“Florida Man” Wins Seven Marathons on Seven Continents in Seven Days
Run a marathon. Recover mid-flight to another continent. Run a marathon. Rinse. Repeat.
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David Kilgore just ran—and won—seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. The 31-year-old American runner averaged about 2:56 per marathon, which means he ran 183.4 miles at 6:43 pace per mile.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Kilgore was one of 35 runners who completed the World Marathon Challenge on February 6, a globetrotting enterprise that sends runners on a weeklong running journey, where they stop to run 26.2 miles in Antarctica, Cape Town, South Africa, Perth, Australia, Dubai, Madrid, Spain, Fortaleza, Brazil, and Miami.
The event, which has a $45,000 entry fee, has been organized by Richard Donovan of Global Running Adventures since 2015. The races are run on multiple-loop courses in each of the cities—not tied to established events—all of which add up to 26.2 miles.
For this year’s edition, participants met in Cape Town, South Africa, and flew on a chartered plane to each of the race venues. They spent about 68 hours in the air during the week, eating, sleeping, and recovering as best as possible while flying eight to 14 hours to the next marathon site.
Kilgore, who lives in New York City but hails from Palm Bay, Florida, capped off the week by winning the final marathon on Ocean Drive in the South Beach area of Miami in 2:41:50 late Monday night—averaging 6:11 per mile. That’s less than 14 minutes off his 2:27:59 marathon personal best he ran at the 2019 New York City Marathon.
As if running seven fast marathons on seven continents in a week wasn’t a big enough challenge, Kilgore on February 7 hopped on another plane to New Zealand, where he’ll be running a 50K race on February 11, as part of the Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB.
“I feel incredible,” said Kilgore, a professional runner sponsored by On and Red Bull who sometimes goes by the moniker of “Florida Man” on Instagram. “Events like this make me fall in love with the sport all over again. It’s a large challenge that I am uncertain of what the outcome might be. It brings it all full circle for me as it has the familiar feel of something I love to do but splashed with a new edge of something completely unique.”
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Kilgore, who has won numerous ultra-distance trail races since 2014, got progressively faster in almost every race during the World Marathon Challenge. He started by running 3:23:17 on the icy aircraft runway in Novo, Antarctica, followed by a 2:58:15 in Cape Town and a 2:55:07 in Perth. From there, he clocked a 2:52:05 in Dubai and a 2:44:27 in Madrid. He slowed slightly to 2:55:59 in Fortaleza before finishing it off Monday night with his fastest marathon of the set.
“Honestly, as the challenge went on I began to feel better and better, as if this was the new norm for me day in and day out,” he said. “I’m a bit beat up from the magnitude of climates, miles, and broken-up sleep, but it’s nothing I haven’t faced before.”
Pit Van Rijswijck of Luxembourg, Paul Box of the U.S., and Andrew Keast of the Cayman Islands were the second, third, and fourth overall finishers, respectively, while Julie Uychiat of the U.S. was the women’s overall winner ahead of Lauren Neuschel, Deirdre Keane, and Jin Zhu. Dan Little, an 80-year-old American runner, broke the record he set four years ago as the oldest finisher, while William Tan of Singapore, became the first wheelchair athlete to finish the challenge.
American Mike Wardian, who won the World Marathon Challenge in 2017 and 2019, still holds the record for the fastest average time of 2:45:57.
Participants were able to shower, change clothes, and eat in hotels in most cities before getting back on the plane to continue the marathon odyssey. One of the runners led yoga sessions on every continent, too, but recovery mostly consisted of runners using self-massage tools and sleeping as much as possible on the plane, mid-flight.
“Nothing too crazy, but nutrition, sleep, and keeping the body nimble are what I usually focus on,” Kilgore said. “I actually got a fair amount of sleep. The most I think was around nine hours when we had a 12-hour flight over to Perth. In between that all of our flights were at least seven hours. Definitely some good time for some cat naps.”
Kilgore praised Donovan and his organizing team for helping it all go as smoothly as possible and added that he was grateful for the support of family and friends who encouraged him along the way and showed up in South Beach.
“I would definitely do it again, or something in the same vein,” Kilgore said. “I love the challenge of an event like this, the camaraderie it brings with the other participants in the event. It is very special. I want to give a special shout out to all the participants who made this trip one-of-a-kind, and to the marathon distance for always being cruel but satisfying.”