Behind the Scenes: World Marathon Challenge

AMIGOS alumni are not ones to shy away from a challenge.

Getting out of your comfort zone and traveling to a new country are two essential parts of the AMIGOS experience. Alum Dorn Wenninger took that to heart: from January 30 through February 5, 2018, he completed 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days! He also used that opportunity to spread the word about AMIGOS – to date, he’s raised over $53,000 for the organization! You can support his campaign here.

We’re going to go out on a limb and assume that most of our readers don’t know what it’s like to join the Intercontinental Marathon Club, so we thought we’d share a behind the scenes account from Dorn as he ran his way around the world.

 

MARATHON #1: NOVO, Antarctica

First done! 4:21. Tough! Really tough! But I’ll be fine. It’s an amazing experience!

Running in snow and ice is always really hard: sucks energy, use muscles you’re not used to, water and gels freeze, slows you down, and means you spend more time out in the elements than you normally train for.

Antarctica added other elements, too: already, even though it’s Day 1, your pre-race routine of eating, sleep, and prep is completely out of whack. Then post-race, there just isn’t enough time to do everything you need to: 1. Get warm/dry; 2. eat/drink; 3. stretch/self massage; 4. sleep. Let alone get cleaned up, as there are no showers in Antarctica!

Of course the priority was to get dry and warm! It’s constantly light in Antarctica at this time of year, but the sun did set (beautifully). As the sun dropped, the temperatures plummeted with it, making the end of the run even more challenging!

I suspect the week will go by in a blur, and that the first 3 races will be the biggest struggle.

But I’m loving every minute it! It has already pushed me to limits of the mind and body and one has to prioritize what’s most important as there isn’t time for everything.

Oh, and I forgot about the sheer beauty of the frozen continent! It’s beautiful but not overly hospitable. Mother Nature is incredible, and this type of challenge reminds one to respect her beauty and power!

The next races come with there own set of changes now with a stretch of hot weather. What an experience, and we’re only 24 hours in!

 

 

MARATHON #2 and #3: CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA and PERTH, AUSTRALIA

3rd done! Australia was my kind of race, compared to Africa. The whole race was at night. I was fully hydrated to start and ran ‘my race’. Amazing what the body can do. I ran my fastest marathon of the  last 72 hours in 4:16. I had to stop and get blisters taped at the half way point. Those are going to get worse in the next 4 days! But overall I felt as good as one could after the first 78.6 miles in.

It’s almost to hard to fathom I have 4 more left, so I take one day at a time!

You can imagine the physical toll this takes, and I’m not yet even half way! The doctor had to drain a large blister between my big toe and second toe on my left foot, I have a chaffing sore on the top of my left foot from rubbing my shoe, my right ankle bone is sore with each step from 79 miles of pounding, and we’ve all got tight muscles that make it hard to walk! But it’s incredible what your body can do if you can make it past the first 20 minutes and get warmed up.

We had the first participant withdraw in Australia from injuries. Hopefully the last.

Emotionally, getting through Dubai will be a big boast! It’ll be nice to be ‘closer to Miami than to Antarctica!’ The next two races are in the evening, and the temperatures should make for more favorable conditions.

Today, upon arrival in Dubai, I’m visiting my 99th country in the world! 34 years ago, as a 16-year-old volunteer with Amigos de las Americas, I left the country for the first time to work in a small community in Mexico. Today, I work in Mexico where I live with my family. One of the goals of my race around the world is to raise money for AMIGOS. I hope to build momentum on the road to Miami over the next 4 days.

 

 

MARATHON #4: DUBAI, UAE

Dubai: check! 4 down, 3 to go. We started the race around 10:30 PM. It was held down on “the beach,” with views of the Burj Khalifa on one side and the Burj al Arab on the other end.

We’ve arrived in Lisbon for #5. If you’d seen the 50 of us climb the stairs of the plane when we departed Dubai, you’d never fathom that we would be able to run 26 miles 12 hours later.

Burning 2,400+ calories per race, I literally couldn’t finish a marathon without taking calories during the race (gels, Gatorade, etc), or I’d run out of fuel. But after 4 days of that, my stomach has shrunk and I don’t have much of an appetite. Likewise with hydration. My stomach feels bloated but I’m constantly trying to drink one more bottle of water. Flushing the system also helps with muscle recovery.

