For most, the idea of running a single marathon in a day remains an aspiration. Even the thought of it can seem exhausting. Participants of the World Marathon Challenge go quite a few steps further.
They run the standard 42.2km (26.2mile) marathon on a different continent, every day, for a week. Between marathons they barely have time to catch their breath as they grab their belongings, hop on a charter plane and set off for the next continent.
This year’s event kicked off on January 23 at Union Glacier in Antarctica where the 31 runners endured some of the most extreme weather on Earth, with howling winds in frost-bit, minus 30 degree-centigrade conditions.
Next up was Punta Arenas in Chile, followed by Miami (USA), Madrid (Spain), Marrakech (Morocco), Dubai (UAE) before the marathoners crossed the final finish line in Sydney (Australia) on January 30th.
This year’s winner was American marathoner and current average-time-record-holder for running all six World Marathon Majors, Michael Wardian. He managed the superhuman feat of averaging just 2 hours 45 minutes per marathon, shattering the previous record average of 3 hours 32 minutes.
As if that wasn’t enough, Wardian proceeded to run an extra 17 miles (27.35km) just to round the distance up to 200 miles (321.8km) in one week.
As Wardian told online publication running.competitor.com the most testing aspects of the challenge weren’t just the running: “Getting your passport stamped, making sure you have the right visa, making sure you fill out the customs forms. Figuring out where the bathroom is. Being confined to a small space,” He listed. “Also, running a marathon then jumping on a plane, so your feet swell up.”
“You just get off the plane, and you start running. You have like two hours to clear customs, change into your running kit — sometimes change in the airport — then you go run, then get back on the plane. I thought I’d have time to work and get food and stuff. None of that. It really was all-encompassing. It took every ounce of energy just to be ready to go the next day.”
On top of all that, the marathoners went “from Antanctica at -30 to Dubai at 95 and no shade, with a headwind, to last night [in Sydney] with the humidity.”
Of the nine female competitors, Chilean Silvana Camelio was victorious with an average of four hours and 12 minutes per marathon. The only American woman to compete, BethAnn Telford has brain cancer and reportedly raised over $1 million for the foundation ABC2 (Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure).
For Telford, the hardest part was: “saying goodbye and thanking all the participants, race staff, etc. as they all have been extremely supportive of me and the rest of the group. It was an amazing bonding experience for us all.”
History of the event
The World Marathon Challenge was officially launched in 2015 by Irishman, pilot and ‘ultra-runner’ veteran Richard Donovan.
Donovan set a world record for the same challenge in 2009 before smashing his own record in 2012 when he completed seven marathons on seven continents in just 120 hours.
The sporting aim of The World Marathon Challenge is to see “how far you can run, how far you can push yourself and how far you are prepared to travel”. The other objective is to raise money for charitable causes. It is unknown exactly how much his year’s challenge raised but when asked for an estimate Donovan said “There’s been millions raised for charity”.