01
Feb
17

More to this Challenge

They were either running long distances or traveling them.

For the week, they ran more miles (183.4) than hours (168).

On Sunday in Sydney, 32 runners completed the World Marathon Challenge – running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.

Some are probably thinking they have a screw loose or just wanted to scream “look at me!” to the world.1011515599-ma_md_wardian1 1011515599-ma_md_wardian2

But a closer look reveals that there was more to simply accomplishing this not-so-simple feat.

Sure, a former Olympian (Ryan Hall) was in the field and he entered the Challenge as by far the most famous person. But also included in the 32 were a blind runner (Sinead Kane); a pastor from California (Matt Barnett) who completed his first marathon just three years ago and whose single food group once consisted of one word: fast; an American woman battling brain cancer (BethAnn Telford); and a 66-year-old man (Glen Avery).

Many were raising money for charities, including Canadian Jonathon Fischer, who was the only runner to drop out. Fischer completed the first two 26.2-milers in Antarctica and Punta Arenas, Chile, but an injury forced him to the sidelines.

Running for the JDF Foundation, Fischer planned to support a charity in each continent, raising money for guide dogs in Madrid (Marathon No. 4 of the Challenge) and the Dream Center in support of local families in Dubai (No. 6).

Barnett is pastor at the L.A. Dream Center; it’s no secret which charity he ran for.

Hall also raised money for the Dream Center. The U.S. record holder for the marathon retired from competition nearly a year ago due to a low testosterone level and fatigue. But the opportunity to run for the Dream Center – which assists people experiencing homelessness, hunger, poverty, addiction, and human trafficking – brought him back.

Hall’s claim to fame may be representing the U.S. twice at the Olympics, but he’ll never do anything more important – or difficult – than the four Ethiopian children he and his wife adopted in 2015.

As a fellow adoptive parent, I was more pleased to see that than when he wore the USA singlet.

Hall may have entered the Challenge as the well-known runner, but Michael Wardian of Virginia has zipped past him.

Wardian was known as a serial runner beforehand, as in running marathons on consecutive weeks. That’s so 2016, the year in which he ran in all of what has become the World Marathon Majors (events in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York), doing so in record time (average of 2 hours, 31 minutes).

At the World Marathon Challenge he set another record (2:45 average). His slowest time was in Antarctica (Marathon No. 1) in 2:54. From there, he was nearly metronomic – running South America in 2:45, North America (Miami) in 2:37, Europe (Madrid) in 2:42, Africa (Morocco) in 2:45, Asia (Dubai) in 2:49 and Australia in 2:45.

Wardian also supported a charity, World Vision, which works to bring clean water to communities around the world.

The former college lacrosse player comes across as an everyman. He’s married with two children and holds down a full-time job as an international ship broker. And he’s not afraid to don a super hero costume while marathoning – yes, he holds that record too, as Spiderman in 2011.

I was impressed with my one experience with Wardian while covering the Vermont City Marathon in 2013. It was a dreary day – cold and rainy – about a month after the Boston Marathon bombings.

It was VCM’s 25th year and I was writing for New England Runner magazine.

About 10 minutes after the winner crossed the finish line, here comes this guy – not running in a straight line – but meandering to hand out high-fives to each side of the soaked crowd lining the final meters. The course ends at a park in Burlington, and this year, the grass was sopped and slippery.

Instead of crossing the finish line with an exhausted I’m-finally-done look, Wardian Pete Rosed his way to a 2:30 time, sliding stomach first with a smile on his face.

He then shook the hand of every volunteer in sight, not stopping until each one was properly recognized.

(I attached a few photos from that day that I shot that never made it into print).

It came as no surprise that Wardian was named one of the recipients of a sportsmanship award at the conclusion of the Marathon Challenge. He then had his ESPN moment when John Anderson gave him a shout-out as his Star of the Night.

Wardian is likely to be spotlighted by the media for the next several weeks, and the photo of him running past a camel in Morocco is sure to have a long life.

But it’s likely that he won’t let his head swell. He has accomplished a lot in his 20 years of running, and this feat will be hard to top – unless running on Mars becomes an option.

He’ll be in Boston for The Marathon in a couple of months. He’s sure to garner plenty of attention whereas in years past, his name was probably passed over.

The Marathon Challenge is a life-changing experience. I can only imagine how Pastor Barnett’s body feels now. Same with the other 31.

Here’s hoping their lives change for the better.

 

Advertisements

0 Responses to “More to this Challenge”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: