Ultimate endurance test: 7 marathons, 7 days, 7 continents
BOSTON — Seven marathons in seven days on seven continents? You’d be forgiven for thinking Becca Pizzi is seven kinds of crazy.
“I get that a lot,” said Pizzi, who’s vying to be the first US woman to complete the World Marathon Challenge.
The 35-year-old day care center operator from Belmont, Massachusetts, is one of 15 competitors from around the globe who will attempt the feat in January.
Pizzi is no stranger to the rigors and ravages of the classic 26.2-mile distance. She’s a veteran of 45 marathons, including 15 Bostons, and she’s 27 states into her quest to run a marathon in all 50.
Friends say she’s got one setting: Beast Mode.
But she’s never tried anything like this. Nor has any other woman from the US — a singular enticement to tackle the ultimate endurance test.
“The second I heard about it, I knew I was born to run this race,” Pizzi told The Associated Press. “I’m doing it to represent my country and to inspire the world that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
On Jan. 23, 2016, she’ll be in Union Glacier, Antarctica, to run the first of seven full marathons. Next up, on consecutive days: back-to-back marathons in Punta Arenas, Chile; Miami; Madrid; Marrakech, Morocco; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Sydney.
Within a span of 168 hours — 59 of those spent recovering in compression socks aboard a charter flight shuttling competitors 23,560 miles from race to race — she’ll have conquered all seven continents: Antarctica, South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.
“It’s going to be an uncomfortable seven days,” she said. “We may not even get a shower. It’s basically going to be run, sleep, eat, repeat.”
Four other Americans — all men — will join her, along with competitors from Australia, Germany, Japan, Morocco and Singapore, including three other women. So far, only one woman, Marianna Zaikova, of Finland, has completed the Challenge; she did it in its first running in 2015.
It’s not just exhausting; at $36,000, it’s expensive. Pizzi fronted the cash but has been lining up corporate sponsors to help defray the cost. So far, two companies — Ultima, which makes electrolyte replacement drinks, and Dr. Cool, which sells compression sleeves and other performance items — are covering about half of her expenses.
A busy single mom, Pizzi has been training 30 hours a week. That includes 80-100 miles a week of running, plus yoga and cross-training workouts.
Boston lawyer Jenny Rikoski, who does long runs with Pizzi on weekends, is flying to Chile — and possibly to Antarctica — to cheer for her friend on an odyssey she finds both inspiring and empowering.
“It shows how far we’ve come,” said Rikoski, 37. “Forty years ago, women weren’t allowed to run the Boston Marathon. Now we have a Bostonian who’s ready to run not just one marathon, but seven in a week. It shows how strong women are and what they can accomplish.”
Training partner Janet Chambers, 43, of Boston, is confident Pizzi has the right stuff: “She can do anything. She finishes everything she starts.”
Pizzi, whose marathon personal best is 3 hours, 25 minutes, plans to pace herself by running each of the seven races closer to four hours. She’ll have to cope with extreme cold and heat as well as wildly varying running surfaces: snow in Antarctica, sand in the Sahara.
What’s stressing her out the most? Thinking about being apart from her 7-year-old daughter — and just thinking in general.
“It’s all going to be about focus. Mind over matter,” she said. “If I let my mind go, the race is over. I’ll really have to take this one marathon at a time.”