Monday, October 27, 2008

Danny Kassap Needs Our Help

This writeup is from Let's help Danny out.

Danny Kassap, one of Canada’s finest distance runners, very nearly died last month when he collapsed while running the Berlin Marathon. Now he needs help from the running community to pay for the lifesaving medical care that he received while hospitalized in Berlin.

If you follow distance running in Canada, you’ve probably heard of Danny Kassap. A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, he came to Canada as a teenager in 2001 for the Francophone Games. He made a daring escape from the athletes' village, seeking refugee status in Canada on the basis of political persecution.

Meanwhile, Danny found his way to Toronto, and began training with the University of Toronto Track Club. In 2004, he won the first marathon he ever ran in a very impressive time of 2:14:50. For the next several years, he continued to run very fast times on very high mileage, while also working full-time and obtaining his high school equivalency. Danny has never been on any form of social assistance.

After numerous legal setbacks, Danny finally became a landed immigrant in April of this year, and a Canadian citizen in August. As a result, he was finally able to run a race outside of Canada. In April, he travelled to England to run the London Marathon, one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive road races. He finished 15th, just three places behind the reigning Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini. In September, he travelled to Berlin to run his first marathon as a Canadian citizen.

For the first several kilometres in Berlin, Danny appeared poised to have another outstanding race. However, near the 5 km mark, disaster struck when Danny suddenly collapsed. A Good Samaritan who happened to be in close proximity to him at the time began administering CPR almost immediately, and a paramedic on a motorcycle got to him within a minute. Danny received between 15-19 shocks from a defibrillator, and the paramedics worked on him for 45 minutes before his condition stabilized. He was placed in a medically-induced coma for several days, and remained in a Berlin hospital for over two weeks before he was able to return home to Toronto.

The doctors determined that Danny suffered a “ventricular fibrillation” (an uncoordinated contraction of the cardiac muscle) brought on by myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart), which in turn was caused by a cold virus. Danny will not be able to run for at least the next three months, but doctors are cautiously optimistic that he will make a full recovery.

Danny received outstanding medical care while in Berlin, but it has left him with a crippling debt. Even with OHIP covering a portion of Danny’s medical bills, he still owes $18,000 to the hospital which cared for him, and which discharged him on the undertaking that the amount owing will be paid in a timely manner.

Danny presently works full-time as an assistant manager at the Running Room. Eighteen thousand dollars is a prohibitively large amount for him to have to repay quickly. Danny has been unable to contact his family since coming to Canada, and even if he could, they would be unable to provide him with any financial assistance. However, we are hopeful that Danny’s many friends and well-wishers within the running community will be able to provide him with some measure of support.

Danny’s primary motivation for running the Berlin Marathon was to secure a spot on his first Canadian national team so that he could proudly represent Canada at next summer’s World Championships. Danny has made a tremendous contribution to the Canadian running community since arriving here more than seven years ago, and now is our chance to return the favour.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Drinking and Joggling

Do drinking and joggling mix? During the Royal Victoria Marathon, I discovered that yes, they do. The Hash House Harriers set up a beer check along the course, and since I wasn't going for a world record, I decided to stop for a couple of cups. I juggled a bit as I drank. The beer helped me stay nice and relaxed and unfocused for the rest of the race.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dick Beardsley Rules

At the Royal Victoria Marathon, I met my running hero, Dick Beardsley. He's an incredible speaker and just a great guy to talk to. He's been through more in his life than just about anyone I've ever met, and he's all the stronger for it. The same tenacity that Beardsley used to fight his way through the Duel in Sun at the 1982 Boston Marathon carried him through the battle with near-deadly injuries and prescription narcotics addiction. He has so many good stories to tell about running and life. Cheers to Beards! If you're ever looking to book a motivational speaker, click on the above link -- you won't be sorry.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Royal Joggle

My trip to Victoria, B.C. was a grand success. The Royal Victoria Marathon is a first-class event, with a gorgeous, scenic route. I joggled a relaxed 3:12. doing tricks almost the whole way. I wasted a lot of energy laughing. After stopping at the Hash House Harriers tent for some beer, my drop rate increased dramatically. The day before the race, the Victoria Times-Colonist ran a story on my joggling, and the next day I became known as "that guy on A3." Here is a photo on flickr (thanks Perry) I don't look very happy here, but I think the sun was in my eyes. Here's a good roundup of the race, but it says my joggling record is 2:15 -- now that would be an impressive record.

Canadian Running Magazine's expo booth was hopping. At times, we could barely keep up with the demand for new subscribers. It's great to see Canadians supporting a Canadian running magazine.

Up next, I have a tough assignment joggling the Cayman Islands Marathon on Dec. 7.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Danny Kassap Recovering in Berlin Hospital

Canadian marathon runner Danny Kassap, a big inspiration to me in the early days of my running, collapsed 5K into this past Sunday's Berlin Marathon with a heart arrhythmia. James Christie wrote a piece about it today on

Alex Hutchinson wrote a feature article about Danny in our premiere issue of Canadian Running Magazine, and we've all been worried sick about him. The latest news sounds promising. Get well soon, Danny.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon

(Photo by CRS Staff)

It's true: I'm faster with balls. I ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon this past Sunday in 2:53:59, and I wasn't juggling, pushing a stroller or running backwards. I didn't set a world record. I was 24 minutes off my personal best. But I did finish the race, which was an accomplishment for me this time around because I didn't almost no training, and completed no training runs longer than about 10K.

As Perry pointed out to me, though, I did set a PB for a costume marathon. I ran the race dressed as 1907 Boston Marathon winner Tom Longboat, as part of a thing the race put together to celebrate 100 years of the marathon distance. Two others travelled all the way from Carpi, Italy to run as Dorando Pietri (who won the 1908 Olympic marathon, but was subsequently disqualified for being helped across the line). They also brought the cup the Queen presented to Dorando in honour of his achievement. Two guys dressed as Johnny Hayes, the official winner of the 1908 race, did the marathon, and brought Hayes's original Olympic gold medal, which I got to hold for a bit (wow!).

I should point out that I did not run in 1908 footwear, but instead opted for my trusty Reebok 3D Lites.