Globe trotting of a different kind
UPDATE 2/23/18: Congrats to Renee for placing third among the women and 13th overall in the 2018 World Marathon Challenge. Read more about her remarkable seven marathons in seven days on seven continents below and via Boston.com, here.
Renee DeMarsh, a Cape Cod Hospital emergency room registrar during the summer, is about to do something that really doesn’t even compute. She will be running seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.
The 52-year-old mother of two, who lives in East Sandwich, is competing with 56 other runners in the 2018 World Marathon Challenge ®. They will have only 168 hours to complete all seven races.
“Everyone will meet in Cape Town in South Africa at the end of January, and then – based on the weather – fly to the Novo Russian research base in Antarctica,” said DeMarsh, who also is a physical education teacher at Carver Elementary School in Carver.
“We have to wait for precisely the right weather window before flying out because once the Antarctica race begins, we have only those 168 hours to complete all seven marathons,” she explained in a matter-of-fact tone belying the daunting schedule. Here’s her timeline:
- January 28 – Fly to Cape Town
- January 29 – Fly to Novo and race
- January 30 – Fly back to Cape Town
- January 31 – Race in Cape Town and Fly to Perth, Australia
- February 1 – Race in Perth and fly to Dubai
- February 2 – Race in Dubai and fly to Madrid, Spain
- February 3 – Race in Madrid and fly to Barranquilla, Colombia
- February 4 – Race in Barranquilla and fly to Miami, Florida
- February 5 – Race in Miami
DeMarsh will experience summer and winter in one week while racing in temperatures that will fluctuate by as much as 50 degrees Celsius. She will be sleeping almost entirely on planes and calculating how to stay nourished on a plant-based diet that she rigorously maintains.
“The extra challenge is my diet,” said DeMarsh. “And, of course, there’s sleep. Recovery from marathon to marathon is so important, so sleeping in a seat – even one that reclines – will be critical. At least, I’m not super tall. That should help.”
Her Biggest Motivation
The fastest combined marathon times for male and female runners will determine the outright winners and be recognized for world record-setting purposes. But, for DeMarsh, it’s far more about self-discovery and contributing to her community.
“My biggest motivation is fundraising,” she said. That entails attracting nearly $100,000 by the end of the year. It costs nearly $40,000 just to cover her expenses including the entry fee, flights, accommodations and medical support.
DeMarsh also plans to raise $25,000 each for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Cape Cod and her own Carver Elementary School. She has set up her own website, dreamrunforkids.com, to attract sponsors and individual contributions from people who can opt for one or both charities.
“I’m still working to nail down corporate sponsors, and am about halfway to my goal,” she reported shortly before Labor Day. Dream Run For Kids will hold a fundraising golf tournament at Sandwich Hollows on September 15.
DeMarsh’s affinity for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cape Cod & The Islands can be found in Alaina, her little sister, and one of more than 320 youngsters across the Cape connected to mentors. Meanwhile, she also hopes to finance a running/bike path around new athletic fields at Carver Elementary School. She leads an after school running club with 150 Kindergarten through grade 5 students, but the current running path will be removed to make way for construction of a new school.
“I’m hoping that the attention I get for the marathon will place a spotlight on the need for more Big Brothers and Big Sisters,” she said. “There are nearly 100 kids, mostly boys, on the waiting list for a mentor.
DeMarsh realizes how her experience can motivate her own students at Carver.
“It’s so important for young people to have role models, to see that they can establish amazing goals for themselves, and that anything is possible if they apply themselves,” she said. “It goes far beyond just physical fitness.”
“I want them to see that trying to do something that is very hard at their age will resonate and motivate them for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t have to be seven marathons that require six or seven months of training. It can be any meaningful goal,” she emphasized.
Her Biggest Challenge
DeMarsh also appreciates how she might be a role model for older people.
“I don’t think challenges wane with age. I’ve been motivated myself by one woman who is 60 and began racing when she was 51. It’s never too late,” she said.
DeMarsh’s father died at 50, which led to some deep reflection.
“When I was approaching that age, I found myself really thinking about that, and it probably led me down a path that focused on a more healthy diet and intensified training. I wanted to run 50 miles at 50. Some people run their age every year,” said DeMarsh, whose resting heart rate stands at 50.
“Of course, it doesn’t have to be running. Just be active. Stay fit, eat well. The key when you get older is to keeping going and not stopping, because if you stop, chances are you may not get going again,” she added.
DeMarsh’s biggest challenge may be how to manage her extraordinarily intense life.
As soon as the school year is over, she begins working in the emergency room at Cape Cod Hospital for the summer.
When she missed being a mom after her daughters grew up, she became a Big Sister and coached two girls’ soccer teams during the spring and fall.
And when she couldn’t find a nearby soccer league, she started the Sandwich Adult Soccer League, where many of her colleagues from Cape Cod Healthcare now play.
And, all the while she manages to train, running up to 80 miles a week. That includes a series of 10-mile runs around her work schedule and then 20-mile runs on Saturday and Sunday. She has even run home from Carver to Sandwich when training for a 100-mile ultramarathon.
She plans to enter an upcoming 62-mile race and break it up into two 30-hour runs with sleep in between to simulate the World Marathon Challenge, part of a seven-month training regimen.
All that work feeds her confidence, as does talking with several runners who have competed, including the woman record holder, she said.
“Those conversations have been reassuring,” said DeMarsh. “If they can do it, why can’t I?”
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