Galway ultra runner Richard Donovan made history yesterday as the world's first athlete to run seven consecutive marathons on seven continents in less than seven days.
The 42-year-old father of one successfully completed a gruelling endurance race that would test the physical and mental prowess of the world's strongest men.
Aside from running more than the traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles a day, simply flying around the world in less than a week -- logging up 26,719 air miles -- is a feat that few sane people would dare to consider.
He had to contend with -20C temperatures when he began the event in Antarctica last Saturday. Richard was one of the few passengers who managed to fly out of snowbound London on Monday only to face a scorching heatwave when he crossed the finish line in Sydney yesterday. His 'marathon' marathon took him to Antarctica, Cape Town, Dubai, London, Toronto, Santiago and Sydney in just five days, 10 hours and eight minutes.
His only food and rest stops were aboard an airplane, said event co-ordinator and friend Ferghal Murphy. "He was going from cold to hot to cold. He's literally been on an airplane seat when he's not running and there's lots of sleep deprivation," he said.
But Richard, who is the chairman of UltraRunning Ireland, is already a world record-breaker in the field of ultra distance running.
He became the first runner in the world to run a marathon at both the North and South Poles in 2002 and has run in some of the most unforgiving climates and challenging geographies in the world, including the Sahara Desert, Mount Everest, the Inca Trail and the Amazon jungle.
His motivation for his latest odyssey was to create awareness of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and to promote the Irish charity Goal's aim of sending international peacekeepers to the region.
Richard said his latest run was also a personal achievement.
"I've run at both poles, and in deserts, mountains, jungle and various other terrain and climatic conditions. I think the Antarctic challenge is the last frontier," he said.