‘Life and death’ marathon walk helps Calgary man recover after heart attacks

A Calgarian is on a unique journey that’s taken him past tens of thousands of homes around the city.

And Mark Shupe is carrying on despite some serious setbacks.

He is committed to getting a walk in every day.

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“If I miss a day, I kind of get the jitters (like): ‘I haven’t done my walk,’” Shupe said.

Shupe is continuing his long tradition of being a pretty active guy.

“I’m a long-time runner, used to run marathons,” Shupe said. “But my back started to hurt and I couldn’t run anymore.”

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So Shupe figured he’s switch gears and set out on a special project.

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“I said: OK, I’m going to take five years and I’m going to try and walk every street in the city,” Shupe said.

Covering virtually every corner of Calgary, it’s a lot of walking.

“About 16,000 kilometres,” Shupe said. “I mark off the streets on maps as I go. They’re pretty well-worn.”

Shupe kicked off his long walk on Jan. 1, 2018, with everything going well until he had a heart attack in 2020.

After undergoing major bypass surgery, Shupe had a second heart attack a few months later.

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But it wasn’t too long before he was back out on his marathon walk, with the blessing of his doctors.

“They said the best thing I could do is exercise, keep the blood flowing, keep the arteries clear, keep the pathways open,” Shupe said. “So this has become a matter of life and death, really.”

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Shupe walks about 15 kilometres most days, on a path with new purpose.

“I’m a chartered accountant, worked in the oil industry, retired last year,” Shupe said. “This is a different experience every day and I’m never sure what I’m going to see around the corner. Sometimes it’s an amazing view, sometimes it’s wildlife, sometimes it’s a mural.”

And Shupe is out to share his story with others.

“I’m actually working on a book called HA HA- Heart Attack: How to recover from two heart attacks while keeping a sense of humour,” Shupe said.

Shupe is now about 80 per cent of the way through his stroll down every street in Calgary, hoping to wrap it up by June 2023.

He says all those steps are helping him stay healthy.

“This is really making me feel good.”

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