Star of viral marathon video came in last, and wouldn't have it any other way

A video of Sean Kachmarski's last-place finish at the Edmonton Marathon is capturing attention around the world.

‘I always ask myself, would I have finished if Rene had not been there?’

Sean Kachmarski and Rene Wache hug it out after crossing the finish line at the 2016 Edmonton Marathon. (Sean Kachmarski)

'Tis the season for giving! That's why we're bringing back some of our favourite stories from this year. This story was originally published on Feb. 4, 2019. Enjoy!

More than 13 million people have watched an inspirational video about one runner's struggle to finish the Edmonton Marathon and the race volunteer who pushed him to reach his goal.

The video sat relatively unnoticed on YouTube for the past two years.

It shows the end of the 2016 Edmonton Marathon, last-place finisher Sean Kachmarski, and a race volunteer, Rene Wache, who ran alongside him for four hours, making sure the runner crossed the finish line.

Kachmarski posted the video shortly after finishing the race, with a time of more than seven hours — 7:07:23, to be exact. His cousin had caught the final push of his run on camera.

Sean Kachmarski's daughter joins her dad and volunteer Rene Wache in the last few yards of the race. (Marathon-photos.com)

Only about 1,000 people had viewed the video before a media licensing company reached out to Kachmarski, a former Calgarian who now lives in the United Kingdom.

"They put music to it and put it in the right places and all of a sudden … people are crying over it." Kachmarski said. "It was just, it's just unbelievable."

The piece was picked up by a Facebook page called Try Not To Cry.

The short video is one thing, but the real story is incredible.

A slow start

Kachmarski began his running career slowly, using an app that helped him run for two minutes, then walk for one. He later challenged himself more by entering half-marathons.

In April 2016 he decided to take on his first full race and entered the Greater Manchester Marathon.

"My mom had flown in from Canada to see me at the finish line and I did all 18 weeks of training and over 700 miles of running," Kachmarski said in an interview.

But it just wasn't meant to be.

"They stopped me at 20 miles and said I was running too slow and that was it. I was crushed."

Initially, he planned to go back to half-marathons. He had planned to enter the half-marathon in Edmonton during a visit to Canada that summer.

Not wanting to face another devastating end, he balked when his cousin told him he should sign up for the full 2016 Edmonton Marathon, a distance of 42.2 kilometres.

"I said, well, nah, I didn't really want to go through that again, and that was quite emotional, and it was lots of work and blah, blah, blah," said Kachmarski.

After looking at his calendar and realizing he could make time to train, he decided to do it — once again having his family waiting for him at the finish line.

On Aug. 21, 2016, he started the Edmonton race, knowing he would come in last.

C'mon Sean!

Wache, a race volunteer, was working the water station near the 17-kilometre mark when he noticed Kachmarski struggling. He tried urging him on, telling he'd see him on the other side of the race loop.

Edmonton marathon volunteer Rene Wache ran alongside Sean Kachmarski for about 20 kilometres during the 2016 race. (marathon-photos.com)

"He ran away, he was probably about 100 metres away from the water station. I'm like, 'Aaah, I can't do this,'" Wache said.

"I said to everybody, 'Thank you for having me at the water station, I've got to go and help.'"

Wache caught up with Kachmarski and for the next four hours ran alongside the runner, cheering him on and pumping him up.

It was just still such a magical moment.- Sean Kachmarski

He hadn't planned on taking him all the way to the finish line. "I hate long distance," Wache told CBC's Edmonton AM, adding he was just hoping to get Kachmarski motivated to finish the race.

Kachmarski said Wache is a true legend in this story.

"Rene was just unbelievable and I always ask myself the question, 'Would I have finished If Rene had not been there?'

"But it was just still such a magical moment and he stayed with me the whole time and he was yelling — not yelling at me — but he was supporting me and he was yelling encouragement all the way through."

Rene Wache and Sean Kachmarski celebrate after crossing the finish line in the 2016 Edmonton Marathon. (Marathon-photos.com)

For Kachmarski, coming in last didn't faze him. In fact it's one of his favourite memories.

"I just couldn't have asked for a better ending," he said. "I was last but I had a police escort and I kept asking to open up the road, and the police are saying, 'You've got this, man,' and I had all the volunteers who stayed and cheered me on, and had kids running behind me like I was Rocky Balboa."

Kachmarski has signed up for his first ultramarathon this March. He's now training for a 50-kilometre race in Leeds, England.

He said comments on his video gave him motivation to sign up for the race.

Wache, meanwhile, has offered his encouragement services to Kachmarski for the Leeds race, with a catch.

"Sean … If you promise you're going to wear the Captain Marvel uniform, I'm probably going to fly there, come and support you at your run, I promise," Wache told Kachmarksi on CBC's Edmonton AM.

"And if I have to run with you, just don't make me run the whole 50 [kilometres] ... we'll start maybe at 25."



Kory Siegers

Network producer

Kory Siegers is a network producer with CBC News, based in Edmonton, Alta. She previously worked as a producer for CBC Edmonton and as an assignment editor for Global Edmonton. She has spent more than two decades covering news across Alberta. Email story tips to kory.siegers@cbc.ca.