“I’ve always been passionate about sports, about training. Three years ago, I lost my father. »

These are the first two sentences that Mathieu Young instinctively utters when we ask him to explain to us the ambitious challenge he has set himself: to break the Guinness record for the fastest 10 km race with a backpack. 40 lbs. All to benefit Movember and The Arthritis Society of Canada.

These two sentences, thus pronounced one after the other, do not seem to be connected. And yet…

To understand, you have to go back to 2019, the nightmarish year of Mathieu Young.

That year, the then 21-year-old stopped playing the sport that had always fascinated him, hockey; he reached junior AAA. He dropped out of school and entered the workforce as a handyman in an educational institution, a job he enjoyed. With his salary, he helps his father to pay some expenses.

On Tuesday, October 8, 2019, Mathieu unexpectedly lost his job. “Devastated”, he spends the evening with his girlfriend in Shawinigan.

On Wednesdays, he returns to his father, Eric, at L’Épiphanie. He spends a full day with his father; “good quality time,” he sums up with a smile. “At 11 p.m. I said to him, ‘Good night, I love you.’ »

On Thursday, at 8 a.m., Mathieu is awakened by his panicked 14-year-old half-brother, who shouts to him that he has found Éric unconscious in the living room.

“My room was in the basement, I went upstairs in a panic. We put my father on the ground, we tried to do the manoeuvres. […] I was on the phone with the ER girl and she was giving me a count; I was trying to resuscitate my father. »

Once in the hospital, Éric is taken care of. Mathieu waits about ten minutes before one of the police officers, who is also one of his childhood friends, comes to see him. “His heart started beating again,” he lets her know.

“When they say he fought until the end…” Mathieu drops in a breath.

Eric spent three days in palliative care, until the doctors agreed there was nothing more to be done.

Doctors could not determine the exact cause of death. In fact, “it’s a surplus of all the drugs” and the wear and tear of the disease, explains Mathieu Young. It’s that Eric had rheumatoid arthritis, a rare and severe form of the disease, which Mathieu wants to draw attention to with his challenge.

“In his early twenties, he woke up one morning and he wasn’t moving from head to toe. He was paralyzed for a year and a half. He had to relearn to speak, to walk, to write.

“As he went along, he learned to live with it. He was undergoing treatment, taking medication, cortisone. […] He couldn’t cure it anymore, he could just slow down the disease. »

When Mathieu was young, his father sometimes had paralytic attacks. “For a day, my mother fed him with straw,” he says.

“When [my dad] broke something, it never came back. Before he died, he had two broken toes, but all the time. It doesn’t regenerate. He had a cane, but he really had a pig’s face! “, he says, laughing.

Mathieu pauses, eyes watery. “Excuse,” he breathes, his voice shaking. “Three or four years it was fine. It was stable. Even he was starting to move more. »

Mathieu’s eyes light up when he talks about the strength of his father, who also recovered after attempting suicide in 2015.

It is for all these reasons that Mathieu has chosen to distribute the donations he will raise in equal parts between the organization Movember, which funds men’s health projects, and the Arthritis Society. He’s already raised over $2,000 of a $15,000 goal on his GoFundMe page.

After the death of his father, Mathieu Young was welcomed into the family of a friend for nine months, the time to grieve and think about his future. After a month, he saw on television the story of Samuel Finn, who broke the Guinness record for the most burpees in 12 hours in honor of his brother who died of cancer.

“I just lost my father, I just had the worst year of my life,” says Mathieu. There, I see it on TV, and the first instinct I have is: “I want to do this too.” »

Searching the Guinness World Records website, he came across the fastest 10k with a 40lb backpack. It kind of clicked. “I saw the parallel with my father’s strength of character. Just having the weight of the bag… It’s the weight of losing a loved one, the weight of losing your job, the weight of illness. »

The plan was to do this in 2020, but the pandemic forced him to postpone the project. So he resumed training last January, with the support of his physical trainer. He goes to the VIP Gym in Repentigny five or six times a week.

On October 14, exactly three years after the death of his father, Mathieu Young will attempt to smash the record of 41 min 24 s on the athletics track at Jean-Baptiste-Meilleur high school in Repentigny. . Family and friends will be there to cheer him on. And he invites anyone who wants to join them.

On March 28, his father’s birthday, Mathieu posted a video about his challenge on TikTok. Since then, encouragement has come from all sides. Many Internet users, touched, told him their story.

“I was lucky to have people who helped me through my grief,” Mathieu said. There are so many who go through hardships like this and are just left to their own devices. [This challenge] is like a pat on the back: you are not alone. »

“I’m doing it for me, for my dad and everyone it inspires,” he adds.

As his father taught him, he will fight until the end.

If you need support, are having suicidal thoughts, or are worried about someone close to you, call 1-866-CALL (1-866-277-3553). A suicide prevention worker is available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.