The Girl in the Stroller: Calum Neff Set To Bring Guinness World Record Back To Toronto!

By Amy Friel.
TORONTO. July 13th 2016.

Annika Kapral’s advice for setting a Guinness World Record is simple:

“Don’t do anything.”

Michal Kapral

Michal and Annika Kapral, STWM 2004

And she would know; Kapral, now thirteen, was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records at just under two years old – a tiny passenger along for the ride as father Michal set the record for the fastest marathon pushing a stroller.

“I tell her that she’ll always be The Girl in the Stroller,” he jokes.

Kapral’s mark of 2:49:44, set at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2004, has been bettered several times since then – a Guinness World Records title that is at once hotly-contested and surprisingly fast, by any standard.

“It doesn’t slow you down as much as you might think,” Kapral recalls of racing with a stroller and toddler in tow. “But the whole experience is just totally different because you have so many other things to worry about. Before a marathon, you kind of have enough to worry about, with your nutrition and gear and whatnot. And on top of that I had all the stuff for the stroller, and trying to take care of a toddler. It was like a two-page checklist.”

For his part, Michal says that Annika was a model passenger.

“She was asleep for the first half,” he recalls. “Around the half-marathon mark, she woke up. And when she woke up I immediately had a minor panic attack.”

But his worry proved unfounded as Annika, who had hitched a ride for the bulk of her father’s marathon training (including long runs), happily took in the sights of the race without complaint.

“The best thing that she did was to not complain,” he says. “She was really encouraging, in training and in the race. She was like ‘Go Daddy go!’”

When it comes to competing for a Guinness World Records stroller title, a successful race comes down to equal parts training, dedication, careful planning, and plain old luck. It’s a formula that Calum Neff hopes to replicate this fall, when he tries to once again bring the Guinness World Records title home to Toronto.

Katy Half-Marathon, 2016. Photo Credit: Bill Baumeyer

Katy Half-Marathon, 2016. Photo Credit: Bill Baumeyer

Neff is no stranger to stroller racing; earlier this year, he set the Guinness World Record for the fastest half-marathon while pushing a stroller at the Katy Half Marathon in Texas, with 11-month-old daughter Holland in tow. For Neff, who boasts an impressive 2:22 marathon PR, the stroller record for the full marathon distance was a logical progression.

“I’ve been meaning to race in Toronto for a number of years,” says Neff, who has strong family ties to the Toronto area. “It allows family members to see me run, because most of the time they’re not around when I’m running. It gives them a chance to be a part of it.”

So when he saw that officials would be on-site as part of the Guinness World Records challenge at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, he knew the time had come for him to make his mark on the Toronto course.

“I jumped through a few hoops to do it on my own and get it ratified, since Guinness wasn’t there,” he says of his half-marathon title.

In order to prove he’d run the entire distance with the stroller, Neff streamed the run live on Periscope. For him, the added bonus of having Guinness World Records officials present at the Toronto race means one less thing to worry about come race day.

“It’s pretty special,” he says of the partnership. “It’ll be nice to take that pressure off, and have them actually on-site.”

The special partnership between Guinness World Records and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon can be traced back to Michal Kapral’s original record-setting run more than a decade ago.

“Marathons don’t usually allow strollers – or really any race, for that matter,” Kapral says.

Like many marathoners who hope to claim a Guinness World Records title, Kapral knew he needed to find a top-level race that would be willing to accommodate his unusual requirements.

“So I checked with (Toronto Race Director) Alan Brookes,” he recalls. “And being the good guy that he is, he gave me a special dispensation to try to set the Guinness World Record pushing Annika in the stroller.”

With that, a unique tradition in the Toronto running community was born – a tradition that has grown steadily over the past decade, with 2016 promising to be the biggest year yet.

Cal Neff 2016-01-13 17.23.32-1

Calum with older daughter Aley.

For his attempt at the marathon record this fall, Calum Neff plans to run with with older daughter Aley as his passenger, in the hopes that his older daughter will be able to take a positive memory from the experience.

“Aley will be turning four in August, and four-years-old is definitely when you start forming those lasting memories,” he explains. “Even though she’s a little bit heavier than Holland, she’ll be able to take it all in. I’m really looking forward to that bonding experience.”

For Michal Kapral, bringing Annika along on the road to his Guinness World Records title proved to be more than just a bonding moment. Over the final gruelling kilometres, his bubbly toddler became a source of inspiration.

“You’re pushing your kid along, and you’re really suffering in the race, but you’ve got this encouragement,” he recalls. “That’s the greatest thing ever.”

Applications are now being accepted for Guinness World Record attempts at the 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon & Half-Marathon! Find out how you can apply to break your very own Guinness World Record: 

*Header image photo credit: Scott Flathouse