Five Days, Seven Continents
Irish ultra runner Richard Donovan, the only person ever to have run seven marathons on seven continents in less than seven days, broke his own record on Monday, February 6. Unsatisfied with his previous record of five days, 10 hours and eight minutes, he approached this year’s World Marathon Challenge determined to complete the feat of mind-boggling endurance in under five days. And he did. Four days, 22 hours and three minutes after beginning.
Donovan, who has not been to a doctor in years, told the Irish Times in the days leading up to the event that he would not be using any energy supplements other than salt tablets, saying, “I’m keeping it real — I’m not going in some privileged manner. I’m going against all the rules, no special diet, flying economy by myself, bringing whatever I can fit in one bag. I’ll sleep where I can.”
The majority of his time was spent traveling, and just one delayed flight could have ruined the entire record attempt. The sudden and radical changes in climate — he went from subzero temperatures in the Antarctic to the sweltering heat of Australia in less that 120 hours — combined with malnourishment and sheer exhaustion, took such a toll on Donovan’s body that by the time he reached Sydney, he could keep down neither food nor water. Instead of giving up, he drank a bottle of Heineken. It did the trick, and he finished the last leg of his challenge with time to spare.
The 45 year old father of one is the chairman of UltraRunning Ireland. He has won the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the Inca Trail Marathon, the Everest Challenge Marathon, the Antarctic 100 km and the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race, and in April 2002, he successfully completed the first marathon-length run in the North Pole. This year’s World Marathon Challenge took Donovan from Antarctica to Cape Town, South Africa, to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Orlando, USA; London, UK; Hong Kong, and finally to Sydney.
Footage of the North Pole Marathon, with an interview with Donovan: