out your local Little Free Library are see where the journey takes you.

Quote of the week:

"So many books, so little time"

Frank Zappa

The latest Little Free Library located between the Info Kiosk and the Photo Booth at Eau Claire Market in Calgary. "Take a book, return a book."

Little Free Library 


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Little Africa

Posted by martin.parnell |

Last week I travelled to Ontario. The trip included a 25 year reunion of a Rotary Group Study Exchange to Australia and the three day IdeaCity Conference hosted by Moses Znaimer. However the highlight was definitely the time I spent playing with my grandchildren, Autumn and Nathan.

Autumn is 10 years old and loves arts and crafts. After Saturday breakfast we opened up a painting kit she had received as a present. It included eight tubes of acrylic paint and a canvas of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Bedroom at Arles”. Van Gogh said of the painting that “Instead of trying to reproduce what I see before me, I make more arbitrary use of color to express myself more forcefully”, and this is exactly what Autumn and I did. We took half the painting each and the paint started to fly. Forty five minutes later we were finished and I think Van Gogh would have been thrilled by the result.

Then Autumn wanted to go for a bike ride and we headed to the playground. As she rode and I walked, we chatted about my Quests and the trip I made to Kilimanjaro last year. I told her that I would like to take her to climb the mountain in five years when she is 15. She loved the idea and wanted to know what she had to do to get ready. I explained that endurance was important and we would start at the playground.

Over the next hour she pretended that the climbing set was part of the route up the mountain; leaped off the swing set, jumping 15 feet over an imaginary raging river; shinned up the swing set stations as if they were trees in the jungle and balanced across a teeter-totter defying a 300’ drop into a canyon below. As we left the park she said that it was her “Little Africa” and she would be back.

In the afternoon it was time to play with 4 year old Nathan. The day had turned out warm and into the pool we went. Nathan loves the water and wants to be thrown around. The pool is a large circular structure and is perfect for swimming around the outer wall. The game turned into “Roller Coaster”. I would throw him up into the air and then he’d go down under the water. He loved it. He gave me a break after eight loops but we were back in after 10 minutes.

That night, there were three sleepy heads in the house all thanks to a great day of play.

Quote of the week:

"Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity"

Kay Redfeild Jamison

Play time with Autumn, Papa Martin and Nathan.

 Little Africa

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Banff Marathon

Posted by martin.parnell |

The first Banff Marathon was scheduled for last June. The route was marked, aid stations readied and people, not just from Canada, but all over the world had arrived in town to run. Then the rains came. The Bow River flooded causing massive damage to Highway#1 and towns and cities along its route.

Friends of mine from the Sudbury Rocks Running Club, in Ontario, had flown in to run the race. One of them, Vince, was my mentor when I had started running in 2002 and I had most recently run with him in the 2011 Prince Edward Island Marathon. They ended up on flood watch.

But, you can never hold a good marathon down and the folks who organized last year’s effort were back for 2014. This would definitely be the inaugural Banff Marathon and hopefully nothing would stop it. The scenic course runs through one of Canada’s iconic national parks. The planned route follows the Bow Valley Parkway, the Legacy trail, and finishes in downtown Banff.

Banff national park is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and, because the area is protected, the race is limited to 1,500 entrants. This is the only marathon in North America contested completely inside a national park.

This year’s race was on Sunday June 22nd and the night before I received an email from the organizers. The heading caught my attention, IMPORTANT INFORMATION: ROUTE CHANGE. We had had no flooding this year so what could be the issue? I soon found out. The message stated that “We have a female grizzly with two young cubs in the Vermilion area. It appears that she is successfully hunting elk calves and is seeking security from three large males. It is probable that she will have a very low comfort level near any humans due to her wary nature”. The race was still on but we would run in the opposite direction. Good move.

My running buddies had returned from Sudbury and on a sunny Sunday morning I met up with Vince at the start line. The gun went off at 10.00am and we headed out, on the alternative route, toward the park gates on the outskirts of Canmore. This path runs parallel with Highway #1 and is fairly flat. This was good because the day started to heat up and I was beginning to suffer. Being an out and back course we cheered on the front runners as they blew past us and wished that we were that much closer to the finish.

At the 32km mark Vince and I were passed by a woman dressed in green. She stopped a few metres in front of us and introduced herself as Lindsay Woodcock. She said she had read my book MARATHON QUEST and that it had inspired her to run, her first, marathon. Fantastic. Vince and I said goodbye to Lindsay and we plodded on. We were now both paying a price for the hot weather and were very happy to reach the finish line.

 The inaugural Banff marathon was in the bag. Beautiful day, well organized and great people. I will definitely be back for next year’s event and maybe this time we can run the planned route. Third time’s the charm.

Quote of the week:

“Always respect Mother Nature. Especially when she weighs 400 pounds and is guarding her baby.” 

James Rollins

Vince making good time along the route of the inaugural Banff Marathon

Banff Marathon 

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Posted by martin.parnell |

In June 2011 I was invited to speak at the IdeaCity11 conference in Toronto by Moses Znaimer. Moses heads up ZoomerMedia Ltd which includes Zoomer magazine, Vision TV and CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons). Six months earlier I had completed running 250 marathons in one year and Moses wanted me to relate how and why I had taken this on. The presentations are along the lines of a TED talk, each speaker has 17 minutes. In total there were 50 topics over three days and some of the speakers included Conrad Black, Jeffrey Simpson and Deepak Chopra.

In February I received an invite to be a guest at this year’s IdeaCity. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to catch up on some great speakers and I said yes. One of the main reasons I was keen to attend was the appearance of Janette Wakelin-Murray and Alan Murray. During 2013 I had followed Janette and Alan’s exploits across Australia.

Their plan was to run a marathon a day and circumnavigate around the continent. They left Melbourne on January 1st and one year and one day later, after completing 366 marathons, they arrived back in Melbourne. A couple of key facts about Janette and Alan, they are both in their 60’s and they eat a completely raw diet.

On the first morning of the conference I arrived at registration and bumped into Alan and Janette. They spoke later on in the day and did a terrific job. We spent time together over the three days and discussed the role of medicine/science versus a healthy life style.

Speaker topics included 3D printing of body parts, drugs to reduce bone loss and organ banking through a flash freezing process. Moses joked that it would be great to “refresh organs” as needed. Alan, Janette and I wondered that instead of switching out body parts maybe a healthy life style would allow us to keep the ones we have a little longer.

At the end of the conference I said goodbye to Janette and Alan. They were heading back to Aussie the next day so I gave them a copy of MARATHON QUEST for the journey. They have a book, “RUNNING OUT OF TIME”, coming out in mid-August. Can’t wait. What an inspirational couple.

Quote of the week:

“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” 

Alberta Einstein

Hanging out with Alan and Janette at IdeaCity conference in Toronto


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