Local Businessman Runs in a Major World Challenge

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Photo provided by Dan McCoy
Dan McCoy, President of BrightStar Care in Suffield, crosses the finish line in Antarctica at the first marathon of a seven-day, world-wide series.

When I first heard that my neighbor and local small business owner Dan McCoy ran the World Marathon Challenge (WMC), I thought it (and he!) were crazy. After interviewing him about the experience, I have not changed my mind. The WMC is a logistical and physical challenge to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. Offered by Global Running Adventures, which has organized extreme running events for almost two decades, it is limited to 50 participants and costs 42,000 Euros (about $44,600). It has been run since 2015 with two years off during Covid.

When asked how this trip came to be, McCoy, 62, said the idea arose in a discussion he had with fellow cyclists when he participated in the Bike Across America trip in 2016, cycling from Santa Barbara to Myrtle Beach in 45 days. He had done half marathons and five full marathons, as well as an Ironman in Wisconsin, and thought it would be “challenging”. Although he admits not really liking running, McCoy loves the outdoors, traveling and challenges, so he thought he would give it a go. His wife Megan was not as sanguine about the notion, being concerned about Dan’s health, but in the end was very happy for him and marveled at the incredible thing it was to accomplish.

He searched for instructions on how to prepare for such an event, but finding none, he developed his own program. He began training in late summer 2022 running 18 miles a day for three days, 20-24 miles on a fourth day and cross training by lifting weights for two days. He allowed himself one full day of rest. For anyone thinking of tackling this challenge, McCoy states that he probably should have done more cardiovascular exercise than he did. After he ran the Hartford Marathon in October, he ran 22 miles the next day just to see how he would react physically. On the WMC itself, McCoy took two Advil in the morning and two at night, vitamin C and a multivitamin. His goal and mantra was “to complete, not compete”.

Although there was an option to do a half marathon in each event, three fourths of the entrants, who ranged in age from 13 to 80 and included two wheelchair participants, chose to do the full 26.2 miles. Some runners were sponsored and some ran to raise funds for various charities. Most of the races were run in loops with local running club members also participating. McCoy laughed that he preferred the races with longer loops because that way the really fast runners didn’t pass him by as frequently. Like the movie Groundhog Day, the experience was land, run, get back on the plane, sleep and repeat for seven days. Due to the vagaries of air travel, at one point the participants ran three marathons in the space of 52 hours!

While the race itself was set to begin on January 31, the runners had to arrive earlier in Cape Town, South Africa for orientation. McCoy said the organizers were sticklers about ensuring that the seven runs be completed within the seven-day (168 hour) time frame, which began upon touch down in Antarctica. To get there, the group traveled in a Russian cargo plane outfitted with seats along the wall. Although it was expected that eight hours would be allowed on the ground in Antarctica, the group had only six hours to complete the race due to an impending severe storm. The temperature was 25 degrees below zero. After flying five and a half hours back to Cape Town, the next race was run there in 80-degree weather. Spending a total of 16 hours on the ground which included the race and recuperating, the group took an Airbus 340 to Perth, Australia where another marathon was run in sweltering heat. From there to Dubai, the Asian destination, was the longest flight of over 12 hours. Next up was Madrid, Spain where at the 18-mile mark, McCoy fractured his ankle. A true competitor, he got his ankle wrapped, downed a couple of painkillers and finished the race, but was disappointed because he had been on pace to finish the European marathon in his shortest time to date. Instead, he finished in a still respectable four hours and 52 minutes.

After Madrid, an eight-hour flight dropped the group off in Fortaleza on the Brazilian coast where McCoy said the humidity made it very hard to breathe. The Brazil race had the earliest starting time at 7 a.m. and between his injury and the humidity, he had to walk part of the way, finishing in just under six hours 30 minutes which was his worst time of the trip. (His best time of four hours 31 minutes was in Dubai.) Some delays leaving Brazil caused the group to arrive in Miami late at night so to finish within the 168-hour time frame, they had to start running at 11:55 p.m. Much to his surprise and the highlight of the trip for him, was seeing his oldest son, Nolan, waiting at the track to run with him. Both mentally and physically fatigued by that time, McCoy wept with joy at this gesture from his son and chuckled throughout the race as Nolan jokingly kept telling him to “pick up the pace”. Finishing the race at 5 a.m., McCoy was on a flight back home at 11 a.m. after seven days of “pure hell” and vowing never to do it again!

All told, McCoy spent 52 hours and 35 minutes jetting to all the locations – not including the 17 hours it took him to get to Cape Town before the adventure started- and 115 hours and 25 minutes on the ground. When asked what his next flight of fancy would be, McCoy thought that the Appalachian Trail might be calling.

Photo provided by Dan McCoy
Along with his son Nolan, Dan McCoy crosses the finish line in Miami at the end of the recent World Marathon Challenge.

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