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The World Marathon Challenge 2012 is a logistical and physical challenge to become the first person to run seven marathons on seven continents in less than five days.
Irish ultra marathon runner Richard Donovan previously set a record 5 days 10 hours 8 minutes in 2009, spending almost half of this time in the air getting from one marathon destination to the other. However, he now hopes to break 5 days to set another new milestone and once again highlight GOAL charity's humanitarian efforts in the process.
On 1st February, Richard's World Marathon Challenge will see him run a marathon on mainland Antarctica beginning at approximately 19:00 Sydney time (GMT+11). He then plans to run the classic 42.195km (26.2 miles) distance in Cape Town (South Africa), Sao Paulo (South America), Orlando (North America), London (Europe), Hong Kong (Asia) and Sydney (Australia). The hope is to finish his seventh and final marathon by 19:00 Sydney time on 6th February, thereby managing to complete the marathons in less than 5 days, or a mere 120 hours.
Aside from any physical effort, the logistical challenge is enormous.
Richard must travel several thousand kilometres from Ireland just to get to the starting point in the interior of the Antarctic. The Russian Novo base in the Antarctic Circle, 4,200km south of Cape Town, is his first marathon stop. He plans to commence his marathon several hours before a Russian cargo plane's scheduled return flight to Cape Town. Depending on wind conditions and temperatures, which could be about -20C, he hopes to finish his marathon on the frozen continent within 4.5 hours and immediately board the flight to Cape Town.
Richard will travel alone around the globe, with one carry-on bag containing his gear, and will fly economy on regular commercial airline flights.
At Cape Town, he will have a mere 9 hours to disembark the plane, leave the airport, run the marathon and return to check in for his next flight to Sao Paulo. In Brazil, he will have even less time: 8 hrs 50 minutes.
At each location, locally-based running experts and measurers will ensure and verify he runs the correct distance on custom courses. In this regard, special thanks to Victor Serov (Manager, The Antarctic Company), James Evans (President, Athletics South Africa), Rodolfo Eichler (AIMS Grade A Measurer, Brazil), Hugh Jones (Secretary, Association of International Marathons & Distance Races - 'AIMS'), Steven Seaton (Former Editor, Runner's World UK), Fung Wang Tak (Race Director, Hong Kong Marathon) and Dave Cundy (Measurer of Sydney and Beijing Olympic Marathons).
As marathon fatigue and flying fatigue accumulates, the time pressures will magnify and one late flight could scupper the entire record attempt.
Richard will be unable to stay anywhere en route and will likely suffer from major sleep deprivation. The impact of extreme temperature fluctuations are also a factor with a possible difference of 50 degrees centigrade between his first and last marathons. His longest single flight will be from London to Hong Kong (11hrs 40 mins). On arrival, he will once again have a mere 9 hours to disembark the flight, get to the marathon location, run the marathon and queue for the next flight.
Richard is raising funds to support GOAL's work to alleviate the suffering of people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa. If you would like to donate, please click on the button below. This will take you to GOAL's donate page, where you will have the option to contribute whatever you like towards 'Richard Donovan's World Marathon Challenge (Horn of Africa)' and help GOAL's aid activities in the region.
Mindful of the environment, Richard's carbon footprint has been calculated and offset by means of a payment to resource conservation via the CarbonNeutral Company.