Donovan sets out to break his own world marathon record in aid of GOAL

Richard Donovan

Richard Donovan

Galway ultra-runner, Richard Donovan, is attempting to become the first person to run seven marathons in seven continents in under five days, all in aid of GOAL's efforts to alleviate the suffering of people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa.

Mr Donovan previously set a record for running seven marathons on seven continents in five days, 10 hours, and eight minutes in 2009, spending almost half of this time in the air getting from one marathon destination to the other. He did this to raise funds for GOAL's work in Darfur. However he now hopes to break five days to set another new milestone and once again highlight GOAL’s work with some of the poorest people in the world. He will fund the entire project out of his own project.

The ‘World Marathon Challenge’ began yesterday, February 1, with Mr Donovan running a marathon on mainland Antartica, with the starting time set at approximately 7pm Sydney time (GMT +11 ). He then plans to run the classic 42.195km (26.2 miles ) distance in Cape Town (South Africa ), Sao Paulo (South America ), Orlando (North America ), London (Europe ), Hong Kong (Asia ), and Sydney (Australia ).

The hope is to finish his seventh and final marathon by 7pm Sydney time on Monday, February 6, thereby managing to complete the marathons in less than five days, or a mere 120 hours.

Speaking just before he left, Mr Donovan said that running consecutive sub four-hour marathons is not a problem; it is the other factors involved in this mammoth challenge that he is more concerned about.

“It’s the jet-lag, temperature fluctuations, and the inability to keep down food that are worrying me most. I’ve run in the Antarctic numerous times before, so that doesn’t bother me that much. I’m more worried about how I will be feeling when I get to the fifth marathon at London.

“At that stage, I’ll have run four marathons in temperatures ranging from -20c in the Antarctica to perhaps +30c in Sao Paulo, so I’ll be quite fatigued and the temperature fluctuations will have affected me. And I will still have three marathons to go at that stage.”

Aside from any physical effort, the logistical challenge is enormous. Mr Donovan must travel several thousand kilometres from Ireland just to get to the starting point in the interior of the Antarctic. The Russian Novo base in the Antarctic Circle, 4,200km south of Cape Town, is his first marathon stop. He plans to commence his marathon several hours before a Russian cargo plane's scheduled return flight to Cape Town. Depending on wind conditions and temperatures, which could be about -20C, he hopes to finish his marathon on the frozen continent within 4.5 hours and immediately board the flight to Cape Town. He will travel alone around the globe, with one carry-on bag containing his gear, and will fly economy on regular commercial airline flights. At Cape Town, he will have a mere nine hours to disembark the plane, leave the airport, run the marathon and return to check in for his next flight to Sao Paulo. In Brazil, he will have even less time, just eight hours and 50 minutes. At each location, locally-based running experts and measurers will ensure and verify he runs the correct distance on custom courses. However, as marathon fatigue and flying fatigue accumulates, the time pressures will magnify and one late flight could scupper the entire record attempt. His longest single flight will be from London to Hong Kong (11hrs 40 mins ). On arrival, he will once again have a mere nine hours to disembark the flight, get to the marathon location, run the marathon and queue for the next flight.

Mr Donovan is raising funds to support GOAL's work to alleviate the suffering of people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa. If you would like to donate, visit



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