At 66 years old, Glen Avery plans on completing seven marathons on seven continents in seven days as a participant in the World Marathon Challenge in January 2017.
“It’s 184 miles of running, and almost 24,000 miles in the air,” Avery says. “Conditions start at 5 below zero degrees in Antarctica to the high 80s in Dubai and Australia. You can’t train for that completely. But because I’ve done ultramarathons, I’m using that kind of training as a means of training my mind. My body I’ve trained all year and have been training for years, so I think I’m pretty good in terms of that.”
For being the oldest future participant by about two decades in this absurd challenge, the recently retired Houghton College technology librarian living in the New York area sounds confident. It’s because he’s already run a marathon on each of the seven continents, twice!
The first cycle took him nine years to complete. He started with the 2002 Athens Marathon in Greece—his first marathon and first international travel with his wife, Marge. A month later they flew to Hawaii, where Avery ran the Honolulu Marathon. He finished the cycle on Christmas Day in 2011 at 4 a.m. in Thailand.
Avery finished the second round about five months ago in the Falkland Islands, off the coast of Argentina, where he befriended a group of 20 Argentinians after being stranded on the islands for an extra week due to weather. This time it only took four years.
“The first time around, I started getting into traveling and could use running a marathon or ultra as an excuse to travel somewhere,” Avery says. “Then my wife and I started thinking about where would we like to go that we have never been to before. And the first thought that goes through my mind is, ‘I wonder if they have a marathon there.’”
Avery has run races in 17 countries. Out of all of them—Ireland, Canada, England, Brazil, Spain, Peru, Philippines and Cuba to name a few—he says the 12-hour, 56-mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa was his most memorable. The most difficult was a 39-miler in Switzerland with 9,000 feet of elevation gain, ranging from freezing cold to warm temperatures.
Now Avery will be attempting his third global marathon trek, but within a much shorter timespan. However, unlike the other roughly 15 participants (based on 2015 and 2016 entries) including retired American pro marathoner Ryan Hall, he won’t be doing it in order to be the fastest or to win it. It’s just what he loves to do: travel, meet new people, and run really long distances. “I decided to challenge all the skills I know I have and all the skills I don’t know I have, put them together and do the ultimate marathon, which is seven marathons in seven days on seven continents.”