“Survivor” contestants, baseball executives, teachers, and former football coaches are just a sampling of the competitors in the 2018 field.
The World Marathon Challenge kicks off today, January 30, 2018, with its first 26.2-mile race in Novo, Antarctica. Once runners cross that first arctic finish line, they’ll jet-set to their next marathon location in Cape Town, South Africa, to repeat the same race-and-relocate routine.
They'll do this for a full week—traveling to Perth, Dubai, Lisbon, and Cartagena—before returning stateside for their final marathon in Miami, Florida. When the sun sets on February 5, the runners will have completed seven marathons on all seven continents.
So what kind of people subject themselves to this kind of craziness? And why? To answer these questions, we’re sharing the stories of 10 American WMC competitors—from school teachers and dentists to ultrarunners and tech moguls. Each one has a unique motivation for embarking on this transcontinental globe-running adventure. (For more stories and to follow the race, check out the WMC Facebook page.)
Parker is an in-house lawyer and the executive director of the New York City Bar Association. Eleven years ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and has since put research for the disorder at the heart of his running. He currently sits on the Patient Council of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and raises funds and awareness through running marathons, mountain climbing, and skydiving.
After 16 seasons as the president of the Miami Marlins baseball team, Samson built a team of his own to take on the World Marathon Challenge. Two and a half years ago, he pitched the idea to former outfielder Jeff Conine, and has since gained the commitments of three more Marlins officials—equipment manager John Silverman and executives Mike Hill and P.J. Loyello. The MLB quintet will run to benefit 11 of the official World Marathon Challenge charities.
A seventh-grade social studies teacher from Smithtown, New York, Nelson plans to make her marathon experience an educational one. Using Google Apps for Education, she has created a virtual classroom where she will be able to send lesson plans, blogs, and share race updates with her students. Nelson has previously spent much of her time abroad—teaching and volunteering in Tanzania and Vietnam, and coaching soccer in Cameroon.
In July, Blank resigned from his position as the University of Southern California’s director of football operations to fully dedicate himself to the World Marathon Challenge. Over the past several months, Blank’s primary objectives have been training and raising awareness for the International Dyslexia Association. Blank struggles with dyslexia himself and cherishes the relief that running brings him. He will run the WMC as member of TeamQuest.
Winner of TV’s hit show Survivor, Lacina is yet another of David Samson’s WMC recruits. Two years after they met on the show, Samson convinced her to commit to the race, and even found her a training partner in Debra Carneol, a dentist from eastern Iowa, who will also compete. Before joining the Cedar Rapids Police Department as an investigations officer, Lacina was a SWAT team member and professional mixed martial artist.
In 1978, Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray ran nearly 3,500 miles for charity from Medford, Oregon, to Medford, Massachusetts. In 2004, he did it again as part of a San Fransisco to Boston relay. Now in 2018, he goes for another audacious goal as part of his philanthropic running movement. Both personally and through his various organizations, McGillivray has raised millions of dollars for charities from the Jimmy Fund to the DMSE Children’s Fitness Foundation.
Sarah Reinertsen became the first woman with a prosthetic leg to complete an Ironman when she tackled the Hawaii Ironman in 2005. Since then, Reinertsen has competed in the CBS reality series The Amazing Race, completed seven marathons, won an ESPN ESPY for Best Female Athlete with a Disability, and then published the entire story in a memoir. We featured her on our RW magazine cover in December 2004 as a “Hero of Running.”
Sarah Reinertson encourages a young runner at the Runner's World Heartbreak Half and Festival Kids Race.
New Jersey native Mikayla Wingle moved to Florida in 2007 to play for the Tampa Bay Breeze in the Lingerie Football League. Four years later, she became Playboy’s November covergirl and a contestant on the 23rd season of Survivor. Following her TV debut, Wingle has completed one marathon and pursued bodybuilding as a bikini class figure competitor.
A three-time Boston Marathon finisher, Wishart lives and trains in Rhode Island with his wife, Amanda, and their 2-year-old daughter, Cole. Becca Pizzi, the WMC winner in 2016, inspired him to commit to the race and begin raising money for a laundry list of charities. The Pawtucket real estate appraiser will run to benefit the March of Dimes, the Rhode Island Food Bank, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Currently residing in Palo Alto, California, Brooks is a technology entrepreneur, angel investor, and fiction author. He has run dozens of marathons and endurance events—including the Houston Ironman, the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim, the Spartan World Championship Obstacle Race, and the TransRockies 120-Miler. In August, the father of two plans to compete in Canada's Ultra 520K triathlon.