On a cold and wet morning in Milton, Ont., local runner Austin Kjorven pushed his four-year-old daughter, Dagny, and 16-month-old son, Gryffin, in a stroller for 10K. When he crossed the finish line of the Keeping the Distance 10K (a race which he and his wife, Alex, had organized), he broke the world record for fastest 10K while pushing a double stroller. His official time of 36:06 shattered the previous Guinness World Record of 45 minutes, and it also happens to be faster than his 10K PB without a stroller. The Keeping the Distance 10K doubled as a fundraiser for Right To Play, a charity that empowers 2.3 million children worldwide each year through “the power of play.”
Getting into stroller-running
Kjorven first started taking Dagny along with him on runs in the stroller as a chance to spend more time with her while still working his training into his schedule. When Gryffin came along, he upgraded to a double stroller. But it wasn’t until the 2018 Niagara Falls International Marathon that Kjorven started to think about a possible world record attempt. He and Dagny were in the 10K, and they cruised to a 37:20 finish, only about 90 seconds off the overall race win. After the quick result, Kjorven did some research to see if official stroller-pushing records were a thing. As it turned out, they do exist, but fellow Canadian Calum Neff has put these records out of reach for most runners.
Neff, who lives in Texas, has run 2:31 for the marathon, 1:11 for the half and sub-32 for 10K, all while pushing one of his daughters in a stroller. When Kjorven first looked up the stroller-pushing records, Neff had yet to run his 31:43. At the time, the 10K mark of 32:26 seemed achievable to Kjorven, but when Neff ran sub-32 in February, Kjorven knew he couldn’t match it.
“That was too fast, but then I contacted Guinness and found out that the world record for two kids was 45 minutes,” he says. “I was confident I could beat that.” He signed up for the Niagara 10K once again (where he and Dagny had run to a second-straight second-place finish in 2019), this time hoping to grab the overall win and the double-stroller world record. Unfortunately, as with most events in 2020, the race was cancelled, and Kjorven was forced to put his plans for a record-breaking run on hold.
Keeping the Distance 10K
After three months of lockdown, Kjorven — who is an elementary school phys-ed teacher in Toronto — began “looking around the community and thinking of the kids. I wondered if there was something to do in Milton.” At the time, mass gatherings outside were limited to just 10 people, so Kjorven started to plan for a race with just a few runners and a race director. When his wife told the mayor of Milton about Kjorven’s race idea, it piqued his interest. With the town into the idea, Kjorven mentioned it to former Canadian Olympic kayaker and current MP for Milton Adam van Koeverden. Without hesitation, he was in, and Kjorven says he was the second person to register for the run.
As the pandemic improved over the summer and restrictions were slackened, the race became easier to plan, and they were able to invite more than just 10 people to show up. They ended up hosting 35 runners, and although the weather on race day was far from ideal with high winds and steady rain, the event was a success. Kjorven finished in second place (his third-consecutive second-place finish, he notes ruefully), and he pushed Dagny and Gryffin to a world record.
If all is clear next year and races can go ahead as usual, he says he hopes to run with Gryffin (he expects Dagny to be too big for the stroller by then) for the overall win at the Niagara 10K. “I want to get that first-place finish,” he says.
A charity run
Kjorven says he chose to support Right To Play because it has had an influence on kids at his school in Toronto. The organization helps millions of children in a normal year, but Kjorven says the work to help these kids is even more important now during COVID-19. The race fundraising page is still live, and total donations currently sit at $4,400. Kjorven and his team hope to reach at least $5,000 before the fundraiser closes. To donate, click here.