This Friday, January 20, Dave Jones embarks on an adventure around the world. He will be running 7 Marathons on 7 Continents in 7 Days. Sound crazy? It is. And so is Dave. Crazy in a good way, of course.
I have known Dave since our preschool days in Garrett County, Maryland. We went to school together through high school, sharing the majority of our classes. After high school, we embarked on a crazy adventure of our own, charting a course for Saugerties, New York, for the 25th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival in 1994. A big group of us piled in the Jones van and headed north for “three days of peace and music”. I remember on the final day of Woodstock, we were gathering everyone to head for the van to travel home, but we couldn’t find Dave. After a bit, Dave saunters into our camp and shows us some pretty nasty cuts on his chest and arms. He had found his way to the front of the stage during Red Hot Chili Peppers and had somehow put a death grip on Flea’s bass guitar that was tossed off stage. The stage crew somehow wrestled it away from Dave. The only souvenirs he brought away from that were the battle wounds from the bass strings and a killer story. That’s Dave! I have plenty more stories, but I’ll save those for another day.
Our paths crossed a few times in college; he went to WVU and I went to Frostburg State. We’d bump into each other at parties at both schools. We then lost touch, as seems to happen once adulthood settles in. Real life takes over and time to stay connected diminishes.
We both started running about the same time. Dave to kick his smoking habit and me to kick my drinking habit. Here we both were, mid-30’s and starting our “second athletic life”. I’d see him post on Facebook about running a marathon. Then another. Then another. He quickly became a Marathon Maniac, which, in a nutshell, is a club for marathoners who just can’t get enough marathoning.
I was training for the Baltimore Marathon and had lined up several other runners to be part of Team Running Dad and raise money for the Lucas Fund. I asked Dave if he’d like to join the team and run in Baltimore, and in typical Maniac fashion, he was in.
Dave recently created a brand for himself. Eternal Endurance is an innovative clothing line geared toward endurance athletes with cutting edge technologies in reflectivity and cooling material. I have chipped in any graphics help that I can fit into my schedule. We are looking to collaborate in the future and do some really cool things, so stay tuned!
Starting January 25, Dave will run marathons in:
New York, United States
Punta Arenas, Chile
St. George Island, Antarctica
I recently asked Dave about his Triple 7 Quest. Here are his replies:
Do you have a goal?
Finish 7 actual, public marathons in 7 consecutive days, 1 on each of the World’s continents.
Maybe a World Record for your resume?
My applications for world records have been accepted by both major gatekeepers. Guinness has accepted for “Fastest Time to Complete a Marathon on All 7 Continents – Male” and The Book of Alternative Records has accepted my application to break the existing record for “Fastest Time to Complete Officially Organized Marathons on all 7 Continents” which is currently 10:23:30:40. Guinness is a stretch and even if I get it, it probably won’t last for long.
What is the difference in your Quest and the other 777 challenges?To me, a marathon is fundamentally a public gathering, scheduled in advance, where people of all skill sets and socio-economic classes can get together and run 26.2 miles. If you trained, overcame excuses, showed up on that specific date at that specific time, covered the distance, and crossed the finish line before the cutoff… you are a marathoner.
I can run 26.2 miles on a treadmill in the basement, but I never have. Why? Because I like the gathering of people, the buzz of the official start, the presence of first-timers and veterans alike… these are the heart of the Marathon- the rest is just miles.
I ran a marathon over the weekend and helped shepherd some first-timers to the finish. They weren’t sure if they could do it – but now they have. If this past weekend’s race were just a handful of sponsored or rich, elite athletes there to set records, I wouldn’t have gone – not because I don’t like them, but because that’s not why I do marathons. To me, that is the difference between what we’re doing and what the other 7 day stage race around the globe is doing.
We’re both running 26.2 miles on all 7 continents in quick succession, but until they decide to host the Marathon Cairo in the middle of the night, just so I can beat a World Record, about 6 ½ days is as fast as the “Official, Public” record will ever be, and even that will require a lot of Blessings!
Please understand, what Richard Donovan (the organizer of World Marathon Challenge) did is freakin’ amazing! I really mean that… really! I love incredible feats of determination and grit, I think Richard Branson’s hot air balloon around the world is similar. Feats like that require creativity, endurance, and loooots of money, then they yield a very inspirational, individual result.
My 777 Quest will require flexibility, endurance of a different type, and a lot less money. It will hopefully inspire all the runners at each individual race by allowing them to be part of something larger… and also have a cool result that will end up in my eulogy!