The plane is where we recover after the race: bodies lying on the floor stretching, self massage rollers and balls, the smell of muscle balm, the doctor taping up feet and toes, and even a few taking on IVs. Not a lot of banter the first few hours, then excitement, adrenaline, and doubt build as we approach descent.

My body feels as you might expect after running 105 miles. Even my back muscles are now sore from the exertion and sleeping on the plane. My feet are doing better than some. Nursing blisters on my left foot, but nothing that should impact me for at least another run. So compared to how I boarded the plane in Dubai, I’m feeling better than I would have expected.

We all take each race one-at-time. In fact, even during the race I count milestones of laps completed. I suspect my times will slow, making it even more difficult as you spend more time on the course and lose valuable recovery time. But we can all feel the draw of Miami just 2 1/2 days from now pulling us closer to the finish line.

After 105 miles in 4 days, plus the travel between continents, saying I’m exhausted is an understatement. At times, out on the course, I reflect on the overwhelming support and donations from everyone to support AMIGOS. That responsibility helps motivate me every step. And AMIGOS is making a difference in Latin America, as well as in all the youth that participate.

 

 

MARATHON #5: LISBON, PORTUGAL

5th marathon done! Crazy how one’s body will respond once the muscles warm up a little. The first two miles are painful. But then, you settle into a grove. It was cold and a little wet.

The surface was brutal. Much of the course was the black and white, signature stone walks common in Lisbon and Brazil. Beautiful, but slick, hard and uneven. I’m starting to get pains in my knees, foot, ankle, groin, and blisters. I tried to figure out which was the most limiting factor. But in the end, you just run through it. I took my time to save a little for the heat of tomorrow in Cartagena! I think it’ll be the hardest of the 7. But then again, of course,“I can run 2 marathons!” 

It’s exciting to be taking off for the Americas! Emotionally, every step on the race is a step closer to Miami. I was in good spirits in Lisbon, which goes a long way in making for a good race. But it all becomes a blur.

 

 

MARATHON #6: CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

It’s great to be back in Colombia! We arrived a little late which will push everything back. I’m feeling EXACTLY as you would expect under the circumstances! But ready to run.

I lived in Colombia in the late 90s, and it only reenforced my love for Latin America. The paisas took me in as family, and I will always appreciate them! The Old City of Cartagena is a treasure, although I may start to question the charm of the cobblestone streets after 26 miles.

6 down, 1 to go! I finished Colombia in 4:40, and it was hot. We ran most of the race through the streets of the Old Walled City, passing horse drawn carriages and partiers. Back in the room, I ate canned tuna while I waited for room service pasta. Stretched and massaged my legs, and a quick shower. Normally, we recover on the plane, but the flight to Miami is short. But what the heck, ‘I can run ONE marathon!!?!’ Can’t wait to see Dominique and the girls there, as well as many friends.

 

 

MARATHON #7: MIAMI, US

I can’t believe we did it! Somehow, I ran the last 2 miles in the fastest pace of the of 193.4 miles, to bridge up to the group finishing in third place. 5 of us crossed the line in Miami in a time of 4:03. It was my fastest pace of the 7, and a respectable time for a stand alone marathon! So amazing to have my family there all race supporting, along with lots of friends and AMIGOS.

Back at the airport to fly from Miami to Mexico. 8th country in 8 days. But his time I’m with my family and I don’t have to run on the other end! It was incredibly emotional to reconnect with my family and friends before the race. And the adrenaline of being on the last race propelled me to an unexpectedly strong finish. I ‘Ran Around the World’ for AMIGOS and to demonstrate that the world is meant to be explored, and our differences celebrated. In 1984 I left the US for the first time when I volunteered in Mexico. It’s fitting that my journey now ends back in Mexico, with Dominique and the girls, as we live out that commitment with our family!

 

Congratulations, Dorn! If you want to read more about Dorn’s motivation for running, his time with AMIGOS, and how to support his campaign, click here!

AMIGOS Team
AMIGOS Team

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  • Barrett Sides

    I’m awed. This whole story resonates with goodness…with a dose of physical suffering! What an incredible achievement and demonstration of perseverance. But to do it as a charitable endeavor makes it that much more admirable. Well done, Dorn. I hope that in some way your Amigos experience inspired your sense of adventure.