(Photo courtesy of the World Marathon Challenge)
Becca Pizzi, a single mother, day care operator, and ice cream shop manager from Belmont, Massachusetts, is used to being on the go. But this has been an unusually busy week for Pizzi as she’s run—and won—seven marathons on seven continents in seven days—in record time.
Pizzi became the first woman from the United States to complete the World Marathon Challenge in the early morning hours of January 30 (still January 29 in the U.S.) in Sydney, Australia.
Pizzi’s cumulative time of 27 hours, 26 minutes, and 15 seconds works out to an average of 3:55:11 per marathon, which shattered Marianna Zaikova’s event record, established last year, by nearly 13 hours.
Americans also fared well in the men’s race, as Daniel Cartica and Calum Ramm, both U.S. Marines, finished first and second in the men’s race. Cartica’s average of 3:32:25 per marathon also established a new event record, bettering David Gething’s 3:39:26 average in the 2015 race.
The event’s 15 competitors from all over the world covered just over 183 miles on foot and flew roughly 23,000 miles over the past week from Antarctica to Punta Arenas, Chile; Miami, Florida; Madrid, Spain; Marrakesh, Morocco; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Sydney, Australia.
The race, which has an entry fee of roughly $36,000, which most participants cover through fundraising and sponsorships, is organized by Richard Donovan, who set a world record in 2009 by running seven marathons on all seven continents in four days, 22 hours, and three minutes.
Not only must competitors’ bodies hold up throughout the journey, they also rely on travel and race logistics going smoothly—and weather cooperating—in order to complete the challenge on time.
Pizzi told Runner’s World in December that she had never had a running injury, because she listens to her body and backs off when anything begins to bother her. She didn’t have the luxury of backing off this week, and Pizzi pulled a groin muscle two miles into her sixth marathon of the week, so she took that race a bit easier and ran her slowest marathon of the week, a 4:14:41. She gutted out her final marathon in 4:08:51.
Cartica and Ramm ran neck and neck for much of the week before Cartica, who was running in memory of the five servicemen who were killed in a shooting in Chattanooga, Tennesee, in July, ran 16 minutes faster than Ramm in Dubai. On day seven the pair finished the event together in 3:38:30.
Another American in the field, Patrick Fallon, had never run a marathon prior to the World Marathon Challenge, but by the end of the week, he appeared to get the gist of it. On day six of the race, he improved his marathon PR, set four days earlier, from 4:52:32 to 4:19:49. On the final day, he lowered that again to 3:53:21.
By Alison Wade