The World Marathon Challenge is back after three years COVID-induced absence and 48 marathon addicts from 12 countries leave from Cape Town tomorrow (Tuesday 31 January) on the first leg of their journey which sees them complete seven standard marathons on seven continents in seven days.
To emphasise the ‘sevens sequence’, this will be the seventh edition of the World Marathon Challenge, the brainchild of Irish entrepreneur, Richard Donavan.
“All kinds of people take part,” says Donavan. “Not necessarily those people who would be identifiable on the street as extreme runners – but people with a sense of adventure and a lust to do something different, often motivated for strong causes.”
As in past years, the event is based in Cape Town for four days, which includes a 24 hour out and back journey by air to Novo in Antarctica, where they will complete their first 42km run over a multi-lap course course around an icy airstrip.
Snatching what sleep they can, the participants return to the Mother City to run the most scenic of their marathons on a course from Green Point along Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard, before ‘packing for Perth’ and the Oceania leg of their quest.
From there, the whistle-stop jet-lagging circuit takes them to Dubai (UAE), Madrid (Spain), Fortaleza (Brazil) and finishing in Miami (USA).
Participants support a range of causes on which they are passionate, the emotion derived out of changing lives for good often giving them extra energy to complete their grueling challenge in extreme conditions, from sub-zero climes of the Antarctic to the equatorial heat and humidity of Forteleza, just south of the equator.
Richards Bay marathoner from KZN in South Africa, Nontuteko Mghabi, raised funds to restore and enhance school buildings at a primary school in rural KZN through her participation in the last World Marathon Challenge in 2020, but no African runner is taking part in this year’s event.
American Carter Cavett is the youngest on the team. At just 13 years old and in the 8th grade at school, he is passionate about running, determined to complete the adventure, although he may find it more taxing than his normal challenges on his school’s track and cross country team.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, 80-year-old Dan Little broke the record for the oldest competitor by nine years when he completed the 2019 Challenge and the grandfather of nine grandchildren is out to add four years to his impressive mark.
German marathoner and ironman athlete, Moritz Baier-Lentz, will be raising funds to support ongoing research against depression while American Matt Dyer will be running to help those impacted by the war in Ukraine and supporting an organization developing resources to promote mental health.
Also focused on support for mental health challenges and to break the stigma associated with mental illness is British marathoner, Sally Orange, who was herself discharged from military service due to mental illness.
Singaporean Paralympic athlete, William Tan, realized early in his career that winning medals should not be an end in itself, but a means to further goodness and to help people and will be participating to raise funds for needy causes in Africa, Asia, South America and other destinations.
Turkish philanthropist Ahmet Uysal’s participation will add strength to both his involvement in education as well as his involvement in craft brewery while Luxemburg’s Pit Van Rijswick is running to raise funds to fight glioblastoma (brain cancer) of which his father died.
The Challenge winds up in Miami with the final marathon on Monday.