Chattanooga man reaches goal of completing a marathon on all seven continents

Chattanooga man reaches goal of completing a marathon on all seven continents

April 29th, 2013 by Kendi Anderson in Local Regional News

Truman Smith recently completed a marathon in Antarctica, rounding out his quest to run marathons on all seven continents.

Photo by Connor Choate/Times Free Press.

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Finishing a marathon is a daunting feat to many. Running marathons in all 50 states seems nearly impossible, and completing marathons on all seven continents sounds crazy.

Truman Smith said his wife, Cheryl, may be one of the people who thinks he is crazy.

In March, Truman Smith completed a marathon in Antarctica and joined the exclusive company of the Seven Continents Club.

Smith, 66, has run 106 marathons since 1987, when his wife recommended that he find a hobby. Smith completed his first goal of running a marathon in all 50 states in 2009. His goal then grew to running a marathon on each continent.

He said he did not train any differently for the race in Antarctica.

The time leading up to the race was spent differently though -- 10 days on a ship traveling through rough seas and the Drake Passage to get to the southernmost continent.

"We got to be normal tourists and do what everyone else who visits Antarctica does, but then one day we ran a marathon," Smith said with a smile.

"The day of the race it was 23 degrees and starting the race I thought that I may end up in the hospital by the end of it."

The conditions were not what Smith is used to, either. He normally runs on flat, paved roads. The marathon in Antarctica was run on the best natural path runners could pick along the figure-eight course, its surface frozen like concrete.

"Going into the race I knew I would finish, even if I had to crawl across the finish line," Smith said.

He took a tumble on the final lap but finished with a time of 6:20.

That's one minute faster than he ran at the marathon on the Great Wall of China. His normal time is about 4:15.

Thom Gilligan, president and founder of Marathon Tours, said overcoming obstacles is part of the experience.

"Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, most remote and most inhospitable place on Earth to hold a marathon," Gilligan said. "Just getting to a place in Antarctica to run is a long journey. Then Mother Nature produces many obstacles that challenge the event."

Marathon Tours established the Seven Continents Club, and getting into it takes training, travel planning and then a lot of running, Gilligan said. Not to mention "a large financial investment to travel to some of the more remote continents," he added.

"We have runners from all walks of life, all ages and socioeconomic levels that have one thing in common: They set a running goal and passionately pursue it," Gilligan said.

Chas Webb, president of the Chattanooga Track Club, said just running a marathon is a big accomplishment.

"Having the capability and the time to travel the world for that is another thing," Webb said.

Smith runs with a group out of the Downtown YMCA every Saturday morning.

"I like to run with people, unless they are faster than me and drag me along behind," he said.

Now that he has run on every continent he wants to start running in destination marathons and hopes to be able to run in New Zealand. Smith also has the Paris and London marathons on his calendar for next year.

"I know who I am. I know I am not a fast runner, but I do what I can," he said.