Published March 15. 2014 3:00PM Updated March 17. 2014 12:03PM
New London - It's not an official world record. Not yet. What Groton's Chris Annino did Saturday in the parking lot at Ocean Beach Park in New London — pulling a 3,000 pound automobile via a shoulder harness for 1 mile — still has to be certified by the Guinness World Records.
But for Annino, 30, a weight trainer and former high school wrestler, and who in fact did tug a red Subaru sport station wagon around the perimeter of the lot for 1 mile, a possible world record was only a small part of the attempt.
"I promised I'd do this, and I'm going to do it," Annino said shortly before he strapped on the harness on a sunny but chilly afternoon. "I'll do it if my foot falls off."
While Annino was probably in no danger of that happening, he did, while training, recently suffer tissue damage and internal bleeding near the first metatarsal just behind his left big toe — which is a significant pivotal fulcrum in any ambulatory event and particularly if one is trying to drag an entire car for a mile.
"I've been cleared to try this," Annino said. "I'll try to push off my left heel and see how that works." He'd taken some Motrin but, laughing, he added, "I'll probably wish it was Vicodin before I'm done."
Part of his resolve had to do with his promise — he'd vowed to set the record as a gesture to the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation on behalf of Team 911, a local outfit originally formed to walk together at the annual walk. The distance pull was originally scheduled to take place next week during the Mystic St. Patrick's Day Parade as part of a "Weekend of Celebration" benefiting the Brodeur Foundation. When insurance became a concern to include the distance pull in the actual parade, it was moved up a week to Ocean Beach Park, and Annino's efforts will be formally celebrated during the parade on March 23.
"The Brodeur folks do amazing work, and they're near and dear to my heart," said Annino, who is also an actor and a freelance journalist and has been a firefighter with several departments in southeastern Connecticut. "All of the money raised for the Brodeur Foundation goes directly to finding a cure for breast cancer."
Annino said he was also inspired by two mentors in his workout regimen, the late Joe Mugovero and current trainer Gabe Glaza. "I've been through some rough times and a lot of people sort of gave up on me," Annino said. "But Joe taught me to be strong and to use my strength to do good things other than just focus on athletic competition. It's something Gabe emphasizes, too."
Glaza, who owns the Old School Iron gym in New London, was in the driver's seat of the Subaru while Annino pulled — not only to steer and shout encouragement, but also because his own body weight, plus the weight of the vehicle, equaled the required 3,000 pounds.
Throughout the mile pull, which took about 40 minutes, Glaza calmly gave Annino words of encouragement and advice. Dressed in pink leggings and a Brodeur T-shirt, Annino pulled the Subaru at a fairly steady pace, leaning forward and relying on his non-injured right foot for much of the power. Still, there are inclines on opposite sides of the Ocean Beach parking lot, and Annino seemed to hit the wall on two of the four uphill climbs. Each time, he literally got down in a four-point stance to pull forward. With calls of encouragement, applause from the crowd and raw conviction, Annino crested both slopes.
"He's got the strength, and he's got a lot of willpower," Glaza said, "but this is an endurance exercise as much as a demonstration of strength. You have to get enough oxygen and remember to breathe properly. And you've got to do it mentally."
Walking along next to Annino was Jamie Lee, a New London doctor of natural medicine who monitored his condition and kept him hydrated.
About 30 folks gathered in the parking lot to cheer Annino on. Many were Brodeur activists like Marilyn Dayton, a marketing director for the foundation, who also hosts with Annino "From This Corner TV," a program that airs on Groton community cable as well as on YouTube.
"Chris is such a great guy and very committed," said Dayton, who helped out the distance-pull effort by filling out the necessary certification forms for the Guinness records folks. She also arranged for cameramen to capture nonstop video footage of Annino's efforts to validate that no one was helping him during the event.
Annino established a record in a new vehicle distance pull category. Guinness officials approved the category once he submitted the weight and method — the minimum distance standard is a half-mile, Dayton said. Once the paperwork and video documentation is submitted, it should take 6 to 12 weeks before Guinness World Records acknowledges the category and record, Dayton said.
Nora Smith of Madison was another supporter who showed up. "I have a friend who's very involved with the Brodeur Foundation," Smith said. "We thought this would be an interesting thing to witness, and we knew it would help out the foundation."
Waterford's Keith Muller knows one of the photographers who was documenting the pull for its veracity. "He told me about it," Muller said.
"I'd never seen anything like this, so I thought I'd be here for it. And it is amazing. He's definitely strong. But it's also for a great cause."
At the end, Glaza called out the car's driver's side window that Annino could stop — that he'd done a mile. Annino looked almost as though he couldn't believe it. He dropped the harness from around his shoulders and took great drafts of air, staggering slightly from exhaustion and from simply being free of a 3,000 pound weight.
"I kept trying to figure out different angles and strategies," Annino said, shaking his head. "Thank God for Gabe. He kept me calm and focused."