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Terrell's World Marathon Challenge Raises Money For Mental Health


Here's a question for you - would you run a marathon? Maybe. But what about seven marathons? What about seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents? Well, that's exactly what Jonathan Terrell is planning to do this month. It's called The World Marathon Challenge. And he's running to raise money for pediatric mental health. Terrell lives in Washington, D.C. And when he stopped by our studio, our co-host David Greene asked him, why are you doing this to yourself?

JONATHAN TERRELL: I think I might be a little crazy. And that's why I took it on because it is so crazy. And if I was running a 5K, I don't think anyone would care.


Have you been a marathon runner for a long time?

TERRELL: Well, not really. I'm 55 now. And I ran my first marathon when I was 49.


TERRELL: And I've - did the JFK 50-mile Ultra Marathon, and that was my 25th marathon. So I've been packing them in.

GREENE: And so what is the training regimen beyond what you're describing? I mean, are you on a special diet? Do you have to kind of get your head in the right place to get ready for something like this?

TERRELL: There's the actual physical training. And I train about 20 to 25 hours a week. I do triathlon training - so a lot of running but also swimming and biking and strength training. Secondly, I'm very particular about my diet. And then, as you say, the mental game is really huge. And, you know, exercises in belief and gratitude and meditation are all part of how I get myself ready for this.

GREENE: So what is your exercise? Belief - is that what you said?

TERRELL: So, you know, I start off with gratitude. Grateful to be in this physical shape. Grateful for the people in my life who are supporting me. But I also have to visualize and believe that I can achieve this. And once you start thinking that defeatist way, pretty soon you're dropping out. But I do consciously exercise a sense of belief that I will get to the finish line in each of these seven marathons.

GREENE: I keep going back to you saying you're 55 years old. I mean...

TERRELL: But I'm spry.

GREENE: A spry 55. I mean, is there something different in your experience, do you think, compared to someone who has been running marathons since they were, you know, like, 14?

TERRELL: Well, I come from a place of having health problems in my mid-40s. And I had kids late in life. And I think when you start having children in your 40s, it makes you attitudinally stay a little bit younger, perhaps, because I want to be physical and present and involved in my children's lives.

GREENE: I just want to get kind of a picture of what your week is going to be like. Where's the first marathon?

TERRELL: Well, we're going to be meeting up in Cape Town.

GREENE: OK. South Africa, right?

TERRELL: South Africa, yes. And then we'll fly down to Nuvo, Antarctica. And then two hours later, we'll run the first marathon. After that, we'll all get back to Cape Town and run the second. And then on to Perth, Australia - from there to Dubai, from there to Lisbon, Portugal, from there to Barranquilla, Colombia and finishing, finally, in Miami in Florida.

GREENE: And you're traveling with a group. Are you're also running with other people, or is this a very solitary thing for you?

TERRELL: No. It's an organized event. The first two years, there were 12 runners. There was about 30 last year. And this year, it's much bigger. It will be 60. And there's a very great camaraderie between runners when you're on these kinds of events and a lot of high-fives and encouragement and all that. So I think there will be, you know, a good energy and a good group dynamic.

GREENE: Well, congratulations for improving your health. It sounds like this is just such an important cause that you're working for. And best of luck to you in these seven marathons.

TERRELL: Thank you.

CHANG: That was runner Jonathon Terrell. He plans to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in January. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.