I identify much more with the physically average people who will run in the back of the pack for only 1 of the 7 races I’ll be doing that week than I do with the people who will pound out all 7 stages of the WMC, so I’m more comfortable doing it this way – world records or not.
Have you ever run that many miles on successive days?
Nope. My record for distance is officially 112.4 (114 on my Garmin) in 72 hours, and for consecutive days of marathons is 4. This will be all new for me.
Am I concerned about that fact? A little bit. I know how hard 4 marathons in 4 days is – without the travel. I’ve also never been to any continent other than South America (except for 12 hours in the airport in Italy once, but that’s a different story), and I’ve never been on a plane for longer than 12 hours (which was terrible). Part of the draw of this is the unknown, the opportunity to expand my limits, dig deeper than ever before, and overcome challenges I can’t even predict from here.
Have you done anything different in your training to prepare you for this race?
Absolutely. I’ve fattened up! I’ve also spent more time training my brisk hiking skills (13-15 mins/mile). Then there has been some sleep deprivation, running at different times of day and night, doing the 4 Corners Quad Marathons, spending whole days standing on my feet to help train them not to swell, eating like I’ll have to in airports, and things like that. Not that much run training volume difference – maybe less actually.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for this race?
Foot swelling. I already have big feet- Size 13.5, 4E. That much running, combined with so much sitting, elevation variation, temperature changing, salt intake, lack of access to someplace to put my feet up, etc. means I’ll have even bigger feet. I’m bringing 3 pairs of shoes that get progressively bigger to accommodate this swelling, but I may not have a toenail left by the end of this – I already have 3 black ones from the Quad in December.
How do you pack for an event like this?
Very lightly! If I were doing the other race, I could bring what I want – which would be about 2 big duffels full plus my laptop, pillow, 7 pairs of shoes, etc.
Unfortunately, I can’t risk losing baggage on commercial air nor waiting for it in Customs/Immigration with some pretty tight connection windows. So, everything I need must fit in a standard, hard case carry-on and an 82L backpack. This doesn’t include Antarctica stuff which I’ve already shipped to Punta Arenas.
My shoes alone take up a whole backpack!
I will be test packing this week and narrowing my list down to the absolute essentials. Kinda makes me nervous that I won’t have all the great gear and apparel I need and that I can’t leave behind the computer/GoPro/etc. that I’ll need to share the journey with the people who are expecting daily updates on the Quest.
At the end of the day, the packing limitations will add another pretty intense limitation that differentiates our Quest from other 7 Continents challenges.
Between running the races and travelling to the next one, is there time to eat and sleep? Do you have a plan in place for managing that recovery time between races?
There will be more time in some places than others. For instance, the trip from Singapore to Cairo is 18+ hours. All eating and sleeping will be on the plane. Same with the 15+ from New York to Punta Arenas. The others have more time.
Recovery will be all the time between the races, the trick is making the most of it. When I have access to a bathtub, I will use icebaths. If I have room to pack them, I’ll wear compression socks at all times (when I’m not in the bath!)
I’ll focus on super-hydration techniques and trying to get the right blend of macro-nutrients to fuel the machine between races. I hope to carry some supplements, like Vega-One powder that I can add to drinks to help with nutrition, etc.
The biggest key will be to decompress quickly, write the blog and do the updates, talk to my family, and get as much sleep as absolutely possible – sleep is the best recovery aid but also tends to be elusive when your muscles are sore, you are full of endorphins, and you are spending so much time on commercial aircraft.
Is there a stop along the way which will be the most difficult?
We’ll see, but I expect the most difficult race to be #2 in Singapore. It will be very hot (maybe 95 degrees F) and very humid (maybe 95% humidity). There could also be some air quality issues there and in Egypt. Antarctica is the one most people are worried about. That one really only concerns me because my trail shoes are not size 15 and it is the one where time really counts. I’ll need to run out of my head in a very challenging environment with 6 marathons in 6 days under my belt. That will provide some real opportunities to “Beat the Wuss”.
Which country are you most excited about running in?
Toss up between Cairo, Egypt and Antarctica. Both places are the stuff of childhood dreams. I really can’t decide between the 2. I mean, how many Americans are headed to Egypt right now? ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, turmoil in the greater Middle East, etc… but I’m going to run with people who have fought for and gotten the opportunity to run a marathon in their town, a place where this was unthinkable due to both political and environmental restrictions less than 5 years ago.
Meanwhile, many thousands of miles away, lay the sparse scattering of research stations in Antarctica. I’ll run between each nation’s research stations, then finish and sleep in a tent among the Penguins! Both very exciting in their own, individual ways.