Running one marathon would be enough of a challenge for most people, but running seven in seven days on seven continents?
For D.C. consulting firm executive Jonathan Terrell, it’s all for a good cause — raising $1 million for Children’s National Medical Center in Northwest as a participant in the World Marathon Challenge, which starts Tuesday.
“It’s a truly amazing children’s hospital, one of the best in the world, and they treat every child there, irrespective of their ability to pay,” Mr. Terrell, 55, told The Washington Times. “And the whole D.C. community can come together there. But I don’t think it gets enough attention.”
Mr. Terrell, who serves on the hospital’s corporate advisory board, said he was looking for a unique way to raise the hospital’s profile and the World Marathon Challenge “caught my imagination.”
Now in its fourth year, the contest kicks off in Antarctica, where runners will arrive on a specially chartered Russian military plane designed to land on the ice. From there, the challenge moves to Cape Town, South Africa; Perth, Australia; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Lisbon, Portugal; Cartagena, Colombia; and Miami, Florida.
Each location will host the competition’s 50 or so participants in a standard, 26.2-mile marathon.
The cost of the global running race is a cool $40,000, which Mr. Terrell said he has paid out of pocket. But he’s raised about $200,000 for the hospital and is committed to collecting at least $50,000 more.
“Every penny that I’ve raised will go to the cause,” he said.
With a history of volunteer work in psychiatric hospitals, Mr. Terrell said he is growing more concerned with rising rates of teen depression and suicide.
About 4,600 teens committed suicide each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates of depression and suicide ideation among teens increased from 32 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in 2015. This increase was higher among girls, from 40 percent to 45 percent over the same time period.
A few days after finishing the seven races, Mr. Terrell said he plans to hold discussions at D.C.-area schools with parents and students about recognizing the symptoms of mental health disorders and discuss ways of getting help.
“The main thing isn’t so much the fund raising, the main thing is about having better conversations about pediatric mental health and start alleviating some of the stigma because its outrageous.”
Born in London, Mr. Terrell came to the U.S. about 30 years ago and became a naturalized citizen. An entrepreneur, he runs a technology consulting company.
Less than a decade ago he started getting into running, competing in his first half-marathon at age 48 and following it up quickly with the Marine Corps Marathon.
“I got the bug — and Sunday [Jan. 14] was my 28th marathon. So I’ve been running a lot. I’ve run 12 in the last year,” he said.
To prepare for the marathon of marathons, Mr. Terrell worked out for about four hours most days of the week, using the weekends to run long distances of 20 or 21 miles, back to back.
While looking forward to all the races around the globe, Mr. Terrell said Antarctica will probably be “like a different world.”
“I don’t think it will be much colder than about 8 degrees positively balmy,” he joked, adding that the District’s recent chill served as the best preparation. “These last couple of weeks in D.C. has given me the opportunity to experiment with my running gear. I found that two layers are actually better than four in very cold weather when you’re running.”
Having each day solely dedicated to running will actually be a break for the businessman, philanthropist and father, who had to balance all his normal responsibilities with a rigorous training schedule for a year and a half.
“I already feel like the hard part is over All I need to do is run and relax. So I’ll be running or I’ll be sleeping,” Mr. Terrell said.
Other challenges throughout the week will be to make sure he gets enough food and water — a 5,000-calorie diet and drinking at least two gallons per day.
After each race he goes through an intense recovery routine, about an hour and a half of yoga, stretching, rolling out his muscles and compression to release the lactic acid buildup in his legs.
“I intend just to enjoy it the race itself will be less arduous than the preparation,” he said.