Book: RUNNING TO THE EDGE
In 2010, at age 55, Martin Parnell began tackling a series of extreme sporting challenges which became known as "Quests for Kids", designed to help improve the lives of 20,000 children through sport and play programs raising $1 million for the children's charity Right To Play. Despite his high level of fitness, in early 2015, Parnell was confronted with the devastating news that doctors had found a large and rare blood clot on his brain. He was immediately hospitalized and had to face the reality of close to one year of limited physical activity. His plans for a professional speaking career and further athletic endeavours were put on hold. Martin's second book highlights many of his most recent and remarkable sporting and philanthropic achievments, while also giving personal insight into what it means to slow down and focus on moving forward in the face of one's own physical limitations.
Before reading Martin Parnell's latest book, Running to the Edge, I wondered, "Which edge?" As I read through this ultra-endurance maniac's ultra-altruistic memoir about raising shocking sums for children's charity, I came to realize the title's multiple meanings.
Parnell pushes himself to the edge of cliffs, peaks, oceans, exhaustion and sanity in his endurance quests to raise money for Right to Play, a charity whose mandate is to educate and empower children around the world though sport. What does he get at the end of a 61-hour game of net ball, or a 1,000-kilometre run around the coast of his native England? The satisfaction of knowing that his efforts have helped thousands of children across the world. "When helping others it's up to all of us. In life you don't have to do a lot, but you have to do something," says Parnell.
The book moves along at an upbeat yet casual pace. Parnell makes sure to mention the people that supported him in all his endeavours because he is the first to admit, it's not easy raising funds for charity. Nor is it easy to pull off 10 zany competitions to hopefully land the efforts in the Guinness Book of World Records, or get off Mount Kilimanjaro while suffering from hypothermia. "My purpose is to bring the reader along with me through the good and bad times," says Parnell.
Race directors and volunteers will be nodding in agreement as he explains the frustration of organizing events. Athletes will cringe at the agonies of his efforts but read on because we all have the desire to see someone conquer challenges and accomplish goals. After each challenge, a tally of the money raised and who will benefit is listed. His goal is mighty, and creates an alluring narrative premise: $1 million to help over 20,000 kids. A near-death experience only adds to the story, pushing Parnell to one of the many different edges he runs along in this inspiring and fun read.
Parnell (Marathon Quest) drops a lot of names in his inspiring second memoir, but for every well-known person such as Olympian Clara Hughes or former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, there are a dozen others to whom he wants to introduce readers. The book is an account of his Quests for Kids, 10 ambitious sporting achievements, both individual and team-oriented, to which Parnell devoted himself in order to raise money for the international Right to Play organization. As determined as he is to accomplish his goals, such as playing lacrosse for 24 hours or doing the overly ambitious Kilimanjaro marathon and climb, he’s equally dogged about recording every detail, including the people he stayed with, what he ate before challenges, and his adventures along the way. He writes about Daniel, a boy who couldn’t play ball hockey because of brittle bone disease but was there to cheer: “Sometimes you meet people with a life force that burns like a Roman candle. Daniel improves the lives of everyone he meets.” It takes one to know one, and readers are bound to enjoy stories from this wonder of a man.