‘We’re doing this for positivity, inspiration and smiles’

Danny and Brian Connolly cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April. The brothers started completing marathons together in 2019.
Photo by MarathonFoto/Courtesy of Danny Connolly

If you recognize Danny Connolly, you likely aren’t alone in the Park City area. The 45-year-old Parkite has two Park City Marathon titles to his name, which he won back to back in 2011-12. 

But if you ask him, he’ll likely hold back emotions while telling you his proudest accomplishments in running have come in more recent years, when he has gotten into adaptive racing with his older brother, Brian. Brian, who Danny estimates was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) about 37 years ago at age 14, has beaten the odds thus far and is still fighting off the devastating disease, whose patients’ life expectancies typically range from 25-35 years following diagnosis, according to the University of Utah’s Eccles Health Sciences Library.

The duo started completing marathons together in 2019 on Danny’s suggestion. Danny could immediately see the benefits of racing together on Brian, who used to be an athlete during his time at East High School. MS, a progressive disease, had since stripped Brian of his physical abilities, taking an obvious psychological toll on him.

The pair completed their first marathon in the fall of 2019, at the St. George Marathon, where Danny was in awe of the number of other participants “in their shoes.” After finding success at that race, he knew how special it would be to keep adding similar events to his brother’s schedule.

“For him (Brian) to have something on his calendar, to do it again, it just keeps him more positive,” said Connolly. 

The Connolly brothers race along the Boston Marathon in April. Danny said this race was where he began realizing the impact they could make on others.
Photo by Russ Hoyt/Courtesy of Danny Connolly

Danny said it didn’t quite hit home that he and his brother could make an impact on others until they got invited to the Boston Marathon. They were able to meet the race specifications and were sponsored to race by Team Hoyt, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization specializing in aiding disabled youth. Danny and Brian quickly formed friendships with people from a Hoyt division in San Diego, inspiring them to continue participating in higher profile marathons like the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon. 

After missing out on races when first getting going, due to Covid, Danny and Brian have no plans to cut down on their schedule. The two are currently completing about six marathons a year, and they’d like to get in as many as possible while they can. Danny added he’d like to sign them up for at least two more races this year alone.

Danny shared a unique technique they use to power through the tough physical task at hand. They like to pick one person to discuss during each mile of the race, which isn’t incredibly difficult due to their large, 15-person immediate family.

“We’ve had some really good conversations during those times (races),” Danny said. “Before it we’ll say, ‘OK, we’ve got 26 miles. We’re going to do one mile (of conversation) for each person.'” 

According to Danny, no physical obstacles compare to the reality of his brother’s declining physical state. Even four years ago Brian had much more function in his body. Now it takes a community to get the two to the starting line. Once they get going, however, Brian’s competitive edge resurfaces and he loves interacting with supportive crowds as they try to match their best times.

The pair are attempting to install a buzzer of sorts on their racing stroller for their next marathon, which Brian could push to signal fans of their pending arrival.

Danny said he is astonished at just how far their journey has gone, given the original plan was just to start and finish one marathon.

He hopes others can take away a lesson on positivity from the brothers. He was adamant that the two couldn’t care less about any accolades, only that they are able to spread positivity, smiles and inspiration to others.

“All we’re doing is pushing someone in a marathon,” he said. “It’s amazing that people are like, ‘You’re doing what!'”

Danny feels that with his brother by his side, and having completed eight marathons to date, that there isn’t a challenge the tandem cannot overcome. While unsure what the next race will be, he is sure they will feed off the love of all around them.

He expressed gratitude toward all who have allowed the brothers to accomplish what they have so far, including one, incredibly-generous brother-in-law who crafted their first racing stroller back when they couldn’t yet afford one for competition.


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