7 marathons in 7 continents – Under 6 days!

Posted on February 7, 2009 by

Submitted by Tony Mangan.

Report Irish Times Feburary 6th 2009: ATHLETICS: Richard Donovan tells Ian O’Riordan how – and why – he achieved an extraordinary feat of endurance ANYONE THINKING 2009 is the year to finally run a marathon can take inspiration from Richard Donovan.

The 42-year-old from Galway yesterday completed his seventh marathon on the seventh continent in less than seven days: 295km of running, 43,000km of flying, in five days, nine hours and eight minutes, to be exact. Donovan becomes the first man to do so – the key being he achieved the extraordinary feat in less than seven calendar days. Six years ago British explorer Ranulph Fiennes did it in seven days, but Donovan has bettered that. Incredibly, the idea started almost on a whim just three weeks ago. Donovan has been a renowned ultra-marathon runner for the past decade, and organises the North Pole Marathon. When he found that a business trip was taking him to the Antarctic and the Russian base at Novolazarevskaya (or Novo, for short), he decided to take “the long way home”.

So he came up with the idea of trying for seven marathons across seven continents in less than seven days. As a committed supporter of the charity Goal, Donovan then gave added purpose to his challenge as a way of highlighting Goal’s concerns for the vulnerable population of Darfur in western Sudan. Starting in Novo early last Saturday, Donovan went from Cape Town to Dubai to London to Toronto to Santiago to Sydney – stopping off at each location for just enough time to run his 26.2 miles – and catch a little sleep. He finished in Sydney yesterday afternoon, and it was there The Irish Times caught up with him. “I think the biggest challenge really was coping with the different fluctuations in temperature,” he said. “Starting out in the Antarctic it was as low as minus 20 degrees, and later that day, in Cape Town, it was 28 degrees. “Obviously there was a lot of sleep deprivation as well, and with all the travel, economy class, a bit or airline sickness, perhaps. Because I was having a hard time keeping down even liquids a lot of the time. “But physically I’m okay. There’s no great pain in the legs or anything like that, but with the ultra-marathon background I know how to pace it carefully. It was hard at the end of each marathon, but at no point did I think I wasn’t going to actually finish them.” Donovan relied on the goodwill and cooperation of friends at each location, and, through his running contacts, got each route officially measured and certified. In fact, such was the goodwill that he ended up with company on most of his runs, and at some points even enjoyed a police escort. On arrival in Toronto, for example, he was met by Jay Glassman, the Toronto Marathon race director: “He arrived. We picked him up. He ran. He showered. He celebrated. He left,” explained Glassman.

The increasing lack of sleep and the continuing fluctuation in temperatures added to his challenge, but given he’d previously run as far as 100 miles, Donovan was always up for it. On arrival in Sydney he was met by Dave Cundy, the marathon aficionado who measured the Olympic courses in Sydney and Beijing, and who certified Donovan’s route. “The whole idea of six degrees of separation is completely true in running,” added Donovan. “I found myself with great support along the way. But the whole thing really hinged on getting out of Antarctica when I did. There was a delay of one day, but that was manageable, but if my flight didn’t take off in the end when it did then the whole thing was done.”

Typical of Donovan he won’t be resting long on this achievement. “I have a vague idea, all right, to run all the way across the Antarctic. It’s the only continent that no one has yet run across.” Also report in the Irish Independent below. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/irishman-runs-rings-around-marathon-records-1630137.html Shouldn’t be too long before that idea becomes a reality.

Posted in: ultrarunning