‘Without them, I couldn’t do it’

Mike Whittemore successfully completed his run-swim biathlon to raise awareness for Big Brothers Big Sisters. 


Vineyard Haven resident Mike Whittemore, who planned a 100K biathlon on the Island to raise awareness and money for Big Brothers Big Sisters, completed his task on Saturday. Starting in Katama on Friday, he completed navigating the 68-mile perimeter swim-run in just under 30 hours, ending at South Beach. 

“It’s really for Big Brothers Big Sisters. It’s just sort of a bonus being out here in nature and stuff,” Whittemore told The Times after finishing the route on South Beach in Edgartown. 

Whittemore said he originally had a goal to complete the route, which was created and made by Islander Paul Burton in 2019, in 24 hours. However, safety issues slowed him down for several hours, adding time to his goal. 

Other than supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters, Whittemore had another reason to run the challenging route. “I just want to dedicate this thing in some way, even though it was in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters, to my awesome mom, Dorian Manion, for Mother’s Day. She taught me to follow my heart, and I’m forever grateful,” Whittemore said. 

The original plan was to start on Friday at 10 pm. However, seeing how bad the weather forecast was for Saturday, Whittemore changed plans and decided to begin the run Friday morning. Unfortunately, this meant many people in his support group would not be able to make it to the Island, or had conflicting schedules. Dane Holloway, Whittemore’s best friend, had to persuade his boss so he could make it to Martha’s Vineyard from New Hampshire. Holloway participated in the route alongside Whittemore. “I mean, I had to. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Holloway said. 

Another person who provided Whittemore with support was Derek Nagengast. 

“Derek is a crazy man, let me tell you,” Whittemore said with laughter. He said Nagengast appeared at around six points along the route to provide refreshments, like cupcakes and other treats. “At one point, he dropped down out of the treeline and he brought me beer.”

Whittemore said, “Without them, I couldn’t do it.” Even with the help, running and swimming the route was not easy. “The conditions were really challenging, with constant rain and heavy wind on Saturday, and I had to wait hours for the sun to come up to cross,” Whittemore said. “I lost some toenails, and I had a lot of blisters at the end. What really made it worth it was the support from friends and strangers.” 

One of those strangers was MV Times Chilmark columnist Valerie Sonnenthal, who met Whittemore on Lucy Vincent Beach. Sonnenthal wrote to The Times that she arrived at the beach Friday morning around 8:30 am and was the only car there. Sonnenthal made her way to the beach with her dogs, and saw someone in the distance all in black and carrying some type of equipment. By the time he caught up to her, Sonnenthal could see he had a small rucksack on his back and a pair of extending trekking poles. Whittemore told the Times Sonnenthal ran half of the beach with him after finding out what the biathlon was for. 

“I’ve done a lot of adventuring in my life. It’s ingrained in me; I love the outdoors. But this was by far the most amazing experience because it was such a big endeavor, and so many people came to support in some way,” Whittemore said. 

The fundraiser for Big Brother Big Sister through the biathlon raised $6,525. For those interested in donating to Big Brothers Big Sisters, visit bit.ly/3Kdj4Vw