The 7 Continents Club: Want In?
Some runners love travelling and exploring as much as they love running. Consequently, they get ecstatic when they can combine the lot. Not that running or travelling in general is always goal oriented, but if there ever was a reward to be given for the ultimate runcationer, membership of the 7 continents club could be it.
What is the 7 Continents Club
In general terms, members of a 7 continents club are runners who completed a marathon on each of the seven continents. Recognition is also given to half-marathoners and ultra-marathoners who completed the feat in these categories.
Various ‘official’ clubs exist that credit these globetrotting runners, although not without some controversy (and even litigation) over who is really the Real Deal.
The disagreement comes in over the race run on Antarctica. There are several races that claim themselves to be Antarctic races. Notably, only one of them, the “Antarctic Ice Marathon ®”, is hosted on the mainland of Antarctica itself. All the other races, such as the “Antarctica Marathon” and the “White Continent Marathon” takes place on King George’s Island.
The 7 Continents Marathon Club ™
Only runners who have completed the a “Antarctic Ice Marathon®” race as part of their 7 continents endeavor is considered for membership of the 7 Continents Marathon Club™. On 1 December 2017 there were 223 members in the club, of which 176 males and 47 females.
The “Antarctic Ice Marathon ® is organised by Global Running Adventures director Richard Donovan, accomplished race organizer and ultra runner. The race takes place in March each year since 2005, and is located within the Antarctic circle. This race, the southernmost race on earth, takes place some 2000 km further south than any other race. For this reason it is recognized by Guinness World Records as well as the Book of Alternative Records.
Where It All Started
Thom Gilligan, founder of Marathon Tours and Travel running tours business, claims part responsibility for the phenomenon of running a marathon on each of the continents. In the destination marathon travel business since 1979 and an avid distance runner himself, he claimed to a journalist that his company offered races on every continent except Antarctica. Within a few days Gilligan was contacted by the owner of a shipping company that offered polar excursions using Russian ships. After some investigation, Marathon Tours and Travel took the bait and in 1995 the first 160 athletes lined up for the Antarctica Marathon on King George Island.
The Intercontinental Club
If membership to a 7 continents club isn’t enough of a challenge, then there is also the World Marathon Challenge ®. This series, also directed by Richard Donovan from Global Running Adventures, features 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days. Completing this feat successfully will earn one membership of the The Intercontinental Marathon Club. In 2017 there were a mere 61 members in this exclusive club, 47 male and 14 female. Looking at the price tag of €36,000 (US$ 44 000), this doesn’t really come as a surprise. Various other operators offer similar packages.
7 Continents Club Members of Note
In January 2017, the 70-year-old Ms Chau Smith from Missouri completed the “Triple 7 Quest”. This challenge, offered by Marathon Adventures, is similar to the World Marathon Series ® as directed by Richard Donovan. Only, the Triple 7 Quest includes an Antarctic race run on King George’s Island. Ms Smith ran the other six races in Perth, Singapore, Cairo, Amsterdam, New York and Punta Arenas.
Smith, a lifelong runner hailing from Missouri, claims that running is a form of stress relief for her. She owns an alteration and dry-cleaning business where she puts in 10 hour workdays and still finds time to run.
Nicolas Toochek from Pennsylvania became the youngest person to run a marathon on each continent. He ran his first marathon when he was nine, and gained membership of “The Official 7 Continents Marathon Club” at age 11. The club, yet another of its kind, was founded by Steve Hibbs for runners who have participated in his White Continent Marathon on King George’s Island. Nicolas, now 14, has since completed a marathon in each of the 50 US states, all for charity. His father, an eye surgeon, runs with him every step of the way.
What About the 8th Continent?
In an article posted online in February 2017, authors Nick Mortimer and company made the case for Zealandia. This continent, 94% of which is submerged beneath the ocean, measures about two-thirds the size of Australia. Notable only it’s highest peaks appear above the ocean’s surface, namely New Zealand’s North and South Islands, New Caledonia and a number of islands. Although there isn’t an official scientific body that formally recognizes continents, scientists are pushing for the inclusion of Zealandia as the 8th continent.
Not surprisingly, one of the 7 continents clubs cashed in on the moment. Steve Hibbs, Marathon Adventures and “White Continent Marathon” director, now claims to own the first official “8 Continents Marathon Club”. Membership criteria states that runners who ran a race on Zealandia before February 2017 don’t qualify for this newest club. Before that date New Zealand was still recognized as part of Oceania (Australia). For recognition of the 8th Continent one should have run a race on Zealandia after 17 February 2017. Twelve marathoners, three ultra-marathoners and two half-marathoners has since joined the 8 Continents Club (™)
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- Zealandia: Is there an eighth continent under New Zealand?, Online Publication ,
- 14-year-old Nikolas Toocheck has now run a marathon in all 50 states, Online Publication ,