Seven marathons. Seven continents. Eleven days.
You read that right.
Seven 26.2-mile races scattered from Australia to Antarctica by way of Paris and Long Island, N.Y. On foot. That’s running a bit more than 183 miles over a period of about 264 hours.
“It was awesome,” said Laura Frank Barnard, one of 36 runners from across the world who took part in the “Triple 7 Quest” in February.
Their quest originally was supposed to be completed in a week. That’s the three “sevens” in the name – seven continents, seven races, seven days. And they would have made it, Barnard says, but the weather over the South Pole turned cranky and slowed things down before they could get that last race in.
“Who runs seven marathons in seven days and flies around the world and doesn’t get to see the places?” the 50-year-old mother of four mused aloud one recent afternoon as she sat in the living room of her Sandy Springs home with a stack of race numbers, medals and website postings to show she did just that. “It was cool.”
Why did she do it? “I like to do things that are… unthinkable,” she said.
Uncomfortable, too, at times, to hear her tell it. To meet their relentless schedule, the runners on the Triple 7 Quest slept on airplanes, ran sometimes in the middle of the night and went days without showers.
Barnard figures they spent 60 hours on airplanes just getting to the races. At one point, they touched down on three continents – and ran three marathons – in about 40 hours, she said.
Members of the group paid more than $13,000 apiece to take part in this marathon of marathons. They ran the first 26.2-mile leg of their world tour in Australia on Feb. 8 and continued with runs in Abu Dhabi; Paris; Tunis; Long Island, N.Y.; Chile and Antarctica. “When we got to Antarctica, they said it was 37 degrees,” she said. “It felt like 10 below.”
But overall, she says what she gained was worth the pain. “It was awesome,” Barnard said. “It was all about the people [taking part]. My best friends were four Arab guys and here I am Jewish. … There were no politics. Everybody was just a bunch of runners hanging out. You’re all friends.”
They’re staying that way. “My phone blows up now with calls from people all over the world, from friends in Dubai and New Zealand.”
Barnard tried her first marathon in 2008. She’d been a long-distance cyclist before that, she said, and says she’d probably logged 20,000 miles in bicycle races and “century rides” before her first long-distance foot race. She plans to spend a little more than week this summer as part of a four-person team cycling across the U.S. During that ride, she plans to launch a new company she says will use social media to help finance a foundation to promote fitness.
She tried her first marathon after returning to Sandy Springs, where she’d grown up, for a job in Atlanta. A friend convinced her to try an Atlanta marathon and “I got hooked,” she said. “Why? I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and work got in the way. I’ve always wanted to balance life and fitness and work.”
She figures she’s run about 18 marathons since that first one. “I’m happy when I stay fit,” she said.
She also hopes to inspire others to keep fit. “I love being inspired,” she said. “And I love inspiring.”
Still, her notions about exercise may seem at times to be a tad over the top.
“It’s all about expanding the mind and the body to the extreme,” she said. “My daughter said something: ‘Mom, when you’re on the edge, you know you’re alive.’ I think there’s something to that.”