Running a half-marathon is tough. Running one as you push an 11-year-old girl in a high-end jogging stroller is tougher, but that’s what Mike Connelly will be doing Sunday, and not for the first time.
Connelly is from Bethlehem and he’s 54, which isn’t old for a long-distance runner but isn’t young, either. Kaela Knorr, the Allentown girl who has been his passenger twice and will be again in this weekend’s St. Luke’s Half-Marathon and 5K, said her racing buddy chats with her in the beginning but, as you might imagine, gets quiet after a while.
“Most of the time he’s breathing hard,” she said the other day.
Kaela rides in races instead of running them because she has a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects the joints and vascular systems.
“She can pass out and gets fatigued easily,” said her mother, Melissa, who home-schools Kaela. “But she’s a normally functioning child.”
Indeed, she’s a Girl Scout and also attends Camelot for Children in Allentown, a gathering place for chronically and terminally ill children.
Last fall, Connelly contacted Camelot and asked if any of the children might like to go on a road race in an adaptive running chair, which is the proper name for the device.
“It sounded fun, and I was excited to try something new,” she said.
The fledgling team started big with the Runner’s World Half-Marathon in October, then followed up in December with the Christmas City Classic 5-Miler and Candy Cane 5K in Bethlehem — a mere stretch of the legs, but a merry enough way to spend a day of the Christmas season. Tucked into the chair with blankets and books, Kaela told jokes and shared animal facts as Connelly plowed along.