Phone: (403) 922-0562
Martin Parnell Twitter Logo Martin Parnell Facebook Logo Martin Parnell Youtube Logo Martin Parnell LinkedIn Logo
Martin Parnell Logo Stamp

Martin Parnell

Finish The Race Attitude

Blog 22/25

The Ageless Athlete

July 10th 2024

By Martin Parnell and Malc Kent


The Ageless Athlete



1 Off and Running

2 Triathlons and Ultras

3 Quests for Kids

4 Ultras and Beyond

5 Malc Kent: The Early Years

6 Malc Kent: The Evolution of the Running Specialist

7 62 Beats 47

8 Hockey Injury

9 Racing 5’s and 10’s

10 Half Time

11 Marathon of Afghanistan

12 All or Nothing

13 The 60’s: Boston or Bust

14 The Stroke

15 COVID-19



About the Authors

Chapter 14

The Stroke (Part 1 of 2)

“I will never give in to old age until I become old. And I’m not old yet!”

On September 18, 2019, Kate and I received an email that would change the course of The Secret 3K events in the future:

I am delighted to say that the Girl Guides of Canada would be delighted to be the national charitable partner of the Secret 3K run – Kate and Martin – let me know when we can chat – thank you again for inviting us into this incredible event – looking forward to supporting this initiative to ensure everyone has a safe space to grow, build confidence, and run.



Executive Director

Girl Guides of Canada

We had been concerned about who would be our charity partner ever since we had received the email, in early July, saying that Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan had pulled out. I must admit that the Girl Guides of Canada had been our first choice, so we were thrilled when they said yes. Having the Girl Guides of Canada as our charity partner would open up opportunities in Canada as well as around the world.

Girl Guides of Canada

It all began in 1909, when girls in England demanded to take part in a Boy Scouts rally organized by Lord Baden-Powell at the Crystal Palace in London. Baden-Powell was impressed and he asked his sister, Agnes, to create a program just for girls. This was the beginning of Guiding.

By 1910, the Guiding Movement had reached Canada and the first Unit was formed in St. Catharine’s, Ontario. By 1912, there were units in every province and many of Canada’s most forward - thinking women banded together to form the Canadian Girl Guides Association.

Today, Girl Guides of Canada continues to be a place that sparks the imagination of girls to take their place in the world and take action on what matters to them. As female role models, our adult members support girls to achieve and succeed – through fun, adventures, challenges and international experiences. Guiding continues to play an important role in communities’ right across Canada.

— Excerpted from

In September, at Cinéfest, one of the top five film festivals in Canada, I was proud to be at the world premiere of The Secret Marathon. I wondered how the film would be received: Would the message come across, how would the audience respond?

People had obviously been interested enough, from what they had already heard, that over 400 tickets were sold for the event, held at the Sudbury SilverCity Cineplex. This meant an additional screening had to be added. The film was scheduled to be shown at 11 a.m. on September 22 and Sue and I had arrived in Sudbury the night before.

Next morning I headed over to the Running Room and met my running buddy Vince Perdue. A group had planned to run to the theatre 8 km away, so after I said a few words they headed off. That just gave me just enough time to pick up Sue and then go and pick up Autumn. She had a new outfit and looked amazing.

We arrived at the SilverCity Sudbury Cinemas and headed in. In the foyer we were told that two theatres had sold out. Autumn, Sue and I were ushered to a row reserved for us and the presentations began. First there was an introduction from Kathrine Switzer.

At the end, the film received a three-minute standing ovation. The following day we heard that the film had been voted the People’s Choice runner-up. Amazing.

Next up were my events on Wednesday, at Cambrian College. I gave two different talks, Firstly, in the afternoon, I spoke to staff and students in a presentation entitled Ordinary to Extraordinary: How One Person Can Make a Difference and, in the evening, I gave a presentation to members of the public on the story behind the film and my book of the same title, The Secret Marathon.

Film festival season was in full tilt and next up was Edmonton. There was a terrific slate of films scheduled, including Parasite (2020 Best Picture Oscar), Rocketman, The Neighbours’ Window and the documentary Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band.

