29 Aug, 2012

Seven on Seven in Five!

Seven on Seven in Five!

A popular goal amongst runners is to complete a marathon on each of the seven continents, but most take some time to achieve this due to family, work, financial and recovery constraints. However, a new challenge was born in November 2003 when British adventurers Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Dr Mike Stroud managed the feat in just seven days in the Land Rover 7x7x7 Challenge. Six years year later, Irish ultra-runner and event organiser Richard Donovan decided to attempt the challenge in under six days, and after running in Antarctica, Cape Town, Dubai, London, Toronto, Santiago and Sydney, he had brought the record down to five days, 10 hours and eight minutes.


Not content with that, in mid-January of this year he decided to try doing it in less than five days (120 hours), since he was going to Antarctica soon to recce the route for the upcoming Antarctic Ice Marathon that he organises. Thus, within two weeks, The World Marathon Challenge 2012 was set-up, which saw Richard return to Cape Town for a most unusual midnight marathon.


“The Russians stage their Antarctic flights out of Cape Town, so that makes it a logical point for the African leg of the challenge,” explained Richard just before starting his Cape Town run. “I prefer to run the Antarctic leg first because it is probably the hardest due to the extreme temperatures and weather, but the rest are just as hard when you only have eight or nine hours between each run. But I’m running to raise funds for GOAL, an international aid agency that works to alleviate the suffering of people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa, and that keeps me going.”



So, having just run a 4:21:11 marathon in Antarctica in temperatures as low as minus-10 degrees Celsius, Richard immediately flew 4200km back to Cape Town, landed around 11pm on 1 February, and was driven straight to the start point of the Aca Joe Cape Town Marathon by James Evans, President of Athletics South Africa. As event director of the race, James had guided Richard along the course during his 2009 run, and was on hand to do so again.


Waiting at the start were local runners Paul Britain, David Fox and Cole Stanton, who had volunteered to keep Richard company, and after a brief chat, the four set off, accompanied by a mini convoy of seconding cars. With quick refreshment stops every five kays, they finished at the Cape Town Stadium in 4:23:51, and after a quick shower at Paul’s house, Richard was whisked back to the airport to catch his flight to Brazil, just eight hours after landing in the Mother City!



Next up Richard ran a 4:19:00 marathon on the Sao Paulo Air Force Base, then flew to Orlando in the USA and ran a 4:44:27. From there it was off to London for a 4:32:45 run in temperatures as low as minus-6 degrees, but he was warmed up by a surprise visit from his three sisters and his niece. However, by this stage he was taking serious strain, as can be seen from this tweet while waiting for his flight to Hong Kong: “Not able to keep food or liquids down, which is a result of a combination of fatigue and travel. This is a ‘marathon’ challenge of a different nature!”


That made the remaining legs very tough, but he finished Hong Kong in 5:03:05 and Sydney in 5:21:40, crossing the finish line in 4 days, 22 hours and three minutes! He had run 295km, flown 43 500km in just under 56 hours in the air, and spent 10 hours waiting in airports and 18 hours disembarking, going through customs and travelling to and from marathon locations. His average finishing time for the seven marathons was 4:40:51.


After finishing, Richard wanted to say thank you to everybody that followed and supported him, and who made contributions to GOAL. "I am also extremely grateful to the measurers and support crews in each location for their hospitality and for making the effort possible. Finally, apologies to the Australian Border Control agent for causing alarm when answering what countries I visited in the previous six days!"


Go to to find out more about Richard’s run.