Calgary native completes 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days at the World Marathon Challenge
Last year, Munish Mohendroo sat in bed at his home in southwest Calgary recovering from knee surgery and surfed the web to find something to distract himself.
In doing so, he came across the World Marathon Challenge, a physical endurance test in which runners complete seven marathons over seven consecutive days on seven different continents.
After exchanging a few messages with the race director, he signed up.
“I’ve always run on the side, for fitness and for fun. And then I thought to myself, when I turn 50, I’ll do something interesting,” he said in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener.
“What better way to travel the seven continents than to walk on each of them?”
He returned to Calgary after completing the trip a few days ago and surprisingly said he felt fine.
“There were times during the race where I did it, my body hated me for it,” he said. “But you put practice and effort into it, and then your wits carry you through the rest.”
Global Running Adventures began organizing the annual event in 2015. The group is known for organizing extreme running events in challenging and remote locations.
About 50 runners from all over the world register to take part in either the full marathon or a half marathon. You will be transported by chartered aircraft to Novo, Antarctica; Cape Town, South Africa; Perth, Australia; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Madrid, Spain; Fortaleza, Brazil; and Miami, United States.
CLOCK | Munish Mohendroo tells the Calgary Eyeopener about his trip around the world:
All CO2 emissions from flights are offset through the Carbonfund.org Foundation, according to the event website, as well as investments in forest conservation projects in Brazil.
It costs approximately $60,000 to attend, which includes most flights, accommodation, meals and organization of the event in each city.
Participants spend about half their time on the plane, Mohendroo said. You must complete each marathon within eight hours, although most finish in under six hours.
“You fly, run, get ready to fly again, get on the plane, get ready to get off and run the next marathon. So it’s literally, your rest is somewhere on the plane or on the airport floors, wherever you can find it.”
At the end of the trip, a winner will be determined in both the men’s and women’s categories.
Mohendroo didn’t take home the title but he did complete the loop and considering what runners have to overcome it’s quite an achievement.
challenges along the way
The first stop of the journey is the typical Antarctic.
This is done strategically, according to the challenge website, as location poses the most weather-related challenges.
Once they can land the flight and start the race, the 168-hour clock begins.
Mohendroo’s group took off from the Novolasarevskaya air base on Jan. 31.
“They had planned a course where you just walk around the runway, the ice rink, but when we got there the weather kind of got worse,” he said.
“They had to cut it and it was fair [an] There and back, about two kilometers there and two kilometers back.”
Of course, the participants had to run up and down the track until they reached the required 42 km.
“The temperatures weren’t bad, but the winds were terrible,” he said, adding that it was still worth it. “I mean, how many people can go to Antarctica, right? So I felt blessed just to be there.”
The first flights after that were not too painful. The long trips to South Africa and Australia provided the group with decent sleep time, Mohendroo said.
But on the second half of the journey, the sleep phases become shorter. And to top it off, a gastrointestinal virus made its way through the group, leaving some participants fueled only with water and fruit, he said.
Throughout it all, Mohendroo said he always knew he would make it.
“The runners who ran with an upset stomach, you kind of look at them and say if they make it, I have no reason to complain about my hamstring, which might be sore,” he said.
“It was a very optimistic group…all the runners rallied around each other and supported each other.”
There were several highlights along the way, but nothing beat the last leg of the journey, Mohendroo said.
The last race was on February 6th in Miami, where his wife flew to run part of the marathon with him. There he drove his best time of all seven races.
“It was a very emotional experience… to see and understand how big the achievement is,” said Mohendroo’s wife, Nayantara Kumar.
She and her three children kept up to date on Mohendroo’s progress throughout the week via Facebook posts from the group and short phone calls.
“He’s really committed to his training, and it’s not just about going out and running, it’s his sleep, it’s his diet… it’s just such a great group of people who just inspire you.”
At the end of the race, Mohendroo said he devoured the first thing he could find – a cold slice of pizza.
The cravings went away after a few days. But the memories of his trip around the world, on the pavement, will last a lifetime.
“When you come back spiritually and mentally, you feel great because you’re like, ‘I’ve stretched and now I know how far I can reach.'”