The screening of The Secret Marathon was scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, October 4, and Sue and I arrived at the Delta Hotel late in the afternoon. Kate and Scott contacted us and we headed over to the theatre. The cinema was filling up and we grabbed our seats. Next to us was John Stanton. John’s home is in Edmonton and it was great to see him at the event. Just before the lights went down I could see we had a packed theatre.

Watching the film on the wide screen is a completely different experience to TV. Bill’s music sounded incredible and the Afghan scenery was stunning. It was hard to watch the scene with the little girl in the cave, and my heart soared when Kubra and I crossed the finish line. At the end of the film Kate, Hirra and I went up to the front and answered questions. Everyone stayed for this session.

There was a real buzz in the air as we left the auditorium and people lined up to vote on the film. We were told that there were around 30 people who had wanted to see the film but it was sold out. Afterwards we went to an Irish pub and hung out with Kate, Scott, Steve and Angie. Everyone was in great spirits.

On Saturday was the closing Gala, so Sue and I decided to stay and enjoy the festivities. We would probably never get to something like this again so we wanted to savour the experience. I spent the day watching a number of films and Sue went shopping. The gala started at 9 p.m. and we chatted to a variety of directors, production executives and film people. The climax of the evening was the awards presentations. There were a number available, including Best short, Best film and Best documentary.

Festival Director Kerrie Long shared the results and speeches were given. Sue and I didn’t hear any of this because we were waiting for the last award of the night. We were on tenterhooks. Then Kerrie started, “The winner of the People’s Choice award for the Best Documentary Feature is – The Secret Marathon!!!!!!!”

Well, that was our “Oscar” moment. Sue and I were jumping up and down and we were joined by Kate and Scott. At that moment, all the work that had gone into the film was worth it. It had been an amazing night, one that we would not forget.


Saturday, October 12, 2019 will go down as the greatest or worst day in marathon history. On this day Eliud Kipchoge ran a 1:59:40.2 marathon, the first time any human had broken the 2 hour barrier. This should have been a time of universal joy and celebration however it was not. The issue: Nike’s Vaporfly Next% shoes. Sue and I were in Montreal at the time visiting daughter Kristina, partner Josh and grandsons Nathan and Matthew. First up was a walk to the park. It was a lovely fall day and Kristina showed us around the neighbourhood. Over the next three days we visited the Science Museum, the old Port and Funtropolis.

Sue and I had had a great time with Kris, Josh and the boys but it was time to head back to Calgary. There would be no rest when we upon our return as Calum was arriving the next day.

Scott, Kate and I had been trying to figure out how to get distribution for The Secret Marathon film. Everyone kept telling us to contact Netflix or HBO, but that’s easier said than done. After the Sudbury premiere, Nicola, our film PR person, had sent us this email:

Hi Martin, Kate an Scott,

I think some of you may have seen my post on LinkedIn about the success of Sudbury, from that post I received a note from someone in alt-distribution that I know, he has requested a screener of the film. The company he works for is Demand Film.

They are not a traditional doc distributor, but could be interesting. They have had some really good successes with Dawn Wall, This Mountain Life, and currently have the Jordan Peterson doc selling out. They do really well with cycling docs, plus Yoga films, environmental films too.

Their model is a great way to get docs in particular to theatrical audiences. They sell their own tickets and basically crowd source with a database and local hosts to reach a minimum number of tickets sold before a screening proceeds, so it’s a great way to get people into cinemas on an off mid-week night for Cineplex, plus cuts traditional distribution expenses as screenings only go ahead when reaching a certain level.

All this to say that this could be something to look into and revisit after Edmonton. I’d like to send him a screener to get his thoughts if that’s ok with you all. They work in Canada, US, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland and Germany.

All the best,


On October 24, we were thrilled to have Demand films contact us and ask to distribute the film. Cal had been with us for a few days and was having a blast. One of his objective for this visit was to carry out some photo shoots in locations across Southern Alberta. He spent some time in Calgary, and Drumheller, and the highlight was a visit to a buffalo farm. On Saturday, October 26, I went for my usual run and when I got back Sue and Cal had headed in Cochrane. I had lunch and decided to read on the sofa for a bit. After a while I could feel my heart racing and my hands and face had become clammy. I thought it might pass but after another 30 minutes nothing had improved. Time to go to Urgent Care.

Walking into the facility I was seen by the nurse on call, and after I told her my symptoms she took me straight into the back and laid me down on a hospital bed. I phoned home and fortunately Sue and Cal were back. I told them what had happened and they said they’d come right over.

In the ward I was checked out by another nurse. She asked me a number of questions and she took my blood pressure. Then she left. Later a doctor came over and gave me the prognosis. I had a condition called “atrial fibrillation.”

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of strokes, heart failure and other heart-related complications. During atrial fibrillation, the heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly – out of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. Atrial fibrillation symptoms often include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness.

Episodes of atrial fibrillation may come and go, or you may develop atrial fibrillation that doesn’t go away and may require treatment. Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn’t life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment. A major concern with atrial fibrillation is the potential to develop blood clots within the upper chambers of the heart. These blood clots forming in the heart may circulate to other organs and lead to blocked blood flow (ischemia).

Treatments for atrial fibrillation may include medications and other interventions to try to alter the heart’s electrical system.

— Excerpted from

This was the note that the on-call physician sent to my family doctor on the day of the diagnosis:

Date: Saturday, October 26, 2019

Thank you very much for seeing Martin Parnell in follow up as soon as possible this week. I met him in Cochrane Urgent Care when he presented for sensation of dizziness and a twinge in his right arm. He had had a very brief episode of this one month ago, yesterday evening and then again on today’s date. Of note, there is no chest pain, dyspnea, no DVT symptoms, no Symptoms of hyperthyroid and syncope. As I am sure you are aware, he is an avid runner and this morning ran 20 km prior to his symptoms.

Today, Martin was found to be in atrial fibrillation. His rate at rest was 90–110 and with this he was symptomatic. His typical baseline heart rate is 60. His examination reveals no features of heart failure, normal air entry without crackles, no edema, heart sounds and radial pulse irregular. No appreciable murmurs. His BP ranged from 140–150 systolic/80s.

I have referred Martin to Total Cardiology for an echo and consultation. It is possible they will consider a TEE and subsequent cardioversion or continue with rate control. I would appreciate you seeing him to titrate his Coumadin and Diltiazem while awaiting echo and Total Cardiology.

I was told that I could resume normal activities but to ease off my running for a week. Leaving the ward I met Sue and Cal in the waiting room. Returning home, I felt a lot better and relaxed the rest of the day.

On Monday, Sue, Cal and I decided to do some shopping. It was time to buy a TV. The one we had had given up the ghost on Sunday. It had been struggling for a while and the screen ended up in a mass of coloured line. We went to Best Buy in Northland Mall and started checking out the models.

Suddenly my world turned upside down. One minute I was talking to Sue about a TV that I wanted to buy, then next a fog seemed to come over me. I wasn’t in pain and could still hear Sue but I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. She raised her arms and walked away. The Cal came into my line of vision. He spoke to me and pointed to a TV. My brain processed that this was the TV to buy.

In slow motion we went to the sales clerk. I figured out that the sales clerk wanted to know if I wanted the extended warranty. I said one word, “No!” Nobody noticed there was a problem. We walked to the exit of the mall and Cal and I waited by the door as Sue went to open the car. I tried to talk to Cal but my words came out jumbled up. I tried again and the same thing happened. Sue a came back in and said to Cal, “I think he’s having a stroke.”

Download PDF

If you have any comments, please email Martin.

View The Ageless Athlete Documentary (18 minutes)

The Ageless Athlete
The Ageless Athlete (18 minutes)
  • Martin Parnell The Ageless Athlete Blog Post 10/25

    July 3rd 2024

    In 2011 I joined the Rotary Club of Cochrane. I had been to a number of meetings the year before and the motto of the organization, “Service above Self,” really resonated with me. Since joining.....

    View Blog
  • Martin Parnell The Ageless Athlete Blog Post 10/25

    July 17th 2024

    They put me in the Jeep and drove directly to Urgent Care in Cochrane. Within two minutes I was in a bed and 20 minutes later the ambulance was on its way to the Stroke Unit at Foothills.....

    View Blog
Martin Parnell Back To Top Icon