Did you hear about the British female runner who won the World Marathon Challenge? Susannah Gill, 34, ran a total of 183 miles in a world record time of 24 hours, 19 minutes and nine seconds, completing seven marathons on seven continents, in seven days. You’ve got to be in fine physical fitness to run one marathon, let alone seven in a row (not to mention the travel in between each finish and start line) – it makes you question whether this is athleticism at its most focused or the powers of a superhuman nature!
So, where on earth do you start with an ultra-endurance race like this? Race number one was in Antarctica, at the chilly temperature of -35°C! Susannah finished second in this one, but, astonishingly, she won the remaining six. Next up, she fled the cold and arrived in Cape Town, where she ran her second event. Marathon number three was in Perth, Australia, where the weather was a complete contrast with day one, this time it was +35°C.
From Oz, she caught a flight to the UAE and took part in the Dubai marathon, another hot one! After that, it was a trip to Spain for the Madrid 26.2 miler, followed by a jaunt across the ocean to run in the Chilean capital, Santiago, finally finishing this famous race by the white sands of Miami. It’s an extraordinary achievement for any athlete to complete this race. Over 63 hours are spent flying and more than 55,000 miles are covered – 183 of those on foot!
If you’ve ever run a marathon, you will know that you’re physically and mentally drained after the 26.2 miles – and that’s after running the race just once, in moderate temperatures, not seven times in the extreme weather conditions of the ‘777’ (seven marathons, seven days, seven continents).
I can’t begin to imagine how fatigued you must be after a marathon in 35°C and then to forgo sleeping in a bed, as your recovery time is spent sitting on a long-haul flight. Surely that can’t be the best way to recuperate?
What’s even more impressive is the fact that like for most of us, keeping fit is a hobby for Susannah, as she holds down a full-time job. You may be wondering how she manages to fit it all in? After work most days, Susannah would complete a gruelling training session, then her weekends would be crammed with exercise – a three-hour run on a Saturday and a four-hour run on a Sunday.
Susannah ran her first marathon 10 years ago, like I did, yet for me the challenge is just one marathon every spring, while Susannah has taken it one (million) step(s) further!
Susannah’s story shows that it’s possible to become a runner and take part in extreme events like this within a relatively short period of time. Clearly, you need the drive to stay focused on the goal, and look beyond the pain and potential exhaustion. You have to commit to the challenge, have the stamina to keep going and the willpower to prioritise the training schedule. It also might be quite a solitary time as you prepare for an event of this magnitude, because I bet you there aren’t many friends that would want to do it too!
If you’re keen to start running, check out my new podcast, RunPod, where we reflect on the feel-good, positive and relatable effects you experience when out pounding the pavement. I’ve been joined by brilliant guests, including Peter Andre and Natalie Cassidy. RunPod is available on iTunes.